My sister moved to Israel from Toronto over 40 years ago. She and her growing family give me a window into life in Israel. Through her I am witness to the ups and downs of our homeland. Right now is a down period. Referring to the members of the Israeli government who are trying to push through the package of judicial reforms (involving the process to appoint judges, the over ride of decisions of the Supreme Court, when the court can review laws, and other critical matters), and the deep divide in Israeli society that has ensued as a result, she said today, “You are ruining this beautiful country.”
That scared me.
It is frustrating being someone who loves Israel so deeply as I do, while watching from afar what is going on. Living in Canada, I know that I don’t have the same moral standing as an Israeli citizen does to criticize Israeli government policies. I also know that publicly criticizing Israel here emboldens our enemies. On the other hand, I can’t watch helplessly while the country seems to be tearing itself apart.
Do I say something, or do I not? Do I simply hope it will be fine, or do I try and help make it so? Do I worry alone, or do I share my worry?
I am sharing my worry.
For many years, I was a securities lawyer defending hostile takeover bids. When I started to practice in the 1990s, the minimum period of time a bid needed to be open in Ontario for acceptance by shareholders was 21 days. This gave hostile bidders a huge advantage because the short 21 day bid period did not give the target enough time to react, and the bidders hoped the rush would enable it to buy the target company for less than it was worth. Defending against these bids involved finding ways to slow down the bidder, to give shareholders time to make a real choice: to accept the hostile bid or sell to a better alternative that the target might surface with more time.
Over the years, it was recognized that the interests of shareholders would be better protected if the minimum takeover bid period was longer. More time would give an opportunity to consider alternatives, which would lead to fairer results. The minimum bid period was then increased from 21 to 35 days, and then to 105 days.
Why the lesson in Ontario securities laws? Because I see the tactics of Israel’s governing coalition being like those of an opportunistic corporate raider, making a “stink bid”, with its only opportunity for success coming from moving quickly.
If the proposed judicial reforms were really in the best interests of the country of Israel, why the rush?
The quick pace at which the governing coalition is seeking to complete this legislation screams out that something is not right. The fact that there are so many people demonstrating weekly in Israel means that there is much more work to be done to refine the package of reforms so it is more widely accepted.
I am not a constitutional lawyer. I am not an expert on Israeli law. I am a Canadian who is gravely concerned by what I am seeing in Israel.
I do not believe that this is a case of “yehiye be seder” (it will be alright). I don’t think I can just sit by and hope everything will be fine. I feel compelled to say something. What I will say will seem naive and simplistic.
It is: slow down!
The members of the Knesset trying to ram this legislation through know why they won’t slow it down. It is because they are being opportunistic, motivated by factors that are not totally related to what is in the best interests of the country, and fearing that if there were thoughtful debate and analysis the changes would not be made exactly as proposed.
If changing the structure of the governance of a whole country can only be achieved if it is done quickly then there is something wrong with the changes.
That is my worry, and that is why I am sharing it.