by Andrew Friedman
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party presented a draft of a judicial reform bill on Wednesday to limit the authority of the Supreme Court and the High Court of Justice. The proposal includes a clause that would allow the government to reinstate laws struck down by the High Court of Justice, and would require a unanimous nine-justice Supreme Court panel to veto a law.
Shaked and Bennett, as well as many right-wing voters and members of the settlement community have been critical of the judiciary, and particularly the High Court of Justice, for what they call a “politicized” method of selecting justices that ensures a left-wing majority on the court.
Nor is the Bayit Yehudi party alone in its criticism of the court: Deputy Minister Michael Oren, a member of the Kulanu faction, blasted last week’s court ruling that Israel may not hold the bodies of Arab terrorists to be traded for the bodies of Israeli citizens held in Gaza in the absence of legislation permitting the practice.
Writing on Twitter, Oren said the ruling “once again shows just how divorced the High Court of Justice is from Israeli reality. The reason? Because justices choose their replacements, thus ensuring their views will be a part of the Court for years to come, even while public opinion is changing.”
Predictably, reaction from the Knesset came quickly. Zionist Camp Chairman Yitzhak Herzog criticised Prime Minister Netanyahu, calling Bennett the “acting prime minister.” Herzog’s party colleague MK Nachman Shai said the proposal would harm the status of the high court and weaken its standing as a guardian of human rights and democracy. Shai accused Bennett and Shaked of trying to score points with the public by creating a “domestic enemy”, but he said that the proposal would stand only to “stain” the last remaining tower of justice in the country.
“There is no logical basis and no justice to be associated with this bill. Since the 1990s the court has struck down just 12 laws, all of which were radically beyond the Pale. Just this year alone, 71 bills have become law, and 12 laws that were struck down in the past 17 years doesn’t even scratch the level of one-tenth of a percent,” Shai said.