Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Yair Lapid. January 16, 2023.

However you might want to spin his statements, the bottom line is that Knesset Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid now openly supports judicial reform in Israel and admits the current system is broken. In a series of tweets, Lapid said the relationship between the judiciary and legislative branches is imbalanced and the judiciary needs to be corrected and improved.

This is important, as until now, the opponents of judicial reform have been claiming that judicial reform would destroy Israel, chase away foreign investors, and bring about the end of Israeli democracy. Lapid’s very clear statements show that he too believes judicial reform is critical for Israel.

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Unfortunately, Lapid’s suggestions on how to fix and improve the judiciary were very political and anti-democratic.

Lapid suggested that the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, who once headed the leftwing Labor party, be the one to establish a special committee to recommend what reforms be made to the judiciary. That committee, Lapid said, would hear all sides of the debate and come up with a proposal which would be voted on.

Putting aside that the job of the President of Israel is primarily a ceremonial position, with the president no more than a figurehead who is not supposed to wade into political issues, there already exists mechanisms for democratic debate on controversial or critical issues such as judicial reform – and that falls on the democratically elected officials of the Knesset.

Regrettably, the Yesh Atid party and the rest of the opposition members have chosen to repeatedly boycott a key democratic mechanism, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, where they are able to present their positions and arguments and influence the final outcome of all bills and proposals sent to the Knesset. Instead, he wants to take away that debate process and decision making from the democratically elected representatives of the people.

Even Chief Justice Esther Hayut was invited to weigh in at the Knesset committee meetings, but so far she too has not chosen to opine in the proper forum, but rather illegally and politically from a public podium.

Lapid tweeted his support for judicial reform:

“I suggested to President Herzog to establish an independent presidential committee, which would formulate a real, balanced and considered proposal, to correct and improve the judicial system, and to regulate the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature.

“If you want to improve and fix the core of our rule of law system, the person who fixes it should be above all suspicion. The correction cannot be done by the accused and convicted. It cannot be done by those who have foreign interests. It cannot be done hastily, without checks and balances, to solve political problems.”

“A presidential committee will be able to hear all parties, the court, the government, the opposition, the academics. Instead of the wild gallop that we see today, it will hold an orderly procedure, at the end of which a balanced proposal will be placed on the national table that will improve instead of destroy, repair instead of break.”

While the more cynical may claim that Lapid’s new position is simply a delaying tactic against the implementation of judicial reform, an attempt to neuter it by putting it in the hands of the former head of a leftwing party who was never democratically appointed to have such authority or responsibility, and of course, to delegitimize his fellow democratically elected MKs by saying he suspects their motivations in how they want to implement the judicial reform, as well as taking away the responsibilities that were placed on them by the citizens, Lapid now stands firmly against the Tel Aviv protesters and their claims that judicial reform is bad for Israel.

And while Opposition leader Yair Lapid subsequently posted on Facebook that his suggestion was not a compromise with the government, and that his goal is to take away the judicial reform process from the [democratically elected] government, he now unquestionably supports judicial reform and recognizes that it is absolutely needed, and that is the bottom line.

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