Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s reform, which he announced last Thursday and threw about 40% of Israelis (give or take) into a panic, is now being broken down into detailed moves that, little by little, are designed to rearrange the powers of the Supreme Court, Amit Segal reported Sunday night on News 12.
Needless to say, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut is unhappy. And Prof. Alan Dershowitz, that great defender of Israel, is also irate. More on that after we do the numbers.
Let’s start with the most explosive item, for now, the selection of new judges:
- The committee for selecting judges will be increased from nine to 11 members
- It will have 3 ministers––one more than today, 2 coalition MKs, one opposition MK, 3 judges, and 2 representatives of the public, appointed by the government
- There will be no representation for the Lawyers’ guild
- The MKs will be the chairs of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committees (coalition), and the State Audit Committee (opposition)
Do the math: appointing a new justice of the Supreme Court will require 7 votes – exactly the number of votes controlled by the government: 5 elected officials and 2 government-picked representatives of the public.
The new process effectively removes the justices’ virtual veto power they enjoyed with the support of the lawyers’ association. It means the government should be able to choose its candidates – assuming that the public representatives would play along.
As Israel’s demographics continue to favor the right, it stands to reason that even within the current Netanyahu government the balance between activist- and conservative justices could be restored, and, come the next term, the court would be majority-conservative.
On its face, at least. Because Supreme Court judges are not one-dimensional individuals and could surprise us every once in a while.
Next: the Override Clause:
- The court will need a 12 out of 15 majority to annul a law
- The Knesset will need a 61 out of 120 majority to override
So far, we haven’t heard if a 15-0 Supreme Court vote would block an override, which was bandied about in the past few months. It appears that the coalition, most notably Levin, is not in a very giving mood on the reform, which explains Sunday’s frosty meeting between the Justice Minister and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
Alan Dershowitz, who was most recently on Harvey Weinstein’s defense team in 2018, and President Donald Trump’s defense team in his first impeachment trial in 2020, and defended Jeffrey Epstein until the latter’s demise, is very unhappy with Yariv Levin’s reform. He told Army Radio, “If I were in Israel, I would be joining the protests.”
Dershowitz did not go into specifics regarding the distortions that were inherent in former Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak’s usurping of so many powers to which he was not entitled (Aharon Barak Says Levin’s Justice Reform Is Like ‘a Coup with Tanks,’ Fantasizes about Being Shot by Firing Squad). The good Harvard law professor may not even be familiar with the details of Minister Levin’s proposed reform. All he knows is that when the world was upset about something an IDF soldier did in Judea and Samaria, he, Dershowitz, was able to claim that Israel had a strong supreme court, and they were sure to punish the offender.
“It will make it much more difficult for people like me who try to defend Israel in the international court of public opinion to defend them effectively,” Dershowitz said. “It would be a tragedy to see the Supreme Court weakened.”
But, you know, the supreme court is more than just a nice façade to cover the mistakes of some soldier. It has been repressing the rights of minorities in Israel for 30 years, based on a made-up constitutional prerogative. Perhaps Alan Dershowitz should first spend a week in an outpost outside Yitzhar, Samaria, get pushed around by the Civil Administration, and then see how much help the Supreme Court sends him.
Hey, I’ll bet it wasn’t easy defending Jeffrey Epstein, or OJ Simpson. He’ll manage.