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Rightist MKs seek Knesset veto over Supreme Court

This is what an attempt at a fascist coup looks like – Likud MKs enraged by court petitions against the boycott bill are now pushing for legislation granting the Knesset a veto over Supreme Court appointments. Such a law would destroy the separation of powers in Israel – and although it’s likely to fail this time around, it is a chilling harbinger of things to come.

I’m not usually one for “fascism” and certainly “nazism” hyperboles, but in my book, such a direct assault on separation of powers  – coming amid a torrent of other laws limiting freedom of thought, expression and organising – most certainly reads like your classical legislative fascist coup. Israeli news sites just reported that a group of Likud MKs are determined to push forward a bill that would grant the Knesset  Constitution, Law and Justice Committee the power to veto Supreme Court candidates for justices and for presidency.

In other words, the highly political parliamentary committee – currently chaired by Yisrael Beitenu – will be able to overrule the integrated Judicial Appointments Committee; the JAC has nine members, including the Justice Minister plus one other minister; two delegates from the Israeli Bar; two MKs, traditionally one from the coalition and one from the opposition; the Supreme Court President and two other justices. The JAC has long been a dam between the increasingly anti-judicial parliament and the embattled Supreme Court/High Court of Justice; it now appears that the Likud has decided to stop trying reform the committee and to simply go over its head. In the words of its sponsors:

“The sponsors said that ‘in this manner, the bill will give the Knesset a right to veto the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court President, thus balancing out the veto power currently enjoyed by the justices in the judicial appointments committee, with the three judicial delegates able to veto and prevent any appointment they dislike.

What the sponsors leave unmentioned is that if the bill is successful, the rest of the JAC will within a few years effectively dictate the identity of the judicial delegates, thus collapsing the dam from within. In case you thought this was simply procedural or correcting some imbalance of power between the unelected court and the elected parliament, coalition supporters of the bill are helpfully blunt:

Coalition sources said that the bill will break the control of the radical leftist elite of the court system and will restore the sovereignty of the people and the Knesset to democratic life in Israel. If someone is pretending to strike down laws, they should face the public test and be elected in a transparent and democratic manner. The arrangement will put an end to the bring-a-friend method employed by the Supreme Court justices in the appointments process, and will prevent the appointment of justices with post-Zionist agendas.”

The sponsors of the bill are chair of the Knesset House Committe, Yariv Levin, and the chief whip, MK Ze’ev “No Boycott” Elkin. It’s also crucially important that the current Justice Minister, Yaakov Ne’eman, has long since sought to curb the “activism” of the Supreme Court, and that he owes his own appointment to Lieberman.

I personally don’t think this bill will pass this summer – it seems too much, too soon in terms of the sea change it seeks to produce in the very structure of the state – but it’s a knife at the throat of the Supreme Court as it comes to consider petitions against the boycott bill. Yossi wrote yesterday the Left should stop petitioning the Court against rightist legislation, among other reasons beacuse it helps the right-wing build up the momentum for an anti-judicial coup. I would argue the Court is already so terrified it probably won’t strike down the boycott bill regardless, or arrive at a compromise version. The Court has been so cautious in recent years it seems it’s saving itself for some last stand, some Masada moment – which, just like the original, will end up proving too little, too late.

Update: Minister Dan Meridor blasted the bill in an interview to Walla, saying there was “no chance the bill will pass under this government,” and describing it as posing a serious danger to democracy. Education Minister Gideon Saar also described the bill as “dangerous.”

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    1. David

      As awful as this new development is, it does have a silver lining. The demise of the Apartheid state seems to be proceeding at an accelerated clip, powered only by its own evil inclinations.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Any time the Right attempts to crack a body or an organization that the Left has packed with their own cronies, it is called “politicization” or “fascism” or whatever. That is because the traditional Left in Israel views Israel as its personal property and, going even further, some of them even hold that Israel has a “right to exist” ONLY if the Left is in power.
      What’s wrong with the Knesset having a major voice in who sits on the Supreme Court? In the US, the President nominates the candidates and the Senate has the right to approve them or turn them down. Both the President and Senate face election by the voters. This idea that the voters are too stupid to be allowed to have their elected representatives make legislation and appoint members of state bodies is grossly undemocratic.
      Since 1977, the Likud and the Right have been the dominant force in the Knesset most of the time. This infuriates the Left, so it has been their policy to try to remove as much power as possible from the Knesset and put it into bodies that are chosen by an existing oligarchy which is usually dominated by the Left, seeing how they were the predominate political force in the county in its early years. Thus, we see the Supreme Court justices more or less picking their own successors, we see the Prime Minister and Cabinet losing the power to choose the Attorney-General which was also given to a “politically-correct” (i.e. Leftist) committee and other such anti-democratic tendencies.
      Obviously, there have to be safeguards, different branches of the governmemnt should not be in a position to dominate the others. The Supreme Court should not just be a lackey of the Knesset, but there has to accountability to the citizenry of the country.

      In many ways, the old political Left in Israel is like the Kemalist-Ataturk Establishment in Turkey. They also viewed the majority of the population as primitive and stupid and they did everything they could to make sure the population had its power neutralized. If finally blew up with Erdogan’s extremist Islamist party came to power and finally broke the power of the Kemalist Establishment which was corrupt and morally bankrupt. One non-democratic group is being replaced by another group whose committment to true democrachy is questionable. The Israeli Left should NOT let the situation ulcerate like that and force the Right into a feeling bitterness and alienation, but realize that there HAS to be a real democratization of the system in Israel and the average citizen made to feel he is being left out of the decision making. The true political Left would only benefit themselves if they would allow an opening up of the system to EVERYONE.

      Reply to Comment