From Our CEO
For the Future of Israel
March 3rd, 2023

I was in Israel last week awaiting the birth of a grandchild — an event of unalloyed personal joy. But with the ongoing political turmoil around judicial reform, I spent much of the week meeting with senior Israeli leaders from both the governing coalition and opposition.

What was most striking — and alarming — to me about these many meetings was the intense hostility and anger each side had for the other. And the apparent unwillingness on both sides, at least in this moment, to negotiate a good faith resolution.

I believe — for the reasons detailed more fully in my message of January 20 — that there’s a sound argument for instituting some type of judicial reform in Israel. Unlike the United States, which is governed by the Constitution, Israel has no such framework to define the respective roles and authority of the executive/legislative and judicial branches. Consequently, Israel’s Supreme Court has for years asserted authority over virtually every governmental action.

But the current proposed legislation is well beyond the pale, compromising judicial independence and effectively eliminating judicial review, thereby removing any semblance of checks and balances over governmental action in Israel.

That said, it’s important to understand that just as the opposition sees the proposed judicial reform as ending democracy, some in the government coalition view the legislation as actually restoring democracy.

Both see the future of Israel at stake. And it may be.

An entirely possible scenario: the government coalition moves forward with the current legislation, only to have it struck down by the Supreme Court. The government coalition then asserts that the Supreme Court lacks the authority to issue the ruling and disclaims its legitimacy. The consequences of this playing out are almost too frightening to imagine.

In the current highly polarized environment, with massive public demonstrations week after week, it takes enormous political courage for leaders on either side to stand up and negotiate. Doing so could well result in the loss of significant political standing within one's own constituency. Given what's at stake, though, the moment cries out for such courage on both sides.

The other news from Israel is yet another level of terrifying: the recent murders of brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv and Elan Ganeles, an American and Columbia University graduate, who was in Israel to attend a friend’s wedding. My older daughter knew Elan and attended his funeral in Ra’anana. We grieve and we are incensed that these innocent young men were killed by terrorists.

In no way do these horrific murders justify Israeli vigilantes rampaging in the Palestinian town of Huwara, leaving one man dead, injuring many others, and setting homes on fire. And statements by senior government members in support of “wiping out” Palestinian towns are unconscionable.

Against this heartbreaking backdrop, a beautiful baby girl was born in Israel. On Saturday evening, not far from the massive protests, my wife and I went to see our new granddaughter and her parents in the hospital.

My son and daughter-in-law were one of many parents in the maternity ward blissfully getting to know their newborns. When I looked around the visiting area, I saw families just like my own, elated to meet these little ones. And these families reflected the mosaic of Israeli society: Haredi and secular Jews, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, religious Zionists, Ethiopian Jews, and Arabs. On the outside, labels, politics, and culture keep them apart. Within these walls, they were cocooned and all that mattered was the health of their babies. Nobody was stingy with smiles or good wishes for the other.

I could not help but think it was a microcosm of what Israel still could be — a Jewish and democratic homeland, a place where our shared humanity is what matters most.

For the sake of these young ones — and for the future of our cherished Israel — I urge courageous leaders to step up now, resolve this crisis, and chart a path forward together.

Shabbat shalom