Israel, Queens neocons behind justice reform

He had been working for years on the controversial justice reform which he then delivered turnkey to the government of Premier Benjamin Natanyahu the Jerusalem think tank Kohelet Policy Forum. Founded in 2012 by Israeli dual-US citizen Moshe Koppel, a computer scientist and Talmud student who emigrated from New York to Israel in 1980 and now lives in the settlement of Efrat, concerned “for freedom in Israel.” To finance the project, another American: the multi-millionaire Arthur Dantchik, as discovered by Haaretz. Both Koppel and Dantchik, whose assets are valued at $7.2 billion, are originally from Queens, the largest of New York’s five boroughs. Both like to operate away from the spotlight.

The reform has therefore been developed over the years by the conservative, libertarian and religiously inspired Kohelet Policy Forum and has never been discussed at a political level before. Not even Likud had ever talked about it internally, as admitted by the party’s exponent, Keti Shitrit, in a recent interview. “We didn’t prepare it, it was the Kohelet (which in Hebrew means Ecclesiastes, ed)” which has long been supplying the Israeli right with ideas and projects and was publicly thanked by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his support in shifting the American position on settlements.

“The institute’s tactics are imported from Capitol Hill”, explained a source cited by the Washington Post, so among the think tank’s programs there are meetings with American conservative parliamentarians no longer to be considered as inconsistent with international law.

Right now “the delicate balance between mainstream Israel and the ultra-Orthodox who previously accepted dependence on a liberal and prosperous society with a strong military apparatus is breaking. The new generation of religious politicians believe that secular Israel violates Shabbat or they are not attentive to the modesty of women, that this hinders the arrival of the Messiah, therefore they try to rewrite the lives of Israelis,” commented Yofi Tirosh, deputy dean of law at Tel Aviv University.

MP and former West Bank settler Simcha Rothman, Chairman of the Knesset Committee following the reform, has hired Kohelet researcher Shimon Nataf as legal adviser. Other employees of the think tank have begun participating in reform negotiations between coalition and opposition figures housed in the President’s residence.