Minister Chikli rebuked by his former students for involvement in legal overhaul

Checks and balances are being ‘stripped away’ by dramatic legislation, warn Tabor pre-military academy alums in open letter

Likud MK Amichai Chikli speaks at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud MK Amichai Chikli speaks at the Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Former students from the Tabor pre-military academy, established and previously run by Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli (Likud), assailed him Monday for his support for the government’s legal overhaul.

In an open letter, 318 graduates outlined a “genuine concern for the country’s identity and the values ​​on which we were raised” and warned Chikli that “as an elected official, as a minister and an educator, the responsibility lies with you.”

“The country’s checks and balances are being stripped away, leading to a single, all-powerful governing authority,” they said.

The far-reaching judicial overhaul being advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government has drawn intense criticism and warnings from leading financial and legal experts, as well as weekly protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals and private companies.

The signatories also took issue with Chikli’s recent labeling of the anti-government protesters as “anarchists” along with questioning their “commitment to Zionism.” The letter ended with a call for him to work to bring about a pause in the progress of the legislation in the hope that dialogue will ensue.

In response, Chikli published a letter praising his former students’ initiative as an expression of their genuine concern for the future of the country. He also clarified that he thought most protesters against the overhaul were motivated by patriotism, but stressed that “one cannot ignore the horrific expressions of those leading the protests,” referring explicitly to calls for civil disobedience by former prime minister Ehud Barak and former chief of staff Dan Halutz.

Supreme Court justices arrive for a hearing over the legality of Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s appointment as a minister, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on January 5, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The sweeping reforms being pushed through the Knesset in recent weeks include the government granting itself total control over the appointment of judges, including High Court justices; all but eliminating the High Court’s ability to review and strike down legislation; and allowing politicians to appoint — and fire — their own legal advisers.

Critics warn that the plan will deeply undermine 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.

Chikli, a former Golani Brigade officer, co-founded the Tabor pre-military academy in 2010 and led it for over a decade. A self-professed “conservative Zionist,” he was first elected to the Knesset in 2021 as a member of Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, only to be ousted after he voted against the formation of the government because he opposed Bennett’s decision to form a big-tent coalition with left-wing and centrist parties and the Arab Ra’am.

The decision by his former party colleagues to declare him a defector, legally barring him from running in the following elections, was later overruled by the High Court, and Chikli was placed by Likud leader Netanyahu on the party’s Knesset slate ahead of November’s election.

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