State attorneys threaten labor strike over judicial reform

The Black Robes Protest group, itself comprised of private attorneys, came out in support of the State Attorney organization's announcement.

 Israeli lawyers affiliated with the Black Robes come to protest judicial reforms. (photo credit: DANI SHECHTMAN)
Israeli lawyers affiliated with the Black Robes come to protest judicial reforms.
(photo credit: DANI SHECHTMAN)

The State Attorney's Organization warned Justice Minister Yariv Levin that it would launch a labor strike over the proposed judicial reforms on Tuesday morning unless it was confirmed that their conditions as employees would not be changed and an agreement on the matter was reached.

The organization in a letter said that the legal system changes laid out in the proposed reform would take "unilateral steps" to bypass current work agreements.

The Prime Minister's office, rather than the Attorney-General's office, would determine who would represent the state, and the organization expressed concern about the implications for job expectations, employment, retirement, opportunity for promotion, salary and other terms of employment.

The Black Robes Protest group, itself comprised of private attorneys, came out in support of the State Attorney organization's announcement.

"We support our members in the public service who are fighting to represent the state and protect its interests," said the Robes Protest. "We will continue to support them in the fight against the sudden constitutional revolution which will destroy the justice system and democracy. The attempted legal revolution will lead to much damage to their job security."

 Who are the Black Robes, protesting Israel's judicial reforms? (Illustrative). (credit: Koby Wolf) Who are the Black Robes, protesting Israel's judicial reforms? (Illustrative). (credit: Koby Wolf)

Tuesday morning saw a flurry of other major anti-reform actions, by academics and hi-tech workers.

185 legal field academics signed a joint statement against the judicial reform plan, following a similar January 8 letter from eight university and college law faculty deans.

"We, members of the senior members of law faculties in Israel, are strongly opposed to the transformation that the government wants to make in the system of the legal regime in Israel, under the guise of 'reforms,'" said the academics on Tuesday.

"The appointment of judges by the coalition alone, the abolition of judicial review almost completely, the abolition of the institution of legal advisers as gatekeepers, damage to the free press -- all these means that there will be no independent judicial system in Israel, there will be no separation of powers and there will be no rule of law."

At the same time, Hi-tech workers said that they launched a protest of thousands in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Netanya and Rehovot under the banner "no democracy, no hi-tech.'

"It's not for nothing that venture capital funds are expressing concern about what's happening here," said Shay Engelberg, one of the leaders of the protests. "The hi-techists are coming out today to demonstrate because there is real alarm - Israeli democracy is in danger."

One company, Kornit Digital gave express permission to their employees to join the protests.

"As a pluralistic global company that is founded on values of equality, inclusion, diversity and freedom of expression, Kornit Digital finds it difficult to remain indifferent when these values are put in question," said CEO Ronen Samuel.