Report: Business leaders held heated overhaul talks with justice, finance ministers

Participants in nighttime meeting, which included heads of several major Israeli firms, say Levin expressed openness to compromise but rejected calls to halt legislative push

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Justice Minister Yariv Levin (center) and Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, in the Knesset on February 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Justice Minister Yariv Levin (center) and Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, in the Knesset on February 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several leading business figures met on Wednesday night with Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to warn of economic fallout from the government’s efforts to overhaul the judicial system, Israeli television reported Thursday.

According to Channel 12 news, the meeting at Levin’s office in Tel Aviv began Wednesday evening and lasted until early Thursday morning, with voices raised as the argument grew heated.

Among those at the meeting were Fox Group CEO Harel Wizel, Azrieli Group chairwoman Danna Azrieli, Discount Bank CEO Uri Levin, Electra Consumer Products CEO Zvika Schwimmer and Tnuva chairman Haim Gavrieli. On the government side, Education Minister Yoav Kisch was also present.

The network quoted some of the business leaders as saying that Levin had expressed openness to comprise but rejected their request to halt the legislative process.

Wizel was due to meet Thursday with President Isaac Herzog, who has been urging compromise talks, to further discuss the matter.

Some of those present attended a similar meeting last month with Economy Minister Nir Barkat to express their concerns over the shakeup, which they said then was already having negative consequences on the economy.

Harel Wizel, CEO of the Fox Group. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition is pushing a series of far-reaching changes that would give the ruling majority control over the appointment of judges and allow it shield legislation from High Court scrutiny with the slimmest of majorities.

Critics — including economists, bankers, the tech sector, jurists, and security personnel — say the overhaul will remove the judiciary’s role as a check on the power of the ruling majority and enable assaults on human rights. They have also warned that the move would deter foreign investment and weaken the economy.

A number of companies have already said they will pull their finances from the country because of the coming legislation that the government is blitzing through the Knesset.

Dana Azrieli. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israeli tech unicorn Riskified said Wednesday that it would be transferring $500 million out of the country and offering a limited number of relocation packages to interested staff members.

The Riskified announcement came a day after Moody’s ratings agency said the government’s proposals could weaken the country’s institutional strength and negatively affect its economic outlook.

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