President Yitzhak Herzog secretly met with senior members of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a politically conservative Israeli think tank, who were among the drafters of Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform proposal, according to a report by Atara German in Makor Rishon.
The secret meeting allegedly took place last Thursday at the President’s residence with senior representatives from the Kohelet Policy Forum. A senior member of the Kohelet Policy Forum told JewishPress.com that he can neither confirm nor deny that a meeting took place. Kohelet’s name has repeatedly appeared in the headlines in connection to the legal reform proposal. Kohelet members are at least partly involved in pushing the plan promoted by the Minister of Justice Yariv Levin, and most of the ideas that appear in it.
The meeting is part of a series of (secret and not-so-secret) meetings held by the president in recent days, and conversations with many parties, with the aim of reaching as broad an understanding as possible regarding the much-needed reforms of the Israeli Supreme Court, which includes fixing the judicial selection process, ending judicial overreach, and introducing proper check and balances between the branches of government.
Herzog has spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, opposition leader Yair Lapid, and other senior officials in the political system. Opposition leader Yair Lapid has called for the president to put together his own judicial reform bill and not leave it in the hands of democratically elected politicians.
During the press conference on the presentation of the legal plan, Levin himself thanked the head of the legal department at Kohelet, Dr. Aviad Bakshi. In an interview last week in the first source, Bakshi said that “besides the research, we also work to promote our ideas in front of the decision makers from all parties, and use our research to convince, and sometimes to team up with those who are convinced and stand as in the case of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has been working on these issues for twenty years. We also dive into details and deal not only with the titles but also with the sections. I am happy that the Minister of Justice Yariv Levin chose to consult with us on these issues as well, as part of his preparatory work.”
It is no secret that members of the Kohelet Policy Forum advise a number of Knesset members and ministers past and present, including Ze’ev Elkin, Nir Barkat, Ayelet Shaked, Amir Ohana, Bezalel Smotrich, Gideon Sa’ar, Orit Struck, Sharren Haskel and many more.
Opposition MKs are not happy with the Kohelet Policy Forum and have made vocal their opposition to the conservative think tank’s involvement, even making accusations of unseen interests in the drafting of the law, and complaining that Kohelet members were sitting at the discussion table wearing tags identifying them as “professional consultant[s] for the chairman of the committee.”
The Kohelet Policy Forum was founded by Moshe Koppel, a professor of computer science, Talmudic scholar, political activist, and generally brilliant individual. The think tank’s mission statement states, “The Kohelet Policy Forum strives to secure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to strengthen representative democracy, and to broaden individual liberty and free-market principles in Israel.”