OPINION: As communal leaders and lawyers, we urge Israel to uphold judicial independence

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OPINION: As communal leaders and lawyers, we urge Israel to uphold judicial independence

Two former presidents of the Board of Deputies, Vivian Wineman and Henry Grunwald, add their voices to mounting opposition against the policies of the new Israeli government.

Mass protest outside Knesset, February 13, 2023. Courtesy: Twitter
Mass protest outside Knesset, February 13, 2023. Courtesy: Twitter

We are two former presidents of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Our tenures between 2003 and 2015 saw difficult times for our beloved Israel. We were proud to play our part as British Jewry stood with an Israel facing terrorism, demonisation, and straining relations with world Jewry. We cherish growing ties between Britain and Israel based on shared interests and important shared values – including fairness and moderation.

With anguish, we take the unusual step of writing this article. We do so as friends of Israel and firm believers in the rule of law and balance of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary in confident democracies. We write in support of Israelis across the religious and political spectrums who have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers and taken extraordinary action opposing the scale and pace of proposed changes to Israel’s Judiciary and Supreme Court.

Alarm at the nature of these measures, but also the speed of their implementation and their unprecedented breadth and depth, has brought more than two hundred thousand people on to the streets in demonstrations against them. Opposition has included the heads of all Israel’s major universities, all past attorneys generals, and 28 former justices of the Supreme Court.

Vivian Wineman

Dan Meridor, former Likud Justice Minister, said: “If these ideas get implemented… Israel will become a different country.”

We share his view that Israel “succeeded because … (of) basic values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” We echo the call of former attorneys general for Israel to avoid “serious harm to the justice system and the rule of law.”

We share Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut’s pride that “Israel will soon mark 75 years of independence as a Jewish and democratic state.” We also share her concerns that “if the plan for change that has been presented is carried out, the 75th year will be remembered as the year in which Israel’s democratic identity suffered a fatal blow.”

Prominent lawyers who support Israel have come out against these plans. Anthony Julius described them as “Destructive, Degrading, Irrational.” US lawyer Alan Dershowitz views them as an attack on civil liberties and a “terrible mistake” making it difficult to defend Israel on the international stage.

Henry Grunwald

The reforms would strike at the separation of powers which is a fundamental principle of liberal democracy. Presidents of Israel’s allies, the USA and France, have taken the unprecedented step of cautioning against these internal reforms. Israel’s President Isaac Herzog has warned that these proposals could take Israel to the brink of constitutional and societal collapse.

There are tens of thousands of Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world expressing love and concern for Israel. We share the hope of the CHOOSE DEMOCRACY campaign to see Israel flourish as a homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state. We join the growing chorus of Israelis and Jewish communities urging Israel to uphold what was envisioned in its Declaration of Independence, to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.”


  • Henry Grunwald OBE KC, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews 2003 – 2009
  • Vivian Wineman KFO, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews 2009 – 2015
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