NoVa Shaliach Tries to Make Sense of News from Israel

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Protests against the government’s plan to overhaul the judicial system, Tel Aviv, 14 January 2023. Wikimedia Commons

On Monday, hours after the Knesset passed the first element of the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul over the protests of the opposition, Dean Bagdadi was trying to unpack the events for an audience from the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.

Bagdadi, the JCC’s shaliach, or Israeli cultural emissary, holds a weekly Zoom session on Israel. But the July 24 session was in the shadow of the Israeli government limiting the power of the Supreme Court to check government excess.

“If your Monday morning isn’t bad already, it’s about to get much, much worse,” Bagdadi joked.

The Reasonableness Bill

He explained that Israel’s Supreme Court to strike down laws that could be deemed as unreasonable, a system also in place the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The new law, nicknamed “The Reasonableness Bill,” takes this power away from the Supreme Court.

The bill passed in a vote of 64-0 out of Knesset’s 120 members, with all members of the governing coalition in favor and the opposition boycotting the vote entirely.

Opposition

Opposition to the bill is shaping Israeli life, Bagdadi said. On July 22, tens of thousands of protesters completed a five-day, 40-mile trek from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Just after news of the bill’s passage, police clashed with protesters seeking to blockade the Knesset. The larger impact on Israeli life, though, is what the future holds for Israel’s position as a democracy and its relationship with the United States.

A participant asked Bagdadi about the possibility of the United States limiting or entirely slashing its military funding to Israel over displeasure with the bill.

“We need to think about what Israel will look like without its security,” Bagdadi answered. “Surrounded by threats, from Gaza and the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. This is very disconcerting, very threatening. We need to not just think about the decision itself, but the consequences.” ■

Molly Zatman is a freelance writer.

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