WASHINGTON - House Democrats Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Brad Schneider on Thursday penned a letter expressing “profound concern” over the Israeli government's proposed judicial overhaul.
Sixteen House Jewish members signed the letter, including Reps. Jamie Raskin, Elissa Slotkin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Susan Wild. It was sent to President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
“We write to you as Jewish Members of the US Congress to express our profound concern about proposed changes to Israel’s governing institutions and legal system that we fear could undermine Israeli democracy and the civil rights and religious freedoms it protects,” they wrote.
“Each of us takes great pride in the historic ties and special bonds between the United States and Israel,” the letter reads. “Since the United States became the first nation to recognize the nascent State of Israel in 1948, our shared values—a commitment to democracy chief among them—have been the bedrock of our extraordinary relationship.”
They went on to say that they recognize that, as a vibrant democracy, “Israel and its citizens alone have the right to establish and refine their governing institutions, and that people across the political spectrum have elements they want to change.”
“If carried out to their fullest extent, these changes could fundamentally alter the democratic character of the State of Israel.”Letter
“We also appreciate that pursuing government reform, including changes to the judiciary, are legitimate exercises in governing,” they added. “It is neither our intention, nor our purpose, to prescribe how Israel should refine or reform its system of government.”
The lawmakers added that, as Members of Congress committed to the enduring US-Israel relationship, they have “worked tirelessly across the aisle in Congress and with Israeli governments of all stripes to strengthen the ties between our nations.”
“While maintaining that commitment, we feel it is both appropriate and necessary for us to share our concerns about the possible, even likely, potential impacts of the changes currently being debated in the Knesset,” they wrote. “The overhaul being proposed that passed on first reading appears to imbue the Knesset with supreme power, unchecked by the Supreme Court. If carried out to their fullest extent, these changes could fundamentally alter the democratic character of the State of Israel.”
“A tenet of modern democracies is protections for those citizens with minority status, whether political, ethnic, or religious,” they went on to say. “We are deeply concerned about the impact these changes would have on people and groups not in the majority, including Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and Reconstructionist Jewish populations in Israel.”
Democrats praise Herzog
They also noted that as members of the Jewish diaspora, they were “heartened by President Herzog’s calls for compromise,” and called on the government “to suspend its efforts to pass the bills.”
“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,” the letter reads.ALSO ON THURSDAY, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price addressed a question about the proposed legislation. “The point we’ve consistently made in the context of Israel and other fellow democracies around the world is that the most effective way to ensure that proposals are embraced is to build consensus for them, and that is something that we have heard from Israelis as well,” he said in a press briefing.
He went on to say that the “process of building consensus is always going to be key to durability. In some ways, you can’t have durability without consensus, but ultimately the path forward is going to have to be one for the people of Israel to decide,” said Price.