Israeli business leaders warn US envoy over law reform could mean ‘end’ of democracy

U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides met with a dozen leading Israeli business and technology executives on Thursday, most of whom warned him that changes to the judicial system planned by Netanyahu’s government could be disruptive, Israeli television reported. harm Israel’s economy.

The conference included 15 CEOs and senior representatives of Israeli industry heavyweights such as El Al, Bank Hapoalim, IsarCard and communications firm Partner, as well as the former CEO of Bank Leumi and the founders of cybersecurity giants Checkpoint and Mobileye People, Intel’s Jerusalem-headquartered autonomous driving subsidiary.

According to Channel 12, some executives have warned that a sweeping, sweeping overhaul of the judiciary, led by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, with the full backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could potentially Meaning the “end” of Israel’s democracy and harming its economic growth. The report did not attribute the quotes to anyone.

Others said they feared the move would lead credit agencies to downgrade Israel’s economy and scare off foreign investors, as Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron outlined to Netanyahu this week with economists.

Israel’s famed tech sector, one of the strongest engines of economic growth, relies heavily on venture capital and other investments from foreign companies and funds.

The Channel 12 report noted that most of the business leaders that Nides met opposed the planned reforms, under which the high court’s ability to annul laws and government decisions would be severely limited by a “overturn clause” that would send the Knesset to Israel. A narrow majority of 61 votes re-enacted the defeated law.

The proposed reforms would also give the government full control over the selection of judges; prevent courts from using the “reasonableness” standard in judging legislation and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers rather than those operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice suggestion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Justice Minister Yariv Levin attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Only two of 15 business people said they did not think the proposed judicial overhaul would have a negative impact on the economy, according to the report.

Nieders’ meeting with business leaders was reportedly scheduled long before the controversy over judicial reform arose, but the sit-in focused on the issue amid concerns among attendees that Nieders didn’t fully understand the implications. Proposed legislation or potential negative impact on the Israeli economy.

The report did not cite any sources.

Hundreds of Israeli economists published an “urgent letter” on Wednesday warning that far-reaching judicial reforms being pushed forward by Netanyahu’s hard-line government could have severe economic consequences.

“In the absence of strong checks and balances, a rapid concentration of political power in the hands of ruling groups could weaken the country’s economy,” the signatories warned.

They also cited the risk of a “brain drain” and the relocation of R&D centers from Israel, as well as a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

Among the signatories are senior academics on both the right and the left, including the Nobel laureate Princeton professor. Daniel Kahneman; Prof. Eugene Kandel, former Economic Advisor to Netanyahu and Chairman of the National Economic Council; Prof. Omer Moav, former Advisor to the Minister of Finance; Prof. Avi Ben Bassat, former Minister of Finance; Manuel Trajtenberg, who held a series of key government posts.

The letter comes after Yaron met with Netanyahu to highlight the potential fallout and relay warnings from senior economic figures and credit ratings company officials at a recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month. .

That meeting came hours after hundreds of tech workers staged an hour-long strike to protest the planned changes.

On January 24, 2023, employees of Israeli technology companies held a one-hour protest against judicial reform in Tel Aviv. (polite)

The planned judicial reform has sparked mass weekly protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals, private companies and others.

More than 100,000 people demonstrated against the proposed reshuffle in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, and thousands more took part in other demonstrations, including in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva.

Another large demonstration is planned for Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

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