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From Rabbi's Shtender - Mishpatim

The Israeli government has recently proposed a series of bills aimed at restructuring the Knesset and the Supreme Court. These proposals have sparked intense debate and controversy within Israel, as they are seen by many as a threat to the country's democratic institutions and the rule of law. Just yesterday over 100,000 Israelis participated in a protest against these bills outside the Knesset. President Herzog has been working at bringing leadership of the two main parties together to come to some form of compromise and I hope that will yield more balanced bills.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts about why the bills may be problematic. One of the primary concerns with the proposed bills is the potential impact on the independence of the judiciary. One of the bills would reduce the size of the Supreme Court, which has long been considered a cornerstone of Israel's democracy. The reduction in size could result in the appointment of more conservative judges, which could shift the balance of power in favor of the government and its policies.

Furthermore, another bill aims to introduce a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices, which could lead to the removal of experienced and respected judges who have the ability to stand up to the government and protect the rights of citizens.

The bills also include provisions that would limit the power of the High Court of Justice, which is responsible for overseeing the actions of the government and enforcing human rights protections. The proposed changes would make it more difficult for individuals and organizations to petition the court, which could undermine the ability of citizens to hold the government accountable for its actions.

In addition to these concerns, the proposed bills would also impact the functioning of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. One of the bills would increase the threshold for political parties to enter the Knesset, which could make it more difficult for smaller parties to participate in the political process. This could limit the diversity of voices in the Knesset and make it more difficult for minority groups to have their voices heard.

Another bill would allow the prime minister to dissolve the Knesset and call for new elections at any time, which could give the government undue power to manipulate the political process and stifle opposition voices.

Taken together, these proposed bills have raised serious concerns about the future of democracy and the rule of law in Israel. Many critics see these changes as an attempt by the government to consolidate its power and limit the ability of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable.

The proposed changes could limit the independence of the judiciary, make it more difficult for citizens to hold the government accountable, and limit the diversity of voices in the political process. It is important that these issues be addressed in a way that upholds the values of democracy and protects the rights of all citizens in Israel.

As American Jews we have the right to call upon the Israeli government to do everything in its power to maintain its commitment to democracy. As we go into shabbat, Shabbat Mishpatim where we read the beginnings of the civil and criminal laws of the Torah, we pray that as the Israeli government moves forward it does so with that commitment in mind.


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