When Israel’s government announced the elements of judicial overhaul that it was seeking, Israelis and those across the world voiced abundant and vociferous views.  The media paid attention to the weekly gatherings of large crowds in Israeli streets; webinars were held, blistering OPEDs were written praising and condemning the impact of the suggested judicial changes might upon the future nature of Israel’s democracy, its economy, societal cleavages both short and long term ramifications.  This chronology only covers three months of 2023, with no coverage about the context or the longer-term tussle that has been afoot in Israel between the Knesset and the Supreme Court for more than twenty years. This chronology is of course not all  inclusive but representative of events, opinions and publications associated with what appears to be a unique moment in Israeli history. Additional viewpoints about attitudes and positions may be obtained by reading carefully some excellent materials found at the Israel Democracy Institute, The Kohelet Forum,  the Jewish People’s Policy Institute, and other places. These items are all in English, and therefore a great deal of commentary and comments are not before us in this listing. Additional assessments and commentaries of the proposed judicial overhaul  may be found in our monthly CIE’s Contemporary Readings 

Wendy Kalman and Ken Stein, April 1, 2023

1/8: 8 Israeli university law faculty sent a letter critical of the proposed judiciary reform. (article)

1/11: Justice minister Yariv Levin publishes his proposed bills (article)

1/24: 2 organizations of lawyers (an organization representing lawyers in civil service/local government representatives in companies/government corporations as well as a union representing attorneys in the state attorney’s office) each sent a letter to the minister of justice, his CEO and the civil service representatives in protest or proposed reform (article in Hebrew)

1/25: 100s of economists published an emergency letter warning of impact on economy. (article)

1/29: 199 U.S. and Canadian law professors signed a statement in opposition to the process and extent of the proposed overhaul. (source; Canadians actually signed 2/1) 

2/5: 50+ CEOs write letter to president, PM, president of the Supreme Court, Chairman of the Knesset and head of the opposition (article in Hebrew)

2/7: 240+ leading academic researchers in the fields of International Relations, Political Science, and Game Theory from Israel and abroad signed a petition warning that the government’s plans will impact Israel’s security. As of 3/3, the change.org petition has grown to 5,637. (story, petition)  

2/8: 56 economists at universities in the U.S. signed open letter warning of negative consequences for the economy should the reform pass. (article)

2/9: 63 economists and high-tech executives sent Netanyahu a letter with 10 principles for reform spelled out (source in Hebrew)

2/9: 50+ Canadian jurists and law professors issued an open letter expressing concern about the consequences of the proposed reforms. (article)

2/9: The Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding that Levin’s judiciary reform be frozen until a conflict-of-interest arrangement is put into place for Netanyahu (source in Hebrew)

2/10: High Court of Justice gave Netanyahu and the A-G one month to respond to petition

2/11: 18 Retired Israeli Supreme Court judges publish a statement (CIE post)

2/11: 12 former national security council governors sent letter to Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana

2/12: 7 Israeli Nobel prize winners published open letter to Herzog and Netanyahu (article)

2/12: President Herzog addresses the nation, proposing a way forward (CIE post)

2/14: 75 Religious Zionist leaders (Hebrew and English given to Ken)

2/14: Europe’s Venice Commission (the Commission for Democracy through Law) issued statement expressing concern that the reforms might jeopardize independent judicial review. (article)

2/15: 550 former naval commandos urged Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to oppose the overhaul (article)

2/15: ~$4 billion pulled out of Israel and moved to foreign banks. Almost half of what moved since 2/1 came from high-tech. (article)

2/15: ADL issues a statement joining the call for using Herzog’s proposal as a basis. (source)

2/16: 400+ ex-senior security officials signed a public letter urging Herzog not to agree to any laws that contradict Israel’s democratic values (same article as naval commandos)

2/17: 200+ U.S. Jewish scientists sign open letter fearing impact of proposed changes. (source, names)

2/18: 200 prominent Arab-Israelis signed a petition against the judicial reform. (article)

2/16: 20 Israeli business leaders met with Nir Barkat to warn of mass withdrawal of capital (article)

2/19: Israel Investment Houses Association whose groups manage hundreds of billions of shekels in public and pension funds published letter addressed to Justice Minister and Head of Opposition concerning impact on financial markets and public savings. (article)

2/19: 15 Conversative Jewish organizations from Israel and the diaspora published a statement (article)

2/19: 20 Israeli Religious Zionist rabbis sign a letter expressing support for judicial reform while also encouraging real and honest dialogue between sides. (article in Hebrew)

2/20: Knesset passed first reading of parts of the legislation, giving government control over selection of court judges and enabling the Knesset to pass laws struck down by the Supreme Court 

2/20: Foreign Minister Yoav Gallant sent a letter to heads of diaspora Jewish communities, trying to calm them down. (article)

2/21: 460 former Shin Bet agents sent a letter to Agricultural Minister Avi Dichter, former chief of the agency, warning against the overhaul (article

2/21: Jewish Federations of North America published an open letter to PM Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, with others cc’ed, asking Israel to follow Herzog’s proposal and not to allow a simple majority to override Supreme court decisions (source)

