Israel Bar Association factions clashed over support of the judicial reform on Sunday night when deputy Bar chairman Itzhak Natovich chided acting chairman Amit Bechar for speaking at an anti-reform protest group event.
Natovich, running in Bar leadership elections with the Zionist Legal Initiative faction, sent a letter to Bechar after the acting chairman reportedly gave a speech to the Brothers in Arms NGO. Natovich called on Bechar not to engage in politics and warned him that if the acting chairman did not desist his faction would seek to oust him and ensure he is not elected.
"After the public criticism that the Bar received for political involvement by those that claim to represent it, I regret to see that you decided to continue the flawed path of Avi Himi, in an attempt to win the votes of left-wing lawyers," wrote Natovich.
Himi, the previous Bar head who resigned in January due to allegations of sexual impropriety, was an outspoken critic of the judicial reforms announced by Justice Minister Yariv at the beginning of the year. Himi's resignation kicked off the Bar elections, which are set for June 20.
Natovich told Bechar, top of the list of the Hope for the Bar faction, that as the chairman of the association he was supposed to represent all its members. Natovich argued that a significant number of attorneys supported changes in the judicial and law enforcement system to some extent.
"You take a leading part in the protests against the judicial reform, which is clear to everyone are protests not only against the reform but against the government and against the country as a Jewish and democratic state, thereby turning the association into a political body," said Natovich.
How has Bechar been involved in protests?
The deputy also said that the Bar's members were averse to "extremist" organizations. The Brothers in Arms group, according to Natovich, appropriated the IDF for a left-wing political agenda.
"Cease your participation as the Bar chairman in demonstrations against the government and in encouraging bodies and individuals in opposition to the government," said Natovich.
On May 1, Bechar spoke at an anti-judicial reform rally.
"Whoever damages the independence of the High Court of Justice in Israel and its standing in the world, they are endangering Israeli democracy and endangering each and every one of us," said Bechar. "The Bar Association won't let this happen."
Bechar called to find a bridge for dialogue and unity on judicial reform but said that the Bar wouldn't compromise on key democratic values.
In recent weeks, some candidates have withdrawn from the race and joined Bechar's Hope for the Bar faction, which has also gained the endorsement of National Unity MK Gideon Saar. Behar said last Tuesday that the faction sought to free the Bar from external interests, restore honor to the profession, and preserve democracy.
Natovich's Zionist Legal Initiative faction's platform calls for lawyers to be able to profess their own positions and beliefs, and advocates for the development and implementation of Zionist legalism and "Zionist laws" such as the Nation-State Law and the Law of Return.