January 27, 2023

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University Chiefs Warn of Global Academic Boycott due to Judicial Reforms

3 min read

On Monday, the heads of universities in Israel warned that the planned overall of the justice system by the new government could result in ‘fatal damage’ to the educational institutions of the country.

This is the latest appeal that has been made by top public officials regarding the proposals that have been put forward by the new Justice Minister.

University heads issue warning

The Committee of University Heads said that this could become a brain drain, as faculty members would become hesitant in joining their ranks.

They also said that post-doctoral students, research students, international colleagues and students in general would refrain from coming to Israel.

They added that educational institutions would get limited access to international research funds and foreign industries will also not be interested in cooperating with Israel academia.

They stated that Israel would also be excluded from the educational and international research community.

The organization that issued the warning includes chiefs of some of the biggest educational institutes in Israel and the president of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Arie Zaban is its head.

These include Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, the Weizzman Institute, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the University of Haifa, Ariel University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion and Open University that has observer status.

The petition

The petitioners called on the new government to not make such huge changes to the justice system in a hurry and without a public decision on the societal, economic and the security consequences of it.

A report on Sunday had disclosed that the goal of the coalition is to pass the phase of its package unveiled publicly quickly, as early as April.

The academics said that the Knesset and the government should not make changes to the basic values that are highlighted in the Declaration of Independence, specifically those aimed at protecting the rights of minorities and the dignity of human beings.

The proposals

The reforms that have been put forward by Justice Minister Yariv Levin are aimed at restricting the capacity of the High Court in striking down government decisions and laws.

These proposals come with an ‘override clause’ that will enable the Knesset in re-legislating the laws that may be struck down with a majority.

This way, the government will have complete control over the appointment of judges, which means the court will not be able to use a test of ‘reasonableness’ for judging government decisions and legislation.

In addition, ministers will also be able to choose their legal advisers, rather than advisers operating under the Justice Ministry.

There are some additional plans as well, but they have not been announced as yet. These include splitting the role of the attorney general and restricting the ability of petitioning against government actions.

There are also some major changes expected to the Basic Laws that are intended for reshaping the power between the High Court of Justice and the Knesset.

According to critics, the democratic character of Israel will take a hit because the system of checks and balances will be affected.

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