2/21: 15 major diaspora donors and philanthropies released a letter urging the PM to follow Herzog’s proposal. (article)

2/21: Top legal counsels to Shin Bet and Mossad and top justice officials warned Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee in a closed meeting that international courts may decide to assert jurisdiction. Top military prosecution officials warned the same thing in recent weeks. (article)

2/22: ~300 submariners, both reservists and retired, signed an open letter to the PM warning him that the overhaul could expose politicians and IDF commanders to ICC lawsuits. (article)

2/22: 106 philosophers published an open statement to the PM and Minister of Justice express their fear of what the reforms will do to democracy. (article includes graphic of source)

2/24: 100+ reserve officers (including included lieutenant colonels, colonels, brigadier generals, and a major general, among dozens of junior officers and sergeants) of the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division signed an open letter to the PM saying that they would stop showing up for duty, should the overhaul proceed. (article)

2/26: Hadassah The Women’s Zionist Organization of America published an open letter calling on Israel’s leadership to following President Herzog’s proposal. (source)

2/28: 100s of officers and NCOs affiliated with Unit 8200 threatened to stop volunteering for reserve duty if the reform is passed. (IDF fears a reservist crisis.) (article)

2/28: Dozens of foreign ambassadors met behind closed doors at the Knesset with Speaker Amir Ohana to ask questions and express concern. Ohana told the diplomats that there is room for negotiations and bills which first readings may still change. (source in Hebrew)

3/1: 4 coalition and opposition MKs (two Likud and two National Unity) published an open letter calling for compromise talks to be held at the president’s home. (article)

3/1: Retired heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and IDF published letter urging President Herzog to convene a constitutional assembly to protect Israel’s democracy. (article)

3/1: Fitch’s affirmed Israel’s credit rating but cautioned that the proposed overhaul if passed could have a negative impact. (article)

3/2: 100+ reservists from the Air Force’s Unit 669 (elite helicopter-borne search and rescue) published a letter saying they cannot show up for reserve duty if reforms are passed. (article)

3/2: 80+ reservists from the IDF undercover Duvdevan unit published a letter saying they are coming out of the shadows to call on the government to stop this, as it will hurt democracy. (article)

3/2: 100s of economists issued a new letter warning of a faster and more powerful economic meltdown that what they had forecast with their first letter. (article

3/2: 120 academics signed a petition supporting Levin’s judicial reform proposal and calling for negotiations to create agreement based on them. (article); it was republished on 3/11 with 200 name;, of them only 10 were women (source)

3/3: 130+ reserve soldiers in the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit expressed concerns signed a letter to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, saying if reforms are passed, it would make it difficult for them to serve. (article)

3/3: 150 soldiers from cyber warfare units sent a letter to the chiefs of the military. Mossad and Shin Bet warned that they would stop volunteering for reserve duty if the overhaul is approved. (article)

3/3: ~50 senior pilots throughout the IAF who said they represented hundreds of others met with IAF chief Tomer Bar, expressing concern due both to proposed reform and Smotrich’s call to wipe out Huwara. They said they would not carry out illegal missions. (article)

3/3: 200+ members of the 360-strong 8400 — The Health Network, a non-profit representing the health tech industry, signed a full-page letter published in Haaretz on this day expressing concern about the financial impact of the judiciary overhaul. This followed a statement the organization itself issued in late February (unable to find date). (article)

3/5: 37 of 40 reservist IAF F-151 squadron members published their refusal to appear for a planned training session (but will report for operational missions), citing judicial overhaul and government conduct. There is fear that they could be exposed to prosecution by global bodies. (article in Hebrew); on 3/7, they published a new statement indicating they would show up, but in order to hold “a conversation of fighters.” (article)

3/6: Herzog indicates closed door talks are bringing compromise closer (article)

3/6: 10 ex-IAF chiefs penned a letter to the Prime Minister and to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressing concerns (article)

3/6: 300 Artillery Corps reservists including senior officers penned a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi and to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, indicating their opposition to the proposed overhaul (article)

3/7: 6,000 reservists from “all parts of the nation, in all ranks and roles, and from the entire political spectrum” signed a petition pledging to serve. This is in reaction to the growing trend of those refusing to serve; signatories want to separate politics from security. (article)

3/7: 20 senior IAF officers met with IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi to warn that a majority of fellow active-reserve officers would not show up for duty if the judicial proposals pass. The next day Halevi issued a statement saying that he would ensure that tasks the IDF would carry out would be legal. (article)

3/7: Unknown number of former Finance Ministry’s Budget Department officials called on Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to stop the proposed judicial overhaul, saying it would severely and irreparably harm the economy. (article)

3/7: Moody’s issued a warning that judicial overhaul could weaken Israel’ institutional strength (article)

3/8: 92 U.S. Democrats signed a letter to President Biden pressing him to use all diplomatic tools necessary to get PM Netanyahu to halt the judicial overhaul; it also stakes positions on other topics. Not all Jewish Democrats have signed the letter, which was reportedly pushed by J Street. (article, source)

