Mike Bloomberg: Israel’s judicial reforms could make Brexit’s economic effects look like ‘bubkes’


(JTA) — Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul, philanthropist and former New York mayor, is the latest pro-Israel stalwart to warn that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms could be catastrophic.

“Close allies bound together by shared values stand together in times of need — not only to support each other but to reaffirm the inviolable obligations we have to defend those values,” Bloomberg wrote Sunday in a New York Times op-ed. “And that is why I am standing up again now.”

Bloomberg, who served three terms as New York’s mayor and briefly ran as a Democrat for president in 2020, is the latest prominent Jewish figure who was often at the forefront of defending Israel to now say Netanyahu’s reforms, which would gut the independence of the judiciary, are endangering the country. Others have included Times columnist Bret Stephens, constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz and the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman.

Bloomberg noted how, as New York mayor in 2014, he defied a Federal Aviation Administration order not to fly to Israel during its war that summer with Hamas. He also listed his philanthropic endeavors in Israel, including a health center named for his mother. In 2014, he traveled to Israel to receive the inaugural Genesis Prize, which has been called the “Jewish Nobel.”

Bloomberg, who made his billions of dollars with his eponymous financial news and data firm, said Netanyahu’s planned reforms were harming the economy that he helped open up in his previous terms as prime minister.

“Unless he changes course, Mr. Netanyahu risks throwing all that progress — and his own hard-earned legacy — away,” Bloomberg wrote. “The economic damage could make the cost being paid by the United Kingdom for Brexit look like bubkes,” a Yiddish term connoting “nothing.” Britain’s economy suffered detrimental effects from its withdrawal from the European Union.

Foreign investors have warned against investing in Israeli companies, the shekel’s value has fallen sharply and some Israeli companies have moved their money into overseas accounts to protest the judicial legislation and guard against its potential economic effects.

Bloomberg said he could understand why companies were pulling out of Israel, noting the protection that Israel’s courts have extended to women and minorities, including Arab and LGBTQ Israelis.

“In a disturbing sign, some people have already begun pulling money out of the country and re-evaluating their plans for future growth there,” he wrote. “As the owner of a global company, I don’t blame them. Companies and investors place enormous value on strong and independent judicial systems because courts help protect them — not only against crime and corruption but also government overreach. Just as important, they protect what their employees value most: individual rights and freedoms.”

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