JCRC stands with majority of Israelis who oppose weakening Israel’s independent judiciary; favors broad national consensus

For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have peacefully taken to the streets every Saturday night to protest the governing coalition’s efforts to constrain the independence of Israel’s internationally respected Supreme Court.

Polls consistently show that a strong majority of Israelis believe the overhaul measures, as currently advanced by the governing coalition, are extreme and threaten the judiciary’s ability to protect minority rights and stand as a bulwark against governmental overreach.

Despite the fervor of the protests and counter-protests, most Israeli citizens and legal experts agree on the need for some reform of the judicial system, so long as it is grounded in broad national consensus. Rather than building from the broad middle of the electorate, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date pressed forward with legislation only supported by a small minority of the Israeli electorate.

As the consensus public affairs voice for the Jewish communities of Minnesota and the Dakotas, we stand with our local and national partners — as well as most Israelis — who oppose recent legislation weakening Israel’s Supreme Court. We believe any reform of Israel’s judiciary should be done with the broadest possible agreement.

This past July, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, the ceremonial head of state, gave a well-received address to a joint session of Congress, attended by virtually all senators and representatives, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris. It was a great honor for me to be in attendance along with our current board president, Jon Parritz, as guests of  Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Angie Craig—as well as several other Jewish Minnesotans. 

Herzog received standing ovations as he praised the essential bond between Israel and the United States. He also acknowledged the current struggle inside Israel and the need to preserve a strong judiciary and pointed to the peaceful protests as a hallmark of Israel’s robust tradition of free speech and democracy.

In inviting President Herzog to speak, Congress both celebrated the historic restoration 75 years ago of Jewish sovereignty in the land in which the Jewish people, religion, traditions, and culture originate and highlighted Israel’s leading voice for compromise, decency, and respect for all people living within Israel’s borders.

This November, the JCRC will lead our fourth study tour since 2016 to Israel and the West Bank for state legislators and other community leaders. As has been our practice in the past, we plan to meet with leaders from Israel’s governing coalition, the opposition, and the Palestinian Authority to hear firsthand their perspectives. We also anticipate meeting with leaders from Israel’s protest movement to learn more about their tireless efforts to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Upon our return, we look forward to sharing our experiences with the people of Israel, who will always remain close to our hearts and whose destiny is intrinsically connected to our own.

Steve Hunegs is Executive Director of JCRC, which builds relationships to fight antisemitism and bigotry; educates about Judaism, Israel, antisemitism, and the Holocaust; advocates for Jewish values and priorities; and safeguards our community.

Photo: A pro-Democracy protest in Jerusalem (Ethan Roberts/JCRC).