Israel Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman (6 seats in the new Knesset), on Sunday morning, called on the outgoing provisional Prime Minister to dismiss Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef following the rabbi’s call Saturday night to enact the overrising clause, claiming that “there’s no such thing as the High Court of Justice deciding.”
Rabbi Yosef claimed that the court has been delaying the appointment of neighborhood rabbis for several years, because of the demands of the Reform and Conservative movements for equality, and declared: “We need to pass an override clause, as is being done now, a law that says the High Court of Justice does not have the power to decide.”
It’s crucial to explain that Rabbi Yosef directed his attack not on the Supreme Court, but on its function as the High Court of Justice, where appeals are heard from petitioners who don’t have the right of standing in the cases in question. He meant that the High Court does not have a constitutional right to revoke Knesset laws.
Liberman tweeted that the Chief Rabbi “utterly transgressed his position which should be free from politics and extortion,” adding, “I call on the Prime Minister to suspend him immediately and after the hearing process also fire him, and this even before the formation of a new government.”
That’s a lot for a provisional PM to do in a very short while.
Rabbi Yosef, who, like his late exalted father, Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, holds court in his Jerusalem shul every Saturday night, mixing Torah study with occasional, provocative statements on anything and everything, last night encouraged the Haredi parties in Benjamin Netanyahu’s next coalition government to take advantage of the fact that there are so many of them to bring substantial changes.
“There has never been a government with 32 religious and Haredi MKs like this government,” he said, possibly providing the subtitle for the nightmare scenarios of the left.
Rabbi Yosef, who once said that “masses of gentiles who hate religion” came from the Soviet Union, also referred to Religious Zionism’s initiative to cancel the grandson clause in the Law of Return. “Who knows, maybe there’s an opportunity to amend the ‘Who is a Jew’ law,” he said, and urged, “Things need to be fixed, and now is the opportunity to correct them from their roots.”
Naturally, Rabbi Yosef’s attack targets mostly Liberman’s constituency which includes many halachically non-Jewish voters. Should the steady stream of gentiles from the former USSR be interrupted, Liberman’s showing in the polls would shrink even further, especially with the Russian olim population from the 1970s and ‘80s aging out.
Now, as astonishing as it may appear, no law permits the Supreme Court to revoke laws, and for decades, the court did not revoke a single law. It started doing it under Court President Aharon Barak in 1992, and since then revoked 22 laws, with increasing frequency of demands to revoke: from 1992 to 2010 there were only 10 appeals to revoke laws, and from 2010 to 2017 that jumped to 20 appeals.
The funniest thing about the court’s radically-activist behavior is that it grounds its decisions on the constitutionality of a given law, in a legal system that has no such thing as a constitution, and most notably and repeatedly, on one basic law that was enacted with 32 yea votes. Considering those and the history of the high court’s increasing stepping on the will of the sovereign, the voter, it’s easy to see that the renegade who should be rebuked is not the chief rabbi, it’s the High Court of Justice.