Israel’s Judicial Reform Will Strengthen Israel’s Democracy Not Destroy It

by Avi Abelow

International Law Professor, and Kohelet Foundation Fellow, Eugene Kontorovich recently wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Political Appointments”.

The subtitle is “The intervention is a timely illustration of why the new government seeks to reform the tribunal.”

First, watch this video put out by the Kohelet Foundation, where Professor Kontorovich is a Fellow, to begin to understand how the judicial reform will strengthen Israel’s democracy:

Everything you wanted to know about the Judicial reform – in English!

Now take a moment to read though some of the factual points that Professor Kontorovich points out in his WSJ article:

The new government’s proposed judiciary reform has provoked pushback from the Biden administration and others on the ground that it threatens the rule of law. This case is a timely illustration that the opposite is true. No judiciary in the world has as far-reaching powers over government as Israel’s. The court assumed these powers in recent decades without authorization from lawmakers or a national consensus, and there is no reason they should be unalterable.

Judicial review—the ability of a court to declare that a law violates a country’s constitution—is an American invention. Israel doesn’t have a constitution. The court assumed that power in 1995, when it proclaimed that the Knesset had given it the power to strike down laws. The 1992 law under which the court claimed that authority passed 32-21. A majority of the 120-member Knesset didn’t show up to vote, not having known the court would later claim the law as a quasi-constitution.

This was only one step in the court’s power grab. It gradually eliminated all restrictions on justiciability and standing, allowing it to rule on any issues in public life whenever it chooses, without the constraint of lower-court proceedings or fact-finding. It employed the doctrine of “reasonableness” as a free-standing basis to block government action, including the government’s makeup. And the court has claimed authority to decide whether any new Basic Laws, or amendments to old ones, are valid, ending the charade that it is subordinate to law.

The reform proposals wouldn’t undermine judicial independence and would make the Israeli court more like its American counterpart. One measure would abolish the “reasonableness” and limit the court to blocking government action that violates the law, not its policy notions. Another would increase the Knesset’s involvement in judicial appointments but still comes far short of America’s purely political appointment process. The reform package would require expanded panels and a supermajority of the court to strike down legislation. In the U.S., Congress has regulated the jurisdiction and composition of judicial panels to raise the bar for striking down statutes.

I highly recommend each and every person read his full article to better understand why the proposed judicial reform is extremely necessary to strengthen Israeli democracy, after 2+ decades of a process that has allowed the judicial branch to usurp powers from the executive and legislative branches of government.

Everything you wanted to know about the Judicial reform – in English!

While Israel’s political left and the establishment media are crying out that the proposed judicial reform will destroy Israel’s democracy, the exact opposite is true. It will save Israel’s democracy. The truth is that the political left has used this judicial power to stop all conservative, proudly Jewish policies meant to strengthen the Jewish state of Israel, and they are pulling out all the scare tactics to stop themselves from losing that undemocratic power. For consecutive right-wing governments, the Israeli voters vote right, and then complain that their representative governments act left. There is even a book called “Why Israelis Vote Right and Receive Left”. Finally, we have a government that wants to rebalance Israel’s democratic system so that voters will get what they vote for. The political left in Israel is going crazy fearing that will actually happen. Hence various sectors are threatening to strike like the hi-tech sector, the judicial sector, they are warning that it will harm Israel’s economy, Israel’s academic standing, and basically blackening Israel’s name on the world stage seeing all these headlines. Without doing anything, global investors and academics will follow through based on these headlines alone. Two global companies have already withdrawn their financial investments from Israel as a result of these scare tactics of the political left. It’s like if they do not get their way, and accept the rules of democracy, then the whole country can go down the tubes.

I wrote about some of the problems with Israel’s justice system destroying Israel’s democracy exactly 20 years ago. You can read it here (yes, I used to blog 20 years ago).

Everything you wanted to know about the Judicial reform – in English!

Many Israelis have been calling for necessary judicial reforms for close to 30 years, since Chief Justice Aharon Barak began his judicial coup over Israel’s government back in the mid-1990s.

Two years ago I interviewed Simcha Rothman about the Israeli justice system and why changes needed to be made to strengthen Israel’s democracy. 

Today, Simcha is an MK in the Knesset and the Head of the extremely important Knesset Consitution, Justice & Law committee. He is working together with Minister of Justice Yair Levin on the proposed Judicial reform, which much of the establishment press, together with the political left, are bashing as anti-democratic.

Do not miss this video to truly understand the reality of the justice system ignored by the media, and hear why the proposed judicial reform is necessary. It has been a reform that many of us have been talking about for more than 20 years.

For those interested in the audio version or in listening to our long-form interviews at a quicker speed, then best to use one of the podcast services:

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