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Knesset member to U.S. Republican leaders: Israel wants to strengthen, not harm democracy

Religious Zionism party's Ohad Tal defends Israel's proposed judicial reform in meeting with Republicans

MK Ohad Tal (center) meets with US Republican leaders at the Knesset (Photo courtesy)

A Knesset member from the Religious Zionism party reassured United States' Republican leaders visiting Israel that the coalition was working to strengthen Israel’s democracy and ensure that the courts better represent the Israeli public.

“We, here in the State of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, also want to strengthen Israeli democracy,” Ohad Tal told the Republicans at the Knesset on Wednesday. “The principle of separation of powers will restore public trust in the law and justice systems while returning power to the people and their elected representatives.”

The visit comes as the coalition is preparing to push through legislation that would overhaul Israel’s judicial system, which would include adding Knesset members to the judge selection committee and giving parliament a simple-majority override clause on Supreme Court rulings.

“The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Israel, does not currently represent the public,” Tal said, explaining why Netanyahu’s bloc is pushing this reform. “The judges are chosen by a handful who have assumed the powers that affect all the citizens of Israel.”

But critics in Israel and abroad fear the law would give disproportionate power to the executive branch, while weakening the court and destroying any balance of power between the branches of Israel’s government.

Opponents also fear the changes to the judicial system will trickle down to harm the economy, eventually causing a downgrade in Israel's credit rating and hampering the ability to do business with the Jewish nation. Hundreds of economists and business owners have joined the protests against the dramatic legal restructuring.

Tal said that the principle of separation of powers will "restore public trust in the law and justice systems while returning power to the people and their elected representatives."

The American government and business leaders were part of a delegation to Israel arranged by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), the charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC – the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

“I welcome and cherish AIEF's continued standing by the State of Israel,” Tal said. “Your lobby is proof of the important connection of the Jews in the United States with the State of Israel.”

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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