At a press conference on January 4, Justice Minister, Yariv Levin announced his plans for judicial reform. Seven days later the Minister and the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Simhah Rothman, made public draft texts of three different laws that contained the reforms of the Judiciary that the Netanyahu government is intended to effect.
There is a consensus in Israel that despite his legal education, and he having been involved in legal reform since he joined the Likud’s Knesset slate in 2009, Justice Minister Yariv Levin could not have prepared by himself the proposed laws he submitted.
In general Ministers and Knesset committee heads do not write legislation, and in the case of Levin the Justice Ministry was not at all involved in the process.
In 2019, the Kohelet Forum, an Israeli think tank published a paper titled: “Selecting Judges to Constitutional Courts – A Comparative Study.” One of the authors was Shimon Nataf, currently an advisor to Simcha Rothman, the chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Last year, attorney Rothman, a strong proponent of the settlement movement, published a book entitled: “The Ruling Party of Bagatz: How Israel Became a Legalocracy.” In the book he contends that Israel’s Supreme Court judges “rule the country against the will of the people and ignore Jewish values.”
There is a widespread consensus in Israel that for many years the Kohelet Forum has been working to advance Levin and Rothman’s legal revolution.
In an interview with Roi Yozevitch Professor Moshe Koppel from the computer science department at Bar-Ilan University, and the chairman of the Kohelet Forum acknowledged that his organization is “in daily contact with those elected officials who make the decisions.”
One of the strongest and most influential bodies in Israeli politics- wrote journalist Shuki Sadeh in 2018,- “Kohelet’s fingerprints are visible in every explosive and divisive issue that has weakened the legal system and regulation, from the nation-state law through personal political appointments of senior professional positions to the override clause (that would let the Knesset reenact laws overturned by the High Court of Justice).”
Born in Manhattan to a family connected with the Gur Hasidic sect, the national element is of prime importance for Professor Koppel, a settler from the town of Efrat, in the Etzion Bloc, south of Jerusalem who, after graduating from New York University emigrated to Israel in 1980.
The Disengagement Plan in 2005, in which Israel demolished all the settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank- was one of the most traumatic and transformative events for many Religious Zionists like Professor Koppel. “Ten thousand people were kicked out of their homes,” he said “It sounds like a minority that was definitely treated badly by the government. And , not only did the Supreme Court hardly weigh in on it, kids were arrested for demonstrating; buses were stopped in Kiryat Shmona in the North and people who were on their way to demonstrate were detained. Where was the Supreme Court then?”
“All of a sudden, it is like this coalition of ragtag outsiders won the election, right? So you’ve got settlers, Mizrahim [Jews from the Middle East and North Africa], and this whole ragtag band of outsiders who don’t sit in the real sectors of power in the country – they won, and they actually want to make that win real. They’re talking about how they’re going to change the system,” he added in an interview he held with Zvika Klein in “The Jerusalem Post,” this year
Seen as influencing the 2019 statement by then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recognizing the legality of Israeli settlements, the think tank fashioning Benjamin Netanyahu and Yariv Levin’s constitutional revolution holds the position that “He who wields the pen, wields the power.”