Israeli envoy in NY ‘deeply concerned’ by country’s direction as overhaul advances
Israel’s consul general in New York expressed his “deep concern” on Thursday about the direction the country is heading, in a rare criticism of government policy from a sitting diplomat and a further indication of widespread discomfort with the hardline coalition’s efforts to restore the situation. judges.
“I am very worried [about] the direction the country is going right now,” Asaf Zamir said in remarks at the Jewish Museum’s annual fundraising gala dinner. “If you want to have a national home and you want it to be a home for everyone, it has to be really democratic.”
News site Walla first published a clip of Zamir’s speech at the private event on Friday.
Zamir has been serving in New York since August 2021 after being appointed to the post by then foreign minister Yair Lapid. Zamir had spent nearly a decade in politics at that point, mostly as deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, but joined Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party in 2019 and went on to serve as tourism minister with during a short-lived government led by Likud leader Benjamin. Netanyahu.
He resigned as a minister in 2020 in protest against Netanyahu’s government and the coalition collapsed shortly after, leading to another short-lived unity government led by Yamina Naftali Bennett and Lapid.
Zamir has remained in New York since that government fell last June, as other diplomats appointed by Lapid – Yael German in France and Ronen Hoffman in Canada – resigned in protest against Netanyahu’s coalition policies.
The New York Consul General’s comments on Thursday indicated that Zamir may be heading in that direction.
“We have very dramatic periods in our lives and the thing about dramatic periods is that you don’t always know you’re in them when they’re happening. And I think now we are in a very dramatic period,” he told hundreds of museum donors at the gala dinner.
Scoop: Israeli consul general in NY @asafzamir criticized last night for the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform: “I am very worried about the direction the country (Israel) is going…if we want a national home & we want it to be everyone’s home – it has to be Democratic” pic.twitter.com/RsYrvREJzG
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) March 17, 2023
“I’ve been in New York explaining Israel, representing Israel for the last 18 months. Sometimes it’s things I agree with, and sometimes it’s things I don’t agree with. That’s part of being a diplomat. It’s part of being an Israeli. Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder,” he said before revealing that the job has become much more difficult for him to do “in the last few weeks”.
Additional Lapid political appointments abroad include US Ambassador Mike Herzog, Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek, German Ambassador Ron Prosor and Ambassador to Angola Shimon Solomon. None of them have publicly indicated their intention to resign. Each was given three-year contracts, and it is rare for a new government to recall an envoy appointed by a previous government.
Despite more than two months of mass protests against the government’s judicial reform plans and stern warnings from business, military, legal and financial officials in Israel and around the world, the coalition has not stopped or slowed down its legislative push .
The legislation currently being blitzed through the Knesset would give the government and coalition full control over the selection of all judges in Israel; prohibiting the High Court of Justice from reviewing Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws; severely restrict the High Court’s ability to strike down laws deemed incompatible with those Constitutions; and allow the Knesset to pass laws that are immune from judicial review by the High Court from the outset.
Critics say it marks a revolutionary change in Israeli governance, essentially removing the ability of the High Court to act as a check on the Knesset and the governing coalition. This could move Israel from a liberal democracy to another system of governance, according to experts.
Supporters say the judiciary has gained far too much power in recent years and the government’s proposals will restore the balance of power between the branches of government.