During a meeting between Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and her British counterpart, Michael Gove (Conservatives), this week, Shaked said that she hopes in the future Israeli Supreme Court justices won’t be able to overturn law, in order to maintain the “delicate balance between the branches of government and the sovereignty of the legislature,” NRG reported.
In the 1980s and the 1990s, under then Chief Justice Aharon Barak, the Israeli Supreme Court established its role as a protector of human rights, intervening to secure freedom of speech and the freedom to demonstrate, reduce military censorship, limit use of certain military methods and promote equality between various sectors of the population. During his time as President of the Supreme Court, Barak advanced a judicial activist approach, whereby the court was not required to limit itself to judicial interpretation, but rather usurped the right to fill the gaps in the law through judicial legislation. This approach was highly controversial and was met with much opposition, including by some politicians. Israeli legal commentator Ze’ev Segal wrote in 2004, “Barak sees the Supreme Court as a [force for societal change], far beyond the primary role as a decisor in disputes. The Supreme Court under his leadership is fulfilling a central role in the shaping of Israeli law, not much less than [the role of] the Knesset.”
During her meeting with Gove, Shaked expressed her admiration of the British legal system as it relates to the principle of separation of powers. “Despite similarities and despite the fact that similar values lead the two countries, the UK High Court cannot annul laws, only recommend their dissolution, unlike in Israel. The delicate balance of powers is preserved as is the sovereignty of Parliament. While there aren’t many recommendations to eliminate laws [in the UK], there aren’t many cases in which their recommendations aren’t accepted,” Shaked said.
“For example, in recent years the only law that the UK High Court recommended changing, and Parliament chose not to change, is the law not to allow convicted prisoners to vote,” she explained.
Shaked was speaking against the backdrop of tension between the political right and the Supreme Court in Israel, especially over the temporary order freezing the demolition of terrorists’ homes.
In her meeting with the British Secretary of State for Justice, Shaked said that she plans to reduce the large amount of cases put before the Supreme Court. “While in the Israeli Supreme Court there are 15 justices who receive 9,000 cases a year … in the UK there are 12 justices of the supreme court who deal with 100 cases a year,” she said.