Why Israel’s judicial overhaul is a must

Oren Rozen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Oren Rozen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

PS. It sounds like a controversial issue, but it isn’t. In the 2022 election, right wing parties won more than 52% of the votes and Netanyahu secured 64 parliament seats – and the majority of the votes echo to the request for judicial reform, which was one of Netanyahu’s election appeals.

Israel is facing a constitutional crisis that threatens its democracy and its security. The Supreme Court, which has been ruling on matters beyond its jurisdiction for decades, has become a self-appointed guardian of the law, overriding the will of the people and the elected representatives. The judicial overhaul proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners is a much-needed reform that would restore the balance of power between the branches of government and ensure that the judiciary reflects the diversity and values of Israeli society.

The Supreme Court has been interfering in the legislative and executive domains, striking down laws passed by the Knesset and dictating policies to the government on issues such as immigration, security, religion and state, human rights and more. The court has also been expanding its own authority, claiming the power to review any law or decision based on vague and undefined criteria of “human dignity” and “basic values”. This has created a situation where the court can override any law or decision it does not like, regardless of its constitutionality or legality.

The judicial overhaul aims to correct this situation by limiting the court’s power to rule on matters that are not within its purview and giving the Knesset the ability to override court decisions that invalidate laws. The overhaul also seeks to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints judges to all levels of courts, including the Supreme Court. Currently, the committee consists of nine members: three Supreme Court justices, two cabinet ministers, two Knesset members and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. This gives the court a disproportionate influence over the selection of judges, creating a self-perpetuating system that preserves the court’s ideological homogeneity and elitism.

The overhaul would reduce the number of Supreme Court justices on the committee from three to one, increase the number of cabinet ministers from two to four, and replace one of the bar association representatives with a public representative. This would give the government a majority of five seats on the committee, reflecting the democratic principle that those who are elected by the people should have a say in who judges them. The overhaul would also introduce term limits for Supreme Court justices, who currently serve until they reach 70 years of age, and require them to disclose their assets and potential conflicts of interest.

The opponents of the judicial overhaul claim that it is an assault on democracy and an attempt by Netanyahu to evade justice in his corruption trial. They accuse him of trying to undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary and appoint loyalists who would protect him from prosecution. They also warn that the overhaul would endanger Israel’s human rights, civil liberties and international reputation.

These claims are baseless and misleading. The judicial overhaul does not affect the independence or professionalism of judges, who would still be appointed based on their qualifications and experience. The overhaul does not interfere with Netanyahu’s trial, which is proceeding according to due process and will be decided by an independent panel of three district court judges. The overhaul does not jeopardize Israel’s human rights or civil liberties, which are enshrined in its basic laws and international treaties. The overhaul does not harm Israel’s international reputation, which is based on its vibrant democracy, strong economy and innovative spirit.

The judicial overhaul is not a threat to democracy but a necessary reform that would strengthen it. It would restore the proper balance of power between the branches of government and ensure that they are accountable to each other and to the people. It would make the judiciary more representative of Israeli society and more responsive to its needs and aspirations. It would uphold the rule of law and protect Israel’s values and interests.

This time, Netanyahu is right – for the democracy’s sake, Israel’s judicial overhaul is a must.

???? Featured Image Credit: Oren Rozen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons