The judicial reform sought by the ultra-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu generates, in addition to repeated demonstrations, a serious institutional crisis. An unprecedented confrontation is looming.
Israel on the brink of constitutional crisis
The judicial reform sought by the ultra-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu generates, in addition to repeated demonstrations, a serious institutional crisis. An unprecedented confrontation is looming between the government and its majority in Parliament on one side and the Supreme Court on the other. The country’s highest court is examining on Tuesday the annulment of a law adopted last July, a law supposed to precisely restrict its powers. Explanations.
Demonstration in Jerusalem against the reform of the justice system on Monday 11 September in Israel, on the eve of the examination of appeals against the text by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
For the government and parliament, the Israeli Supreme Court is too powerful. At the beginning of the year, they launched a reform of the judiciary, which aimed to restrict the latter’s powers.
Israel is sinking further into crisis to the point of finding itself on the brink of a constitutional crisis. As elsewhere, Israeli democracy is based on the principle of power-sharing: executive, legislative and judicial; that is, the government, Parliament and the Supreme Court.
What does this reform of justice contain?
With this bill, the government wants to review the powers of the Supreme Court. Thus, he wants to include an “override” clause that would allow Parliament, with a simple majority vote, to overturn a Supreme Court decision.
The reform also proposes to remove lawyers from the panel that appoints Supreme Court justices. Today, it is composed of a group of judges, deputies and lawyers from the Bar, under the supervision of the Minister of Justice.
The government also wants to prevent judges from invoking the “reasonableness” of certain policy decisions. A desire motivated by the decision of January 18 of the Court to invalidate the appointment of Arié Dery as Minister of the Interior and Health because of a conviction for tax fraud. The Supreme Court had deemed this appointment not “reasonable”, thus pushing the Prime Minister to remove the minister from office.
And finally, the government wants to reduce the influence of legal advisers in ministries because their recommendations are used by Supreme Court judges when they rule on the good conduct of government. The Minister of Justice therefore wants them to be clearly considered as non-binding opinions.
Since then, the street massively rejects this reform, as evidenced by yesterday’s demonstration.
Israel’s Supreme Court is considering them on Tuesday and has two options: either it rules the appeals inadmissible. It takes note: the law that weakens it remains in place. Either it deems them admissible and annuls the law supposed to weaken it. It sets a precedent. Clearly, the court says to Parliament and the government, “You wanted to weaken me, but I am striking down the law by which you wanted to do it.”
The government and Parliament then had an idea: to salvage their reform. Make it pass smoothly, one text after another. Last July, a controversial text was adopted. It effectively weakens the Supreme Court. The street opposes it. Appeals against this text are filed with the Supreme Court.
An option that will cause chaos because it creates de facto a state with two heads: a government and a parliament, which claim full powers on one side. The Supreme Court, which overturns their decisions anyway. To whom will the institutions, such as the police or the army, have to obey?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be seeking a compromise. But no one trusts him. His only card now: to convince the Supreme Court to postpone his hearing. Save time, and try to find a solution.