(JTA) — The North American Zionist youth group Young Judaea is expressing “great concern” over Israel’s proposed judicial reform and calling on the country’s lawmakers to safeguard minority rights and a system of checks and balances.
Young Judaea joins a growing number of pro-Israel American Jewish groups cautioning against the controversial court legislation in its current form. Young Judaea has existed for more than a century and describes itself as “the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States.”
The court reform seeks to give the governing coalition full control over Supreme Court appointments and all but eliminate the court’s ability to strike down laws. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to oppose the overhaul. Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, gave a speech earlier this month beseeching the government to enter negotiations with the parliamentary opposition and compromise over some of the plan’s provisions, warning of “constitutional and social collapse.”
That call appeared to open the floodgates for Diaspora Jewish groups who typically do not criticize the Israeli government. Young Judea’s statement endorsed Herzog’s call for compromise while declaring that it “solemnly reaffirms its commitment to the State of Israel, its security, prosperity, and integrity.”
“We have watched with great concern the recent initiative by the Israeli government to radically change the Israeli judicial system and we have witnessed the broad-based opposition to this initiative by Israelis,” reads the statement, which was sent in an email to the group’s membership and alumni on Thursday. “We urge all Members of the Knesset to seek compromise, not conflict; understanding, not threats; while demonstrating an unwavering commitment towards a democratic Israel, protecting minority rights, and maintaining checks and balances.”
Earlier this week, the Jewish Federations of North America came out in opposition to a provision of the legislation allowing a bare majority of Israeli lawmakers to override judicial review. The leading organizations of the Conservative and Reform movements also oppose the plan. The Anti-Defamation League has endorsed Herzog’s call for negotiations.
Proponents of the legislation say it will curb the court’s liberal excesses and allow lawmakers to better reflect the wishes of Israel’s electorate. But critics of the proposal worry that giving Israel’s right-wing governing coalition unfettered power over the courts will endanger minority groups and civil rights protections. In addition, a range of legal scholars and public intellectuals have criticized the proposal, warning that it will damage Israel’s democratic standing.