The government’s plan to curb the High Court’s authority distracts from the fact that on most of Israel’s discriminatory and anti-democratic laws and policies, the two institutions see eye to eye.
By Amjad Iraqi
In recent weeks, the Israeli media has reported on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to propose new legislation that would grant the government more authority over the selection of High Court justices, as well as limit the court’s judicial review power. The plan has been blocked by center-right Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon as a condition for joining the new coalition, but Likud and its far-right partners have not ruled out re-introducing it in the future. Chief Justice Miriam Naor also denounced the plan at a conference last week, saying that the Court must retain its position as “the last barrier against harm to human dignity” in Israel.
The dispute over the proposed legislation has largely been framed as the latest episode in a long-standing confrontation between right-wing politicians and the judiciary over the extent of the latter’s integrity and independence. This framing is only partly true: the government and the High Court have indeed clashed on many important issues in recent years, including the internment of African asylum seekers at the Holot detention center, and some incidents of Jewish outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
However, this narrative distracts from the fact that the two institutions actually agree on most of Israel’s discriminatory and anti-democratic laws and policies, in contradiction to the Court’s self-proclaimed role as the vanguard of dignity and liberty in Israel. The cases in which clashes do occur almost never relate to “core” questions involving the Jewish character of the state or the main structures of the occupation. On those core questions, however, the Court has not only allowed the government to pursue its agendas, but has also increasingly endorsed the hostile intentions behind them.
The recent approval of the Anti-Boycott Law is one example of this. In the ruling, several justices actively adopted the discourse of Israel’s politicians that views the civil right to boycott, including against settlements, as a threat to the state. Justice Hanan Melcer wrote that boycotts could amount to “political terror;” Justice Yitzhak Amit remarked that BDS could stand for “Bigoted, Dishonest, Shameful;” and Justice Elyakim Rubinstein...Read More