3/9: 16 of roughly 20 Jewish Democrats lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to PM Netanyahu, President Herzog and Opposition leader Yair Lapid calling for a suspension of the judicial overhaul legislation and to work on a compromise (article, source

3/12: 255 U.S. investors sign letter to PM Netanyahu warning him that the planned judicial overhaul would impact investment into Israel and would make it more difficult to defend Israel internationally. (article)

3/14: 1000+ Israeli writers, artists and intellectuals signed a letter to the German and British ambassadors in Israel, asking their countries to cancel visits by PM Netanyahu, because his judicial overhaul plan will destroy the country. (article)

3/14: 42 former top legal advisers signed a public letter arguing that the proposed overhaul creates a regime coup and weakens the justice system and offer their support to the Attorney General Gali Baharab-Miara, who has fielded calls for her ouster from overhaul supporters. (article)

3/15:  President Isaac Herzog again addressed the nation, unveiling “The People’s Directive” (source)

3/16: 450 elite IDF reservists and 200 officers and soldiers in the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations division and cyber warfare unit announced they would stop reporting as of this coming Sunday. The day that the Knesset votes on legislation that would limit the courts’ or lawmakers’ ability to remove an unfit Prime Minister (article)

3/16: 100 senior reserve officer sin an elite Air Force unit issued a letter saying they were unsure if they could continue to serve. (article)

3/19: Dozens of psychiatrists signed a letter to PM Netanyahu and President Herzog warning of the mental health dangers of proceeding with this drastic overhaul. (article)

3/19: Former head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission sent a letter to PM Netanyahu warning that the internal divides due to the proposed overhaul leave the country vulnerable to attack. (article)

3/20: 1600 immigrants from the U.S., UK, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Ukraine and several European and South American countries  signed a letter to the Ministers for Aliyah and Absorption and for Diaspora Affairs, as well as the chair and CEO of the Jewish Agency and the CEO of Nefesh B-Nefesh, cc’ing President Herzog voicing the concern about the hijacking of the “Zionist vision that inspired us” to make Aliyah. (article

3/21: 5 bank heads as well as leaders from insurance, hotel and retail belonging to The Israel Business Forum signed a letter to PM Netanyahu warning that proceeding with the proposed overhaul, especially judicial selection, will turn Israel into a dictatorship. (article)

3/21: Unknown number of current Finance Ministry officials penned a document which warned Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that the plan to weaken the judiciary will damage the economy. (article)

3/21: Leaders of the group Brothers in Arms announced they would begin to sign reservists, soldiers and officers alike, onto a declaration of refusal to serve if the government proceeds with its judicial overhaul. (article)

3/21: The Institute for National Security Studies issued an unprecedented “urgent strategic alert,” warning that the proposed overhaul will damage Israel’s military capabilities and morale, threaten U.S. ties and damage the economy. (article)

3/22: Heads of Jewish Agency and its partner organizations, including World Zionist Organization, Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, signed a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid warning that the divide over the judicial overhaul is tearing apart world Jewry and asking them to meet to compromise. (article

3/22: 700 reservists in the Nahal Brigade sent a letter to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi urging them to stop the overhaul. (article)

3/22: 100 recently discharged armored corp officers signed a letter threatening not to appear for reserve duty. (article)

3/22: 100 Air force senior reservists signed a letter refusing to report for non-emergency service due to the overhaul. (article)

3/22: The Tel Aviv Museum of Art issued a statement that it would be closing exhibit and cancelling events starting the next day in support of employees protesting but also in commitment to the values of the Declaration of Independence. (article)

3/23: Prime Minster Netanyahu addressed the nation, saying that the rights of the individual would be protected while the overhaul would still proceed. (source in Hebrew)

3/24: Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara issued a letter to the PM which called the previous night’s statements “illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest.” (article)

3/24: ~200 reserve pilots notified they would not be reporting that week. (article)

3/25: 1,000 retired pilots signed a letter supporting the reservists and calling on the government to pause the legislation. (article)

3/26: 50+ Holocaust survivors sent a letter appealing to the government to stop the government reform. (article

3/26: The Histadrut, one day after Prime Minister Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who had called for a pause, announced a labor strike to start March 27 to protest the government’s decision not to pause legislation; this impacted the airport, hospitals, businesses and more. (article) Universities also announce a strike. (article)

3/27: 5 mayors and council heads announce a hunger strike in opposition to proceeding with the proposed overhaul. (article)

3/27: 17 religious Zionist rabbis call on the government not to pause the judicial overhaul legislation. (source in Hebrew)

3/27: Unknown number of religious Zionist rabbis call on the government to freeze legislation. (article)

3/27: Prime Minister Netanyahu announces a pause in the legislation (source).

3/27: The Jewish Federations of North America, Conference of Presidents, ADL and AJC released a statement welcoming the pause and encouraging consensus-building. (source). 

3/28: Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron’s letter accompanying its annual report warns that any legislation must preserve the independence of the state’s institutions. (article)

3/28: Government filed judicial selection bill for final voting which would allow it to be brought for approval at a later date. (article)