Michael Bloomberg, the Jewish billionaire businessman who served three times as Mayor of New York, has come out publicly and expressed concerns that the judicial reforms proposed by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will be a “disaster” for the country, doing so in an editorial published Monday in the New York Times. The political opposition in Israel charges that the reforms currently before the Knesset would end the ability of Israel’s Supreme Court to review the validity of new laws or actions by the country’s government, and thereby end its character as a democratic state.
“In more than 20 years of public life, I have steadfastly supported Israel and its people in both word and deed, including by building medical facilities there, co-founding a leadership center, supporting its innovative local programs and funding other good causes,” wrote Michael Bloomberg. “I have never gotten involved in its domestic politics or criticized its government initiatives. But my love for Israel, my respect for its people and my concern about its future are now leading me to speak out against the current government’s attempt to effectively abolish the nation’s independent judiciary.”
Michael Bloomberg said that he basically agrees with the opposition in Israel that the reforms would harm the country’s democratic identity, comparing this to how America’s President Richard Nixon – the only US President forced to resign in disgrace because of abuse of office and other crimes – once said, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” This is what dictators tend to say when they turn fledgling democracies, as as happened the world over, into dictatorships.
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“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is courting disaster by trying to claim that same power,” he wrote, “imperiling Israel’s alliances around the world, its security in the region, its economy at home and the very democracy upon which the country was built.”
And Michel Bloomberg also agreed with the American financial firms like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan that have said the reforms, if passed, would be detrimental to the Israeli economy as it would reduce confidence in Israel’s stability. This is a charge made by the Israeli political opposition and a number of Israeli firms have also begun moving funds abroad foe this very reason.
“The economic damage is already being felt, as the pummeling of the shekel has shown,” said Michael Bloomberg. “A broad swath of business leaders and investors have spoken out against the government’s proposal, publicly and privately. And in a disturbing sign, some people have already begun pulling money out of the country and re-evaluating their plans for future growth there. As the owner of a global company, I don’t blame them.”
Michael Bloomberg went on to explain that companies and investors place “enormous value on strong and independent judicial systems because courts help protect them.” And this protection extends to attempts by corrupt governments to extort from them or take their businesses away entirely.
The question now is what, if any, impact Michael Bloomberg’s words will have on the current political debate raging in Israel which has seen two months of massive protests against the proposed judicial reforms, ever since they were first announced.