Former Israeli envoy Michael Oren: Anti-reform protests setting ‘very dangerous precedent’

“The airport has been closed only for the second time in our history. The first time was by Hamas.”

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren expressed harsh criticism of the ongoing protests against the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform, accusing them of setting a “very dangerous precedent.”

Addressing Tuesday’s so-called “Day of Disruption,” in which anti-government protesters gathered all around the country and even attempted to shut down Ben Gurion Airport, Oren said, “We have created a very dangerous precedent in this country and are violating the rights of others.”

“Israelis of course have the right to protest but Israelis also have the right to get to work and feed their families or to fly to family events abroad,” Oren told World Israel News after he addressed a crowd at the Tel Aviv International Salon, Israel’s largest speaker’s forum.

“The airport has been closed only for the second time in our history. The first time was by Hamas,” Oren told the crowd.

He also expressed his concern that that the “army has been politicized.”

His critique extended beyond the protests itself to the nature of the Supreme Court. Oren highlighted that the Supreme Court’s power had expanded beyond any other in the world and that it was “overturning pieces of legislation repeatedly.”

“These are ways you could reform the Supreme Court in a way that preserves the principle of judicial review,” he said, adding that Israel’s court system could learn from the U.S. model, in which the public has a say in the composition of the Supreme Court. He added however, that the reforms, in their current incarnation, would not necessarily fix the system, but said that nevertheless, it was incumbent on both the opposition and the coalition to find a compromise that would balance the popular will and the principle of judicial oversight.

Addressing the protests, Oren noted that the presenting problem – that of the judicial reform and democracy — was not actually the problem; instead, he said, there are multiple underlying problems relating to deep divisions in Israel’s society that run the gamut from the political right-left divide to the religious-secular and Ashkenazi-Mizrahi divides, as well as geographical disparities. “Go further down south to the development towns of the South see how many protests are going on now,” he said, adding that dissent was unevenly distributed and not at all representative of the entire country.

Oren noted that the members of his synagogue, who are mostly Mizrahi, see the situation completely differently. “They said ‘this isn’t about democracy, this isn’t about this isn’t about rights. This isn’t even about the rights of minorities or majorities. It’s about white privilege. It’s about the Ashkenazi elite that is gathering around the last bastion of Ashkenazi elitist power in this country, which is the Supreme Court.'”

“People were unwilling to accept the outcome of the previous election. So that is the focus,” he said.