The Fight Against Israel Becoming Another Hungary or Poland


Orni Petruschka

American Jews gathered here in Israel to attend the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America and to celebrate our 75th anniversary. At the same time, we Israelis are fighting the most unprecedented battle in our country’s history. The judicial overhaul led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to transform Israel into a Hungarian or Polish autocracy by collapsing the country’s separation of powers under the weight of an unrestrained executive arm. The massive protests and the vocal disapproval of Israel’s top servants forced Netanyahu to declare a pause in legislation. But as his justice minister, Yariv Levin, recently admitted, the extreme right government still plans to go all the way with its plans.

Here is one way that American Jews, many who’ve been correctly warning of the dreadful consequences of the judicial overhaul to U.S.-Israel relations, can help us Israelis taking part in this ongoing battle for democracy.

First and most importantly, we need you to stand up against the American-backed forces that have created, funded and pushed the judicial overhaul. These forces are first and foremost the Kohelet Policy Forum in Israel and the American Tikvah Fund. Every day, these two organizations fuel and provide ammunition to the ongoing campaign waged against our democratic institutions — from writing the bills to lobbying parliament members, publishing materials that attack our courts and disseminating propaganda in Israeli media.

Kohelet crafted the current judicial overhaul, while the New York City-based Tikvah led and backed the broader intellectual basis behind Israel’s illiberal turn. Established two decades ago following a donation of hundreds of millions of dollars, Tikvah has built an institutional infrastructure for the promulgation of neoconservative, anti-liberal and pro-settler ideology in Israeli media and politics. Among the new cohort of politicians cultivated by organizations affiliated with Tikvah is MK Simcha Rothman, a member of the “Religious Zionist” Jewish supremacy party who is the leading figure of the judicial overhaul in his role as head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The Tikvah Fund supported political projects led by Rothman in 2019, such as the Law and Liberty Forum, which draws inspiration from the Federalist Society, in an attempt to promote their anti-liberal judicial vision. Tikvah also funded Rothman’s first book, a manifesto detailing the anti-democratic vision that is now unfolding before our eyes. Tikvah’s Israeli CEO, Amiad Cohen, recently met with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to exchange “ideas.”

Tikvah was also involved in founding Kohelet which, alongside writing the laws we are now protesting against, has been pushing other illiberal policies alongside radical libertarian reforms of a kind Israel has never seen before. Dr. Aviad Bakshi, Kohelet’s head of the legal department, not only helped craft these anti-democratic laws but was recently appointed to the Likud negotiation team about the judicial overhaul.

One may argue that Tikvah and Kohelet are simply counterparts of U.S.-based liberal foundations and merely promote different political agendas in Israel. Don’t be misled. There has never been a case in Israeli history where American philanthropists and American-based organizations were behind such a blunt endeavor to transform the structure of Israeli democracy. Israel would not be in this crisis if it weren’t for Tikvah and Kohelet.

A few weeks ago, the chair of Kohelet and a Tikvah board member, Moshe Koppel, who is considered the judicial reform’s “architect,” was greeted by Israeli protestors outside a New Jersey synagogue. Days earlier, Israelis protested in front of the Tikvah Fund’s offices in New York. Anyone who cares about the future of Israel should join and assist efforts such as these, to call out organizations such as Tikvah and Kohelet for what they really are: a direct threat to the future of Israel.

We Israelis are deeply grateful for the contribution of American Jews to Israel. The Jewish community in the U.S. donates to help build hospitals, universities and museums, as well as fund social and political causes. For over two decades, I have been rallying support for building democratic and peace-promoting institutions in Israel among generous, caring and concerned American Jews.

Here in Israel, we know what we must do. We will use all non-violent means at our disposal until the threat of turning Israel into an autocratic state has vanished for good. To support our cause is to denounce the people who have declared war on the liberal foundations engraved in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. We will continue our fight in Israel — but we need you to join us in fighting its US-based foundation. We hope to find allies in the U.S. Jewish community who can use all the levers of pressure at their disposal against the organizations working to destroy Israel’s democracy. ■

Orni Petruschka is a social entrepreneur, the chair of the Molad think tank and the Abraham Initiative, and a member of the forum coordinating the ongoing protests in response to the judicial reform.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


  1. If Diaspora American Jews wish to have a say in Israel’s day-to-day affairs then they are free to make Aliyah.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here