Demonstration against Israel's nationalist coalition government's judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv
People demonstrate against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition government's judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 22, 2023. Reuters

Plans by the Israeli government to strip the country's highest court of power and which have caused months of protest and political upheaval at home, have led to tensions with Jewish groups based in North America, key benefactors of Israel.

The Israeli ruling coalition wants to enable the government to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple 61 vote majority. Proponents of the legislation say it restores balance to Israeli branches of government while critics say it removes checks and balances on those in power.

President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut said members wanted to know what the government will do to protect minority rights.

"We don't expect that the checks and balances are going to look just like ours, they can be completely different but the question we would ask is, what is that system of checks and balances that you propose?" Fingerhut, who served as a member of the U.S. congress and an Ohio State Senator, told Reuters.

If Israel cannot answer then for people, "both Jewish and non Jewish, in America, that could cause harm," he said.

Protesters against the overhaul disrupted an appearance by one of the main architects of the plan, lawmaker Simcha Rothman, at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly in Tel Aviv on Monday and chants opposing the move echoed through the conference hall.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due on Sunday to address the Assembly with some 3000 delegates from more that 74 Jewish communities who have a goal of "building and supporting a flourishing Jewish state", but canceled at the last moment without giving a reason.

Last month, 30 leaders from North American Jewish Federations, usually an emblem of the ties with the diaspora and which raised more than $250 million for Israel in 2022, made an extraordinary visit to Israel to express their concerns with Israeli leaders over the proposed overhaul.

Fingerhut and conference organizers said the conference had encouraged delegates to think more deeply about Israel's democracy and justice system and had prompted more American Jews to engage in Israeli affairs.

Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during the annual ceremony for Memorial Day for fallen soldiers (Yom HaZikaron) at the Yad LaBanim Memorial in Jerusalem on April 24, 2023. Marc Israel Sellem/Pool via Reuters