Jewish Democrats tell Israeli leaders to back off judicial shakeup, seek compromise

Letter signed by 16 members of US House of Representatives cites Herzog mediation efforts, follows similar missive sent by 92 Democrats to Biden urging him to lean on Netanyahu

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., at the Capitol in Washington, June 2, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., at the Capitol in Washington, June 2, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

WASHINGTON — Sixteen Jewish Democratic lawmakers called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend legislation that would remove much of the Israeli Supreme Court’s power, and to work out a compromise with the opposition.

The letter sent Thursday cited efforts by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to convene the governing coalition and opposition for negotiations.

“As members of the Jewish diaspora and friends of Israel, we are heartened by President Herzog’s calls for compromise, and we call on the government to suspend its efforts to pass the bills,” said the letter, spearheaded by two Democrats known for their closeness to the pro-Israel community, Brad Schneider of Illinois and Jerry Nadler of New York.

The letter was addressed to Netanyahu, Herzog, and Yair Lapid, the leader of the parliamentary opposition.

“We urge all parties to come together to fully consider the potential implications of the changes being debated in the Knesset and to negotiate fairly and openly so that a broadly acceptable resolution can be reached and Israel can continue to be the flourishing beacon of democracy we have long admired,” it said.

The 16 signatories comprise the majority of the roughly 20 Jewish lawmakers in the US House of Representatives.

A separate letter Wednesday to US President Joe Biden from leading Democrats, including several signatories of the Nadler-Schneider letter, urged the Biden administration to use all diplomatic means to get Netanyahu to stop the reforms. The legislation as it stands would allow a simple Knesset majority to override High Court rulings, and would give the governing coalition full control over appointments to the bench.

The letter to Biden was signed pushed by J Street and signed by 92 Democrats. It urges the administration to “use all diplomatic tools available to prevent Israel’s government from further damaging the nation’s democratic institutions and undermining the potential for two states for two peoples.”

Two centrist Jewish Democrats, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Jared Moskowitz of Florida, urged lawmakers not to take sides in the judiciary reform debate, saying such statements risk damaging the US-Israel relationship.

The proposed reforms have roiled Israel, bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets in massive protests.

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