According to a report Wednesday, far-right religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman has been sent by the government to New York to hold a series of meetings with US Jewish leaders to address their concerns about the coalition’s planned judicial overhaul.
Rothman, chairman of the Knesset’s Constitutional, Law and Justice Committee, officially flew to New York on Tuesday to launch former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s book Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.
The public broadcaster Kan said its unofficial mission is to meet with American Jewish groups who are increasingly concerned about the new Israeli government’s judicial reform, which critics say will undermine the country’s democracy.
Rothman was sent although he will miss out on significant votes in the Knesset because the coalition sees the effort as important, the unsourced report said.
The trip came days after the head of North America’s largest Jewish federation offered rare criticism of the Israeli government and its proposed legislation, and “begged” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt efforts.
In an email sent to supporters of the UJA-Federation of New York on Friday, its CEO, Eric Goldstein, wrote that he was “concerned about recent legislation” that significantly weakens the judiciary and gives legislatures more control would give on the appointment of judges.
Prominent American-Jewish lawyer Alan Dershowitz, long a staunch defender of Israeli policy on the international stage, said in early January he could not defend sweeping judicial reforms planned by the coalition and told Army Radio he would join protests against the Follow the restructuring of the judiciary.
The proposals, put forward by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, would severely limit the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule laws and government decisions with an “override clause” that allows the Knesset to enact new laws with a slim majority of 61 votes; give the government complete control over the selection of judges; prevent the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to evaluate laws and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers instead of seeking advice from advisers working under the auspices of the Justice Department.
Rothman has introduced his own bill, which differs from Levin’s proposal in that it would change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, would not change the process for appointing the Supreme Court President, and would require unanimous consent from all 15 Supreme Court Justices to pass a right to overthrow and constitutes a narrower limitation of the judicial review of “reasonableness”.
Restructuring advocates say the court is overly interventionist and undermining the will of voters.
Levin’s proposals have drawn fierce criticism even from longtime judicial reform advocates, sparking weekly mass protests and public petitions from various officials, professionals, private companies and other bodies.
Over 100,000 people demonstrated against the overhaul in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, with thousands more at other demonstrations including in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.
Hundreds of economists warned on Wednesday that the move could have serious consequences for the economy.