Leftists in Israel and throughout the world are rallying against the planned judicial reforms of the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – despite the fact that Israel’s Supreme Court holds unprecedented powers unlike any other country in the world.
Protesters yell and scream about the “end of democracy.” But what could most aptly be called the “end of democracy” is the judicial revolution led by one man – former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who not only singlehandedly expanded the status of the Court as one that could rule on every social and moral norm but also declared two of Israel’s Basic Laws to have the status of a constitution – allowing the Court to strike down laws passed by the legally elected representatives of the public in the Knesset. Additionally, Barak metamorphosed the position of attorney-general from serving as a representative of the government to serving as an unchecked representative of the Court, with the power of striking down any government decision as long as it is deemed “unreasonable.”
And how are the judges on the Supreme Court elected? Here too, the Court’s power lies not with the public but with a tiny minority, turning the Court into a leftist echo chamber. The judges are not elected by the public nor by elected representatives but rather by a nine-member selection committee, on which three sitting judges have veto power.
An opinion article published by the Editorial Board in The Wall Street Journal on Friday first noted the absurdity of the fact that “every time a right-wing government wins an election these days, the immediate refrain from the dominant global media is that it’s a threat to democracy.” The article then moves on to address the protests against the judicial reforms, noting that “Israel’s Supreme Court has more power than America’s but without the democratic checks. Unbound by any constitution, and loosed from requirements of standing and justiciability, Israel’s court strikes down laws that it finds merely ‘unreasonable,’ which can cover most anything. Israel’s court even has a veto on the appointment of new justices, in contrast to the U.S. where the President and Senate share the appointment power.”
The article also excoriated last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court that Shas chairman Aryeh Deri cannot legally serve as a minister in Israel’s government on the claim that his appointments were “unreasonable in the extreme.”
“The court can point to no law that keeps Mr. Deri out of the cabinet, but it still decided to abrogate the democratic process, decapitating the new coalition government that made court reform a campaign issue.”
Another much more strongly worded opinion article about the topic, entitled Israel’s Judicial Reform ‘Controversy’ Is Much Ado About Nothing by Josh Hammer, was published in Newsweek on Friday. Hammer began by addressing the world’s obsession with Israel in general: “Like a dog returning to its own vomit, the supercilious elites of our so-called international community maintain a rather curious fixation. Like clockwork, these elites always find a way of singling out for opprobrium one tiny nation-state, no bigger than New Jersey. That state, of course, is the Jewish state, the modern State of Israel. There is simply no other country on Earth that attracts such disproportionate, and often vehement, disparagement from our would-be moral superiors.
“The current hullabaloo, merely the most recent manifestation of this inveterate Jew-bashing addiction, takes the form of the roiling debate over the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government’s proposed judicial reform package…As Proverbs 26:11 teaches: ‘As a dog returns to his vomit, so does a fool repeat his folly.’ There is no substantive basis whatsoever for these performative shrieks of hysteria. The Netanyahu-led government’s judicial reform package is just and proper, as a matter of both political theory and comparative constitutional law. Ironically, moreover, despite the reflexive condemnations of those purportedly concerned about the health of Israel’s vibrant democracy, the judicial reform package would substantially bolster Israel’s actual democracy by diminishing its juristocracy.”
Hammer continues to explain how “things began to go haywire for Israel in the 1990s…as a result of Barak’s revolution. There is a term to describe this sort of juristocracy, where a nation’s supreme court rules the roost: judicial supremacy.
“From an American perspective, Israel’s wildly unhinged system of judicial supremacy should also be deeply offensive to our most cherished norms of popular sovereignty, wherein ‘We the People,’ as invoked in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, reign supreme. To wit, if the U.S. Supreme Court acted the way the Israeli Supreme Court acts, cities would probably burn.
“Israel’s Supreme Court currently maintains horrifically low approval ratings; the right-leaning Israeli public stridently opposes the left-wing Court’s serial, decades-long power grabs. The Netanyahu government’s judicial reform package would primarily (1) make it easier for the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to override misbegotten Supreme Court rulings by a certain threshold, and (2) amend the extant practice of selecting new justices from the current egregious system, wherein justices essentially choose their very own successors in what can only be described as a grotesque act of nepotism.
“This is all incredibly standard, straightforward, and noncontroversial. The result, if the reforms are passed, would be a more democratic State of Israel. Irony abounds.
“Israel’s manifold critics, alas, are too preoccupied with their own vomit to care,” Hammer wryly concludes.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)