In petition, leading academics warn judicial shakeup will harm Israel’s security

Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Two hundred and forty leading academics from Israel and abroad sign a petition warning that the government’s planned judicial reforms will impact Israel’s security, the Ynet news site reports.

The academics, including American Nobel Prize-winning economists Vernon Smith and Roger Myerson, say that while previous opposition to the plans has highlighted the harm expected to be caused to civil rights and democracy, they also see a threat to Israel’s security.

“Our petition adds an additional concern, building on our areas of expertise: the initiative threatens Israel’s national security and will weaken its ability to defend itself,” it says.

It notes that Israel is stronger as a democracy, because democracies are richer and devote more funds to defense, and citizens are more willing to defend and sacrifice for a democracy.

“Threats made by democracies in conflicts that escalate are taken more seriously by adversaries than those made by autocrats because they are backed by voters and democratic institutions,” it says, also noting that democracies make stronger alliances.

“Weakening democratic institutions will play directly into the hands of Israel’s enemies and undermine support from democracies around the world. Without that support, Israel’s very existence will be threatened,” the say.

The Netanyahu coalition is pushing a dramatic judicial restructuring that would increase government control over the judiciary. Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch, and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

The plan has drawn intense criticism and warnings from leading financial and legal experts, as well as weekly mass protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals, and private companies.

Netanyahu has pushed back against the criticism, saying that the proposals would strengthen democracy rather than hasten its end, and that his government was carrying out the will of the people.

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