Former New York City Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg condemned the Israeli government’s judicial reform plan, warning that its passage could lead Israel “to disaster.”
In an opinion piece the billionaire businessman penned for The New York Times, Bloomberg touted his own pro-Israel bona fides, while comparing the Netanyahu government to Richard Nixon.
“In more than 20 years of public life, I have steadfastly supported Israel and its people in both word and deed, including by building medical facilities there, co-founding a leadership center, supporting its innovative local programs and funding other good causes,” Bloomberg wrote.
With the new reform package, Bloomberg continued in an attack on the so-called “Override Clause,” the “Knesset could even go as far as to declare that the laws it passes are unreviewable by the judiciary, a move that calls to mind Richard Nixon’s infamous phrase ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.’”
Bloomberg warned that passage of the reform plan, including the Override Clause, could cripple the Israeli economy, harm Israel’s ties with foreign powers, and ultimately endanger the Jewish state.
“Netanyahu’s government is courting disaster by trying to claim that same power, imperiling Israel’s alliances around the world, its security in the region, its economy at home and the very democracy upon which the country was built.”
Bloomberg cited the recent decline of the New Israeli Shekel against the US Dollar, which last month fell to its lowest trading level against the dollar since 2019.
The former mayor also warned that passage of the reform package currently under consideration would bring the Israeli government more in line with authoritarian countries, a step he said would alienate the US and other liberal Western nations.
Supporters of the reform plan have argued that the changes would restore the balance between the branches of government, and give the government more control over Israel’s judiciary, along the lines of the American model, in which the president nominates and the US Senate confirms federal judges.
But Bloomberg highlighted the American Supreme Court’s right to judicial review, established as precedent by the Marbury v. Madison ruling in 1803.
“Our Constitution is not perfect — no law is — but its many checks and balances have been essential to protecting and advancing fundamental rights and maintaining national stability.”
Israel does not have a constitution, though some jurists – including former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak – have argued that the high court has the right to judicial review by way of the Basic Laws, which they claim is the country’s de facto constitution.