Israel expert gives update on judicial reform and other news topics

By Carl Zebrowski

Longtime Israeli political journalist David Horovitz discussed the most critical current affairs in Israel and the Middle East during a September 11 Zoom briefing sponsored in part by the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.

The founding editor of the current affairs website the Times of Israel, award-winning author and frequent lecturer at international venues offered detailed explanations and analysis during the hour-long event. His main topic was the Supreme Court of Israel hearings scheduled to begin the next day to weigh the recent judicial reform to limit the power of the court to overturn legislation and other government decision

Before the reform passed early this year by unanimous vote of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition in the Knesset, the court had the ability to overturn a government action based on “reasonableness” — if the court deemed an action unreasonable, it could rule against it. The reform, if allowed to stand, would give the Knesset the power to reverse a court ruling with a simple majority vote. A now-infamous several months of public protests followed the passing of the reform.

Compromise on this issue is one of the possible outcomes, Horovitz said. Netanyahu has pledged that if a viable compromise is reached, “he’ll make it work.”

Horovitz noted that this sounds simple, but the reality is likely to prove far more complicated. “The cynical take on the new talk of compromise is that Netanyahu wants to be seen as advocating broad consensus, which is what President Joe Biden has been urging him to do in the last few months, but that when push comes to shove … the hard line will resurface.”

Horovitz said he expected the court to render a decision within months, explaining that technical issues related to one judge’s retirement impose a de facto deadline on the hearings. “So,” he concluded, “beyond January it will not go.”

Of course Horovitz was asked how he thought the 15-judge court would rule. “If I had to guess,” he said, “I don’t think it’ll be a 15-0 decision one way or another, especially not if it’s a dramatic decision.” At that point, if the court overturns the reform legislation, the question could become: Will Netanyahu and his coalition accept the ruling? But that’s another story…

The briefing then turned to the economy (“not in a good place”), the Abraham Accords (“the partnerships are still there, but they’re not being celebrated in the same way”), the recent earthquake in Morocco and its climbing death toll  (“Israel has arguably the world’s most efficient and mobile search-and-rescue teams…. They haven’t gone. I think Morocco has turned down a lot of assistance being offered, not just by Israel”), and the repeating pattern of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s antisemitic comments (“He said it because he believes it, and he said it before, and that’s what he thinks”).

This online briefing by Horovitz was the first in a series cosponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley that continues into 2024. The other dates for his Zoom talks on current affairs in Israel and the Middle East are November 13, 2023, and January 22, March 11 and May 13, 2024. To make sure you don’t miss any of these, follow the Federation’s weekly events emails. Sign up to receive those at