(JTA) — President Joe Biden has weighed in against the Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms, saying that an independent judiciary is part of “the genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy.”
Biden made the comments in a 46-word statement Saturday to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a longtime chronicler of the U.S.-Israel relationship. “This is the first time I can recall a U.S. president has ever weighed in on an internal Israeli debate about the very character of the country’s democracy,” Friedman wrote in his column.
Until now, Biden had not commented on the judiciary proposals, even as a growing number of prominent and often typically nonpartisan voices within Israel, American Judaism, academia and business have decried them.
In the new comments, Biden said — without naming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that it was important for Israeli leaders to build support for the changes they seek.
“The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary,” Biden said in the statement. “Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained.”
Biden’s comments come as Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, prepares to consider the proposed reforms for the first time this week. Israelis from all over the country plan to call out of work and school to protest outside the Knesset building in Jerusalem on Monday.
Under the terms of the proposed reforms, the Knesset would get the right to overrule decisions of Israel’s Supreme Court. Lawmakers would also get more power over appointing judges. Netanyahu and his allies in the right-wing governing coalition vowed during their campaigns to pursue the changes, arguing that the court is too liberal and does not reflect the attitudes of the people. Changes to the judiciary would also have the effect of insulating Netanyahu from the corruption trial he currently faces.
About a third of Israelis support the proposals and about 40% oppose them, according to recent polling by the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute. But previous polling by the organization has found that a majority of Israelis say they support some aspects or goals of the reforms, and the latest poll found that two-thirds of Israelis say they would prefer negotiations leading to a compromise.
Israelis who oppose the reforms have been protesting against them and other aspects of the government’s agenda, particularly the ambition of some of its ministers to limit LGBTQ, Arab and non-Orthodox rights. Saturday night’s protests were the largest yet, with a growing contingent in the Orthodox city of Beit Shemesh as well as a first-time rally in Petah Tikva along with the main demonstration in Tel Aviv and smaller ones in other cities. Israelis living abroad are also holding satellite rallies in cities around the world.
The proposals have alarmed foreign investors and credit agencies, which see countries that move away from democratic norms as risky investments. Israeli companies have already moved $780 million from Israeli banks to banks abroad amid the concern, according to a new report from the Israeli business news site Calcalist, which reported that many of the companies making the changes are not active in the anti-government protests.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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