Over 150 American law professors signed a statement opposing the process and extent of the proposed judicial reforms on Sunday, expressing concern that it would negatively impact the State of Israel.
"We, law professors in the United States who care deeply about Israel, strongly oppose the effort by the current Israeli government to radically overhaul the country’s legal system," read the letter. "This effort includes proposed reforms that would grant the ruling coalition absolute power to appoint Justices and judges, make it almost impossible for the Supreme Court to invalidate legislation, severely limit judicial review of executive-branch decisions, and curtail the independence of the Attorney General and legal advisers assigned to different government agencies."
The open letter explained that while some of the law experts believed that reform of Israel's legal system was unnecessary, other signatories believed "that the Israeli Supreme Court has over-reached in important respects and would support a scaling back of its power to review legislation and executive decisions."
The signatories' concern lay with the speed and scale of the reforms, which they believed would weaken the judiciary's independence and Israel's democratic checks and balances. They believed these institutions helped Israel survive security, political and social challenges, and it would make it hard for Israel to survive these challenges in the future.
"We hope for Israel’s sake that it chooses a wiser path," said the letter.
The open letter, signed by 157 professors by Tuesday, was organized by Oren Bar-Gill and Jesse Fried of Harvard University, and Amos Guiora of the University of Utah.
Who signed the opposing statement?
One notable signatory was professor emeritus of Law at Harvard University Alan Dershowitz.
Dershowitz had expressed concerns to The Jerusalem Post that the reforms could harm Israel on the international stage, and advised that if an Override Clause were implemented, that it be implemented using a broad bipartisan majority in the Knesset. He also cautioned that Israel would still be a democracy if the reforms passed, but Israel would lose an important check that protects minority rights.
The open letter follows a January 24 letter in which 185 Israeli legal field academics signed a joint statement against the plan introduced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin on January 4.
Another letter was sent by eight Israeli university law faculty deans on January 8. Both of these Israeli letters were more critical of the reforms than their US counterpart.