I begin by extending to all prayers for a Shana Tova, a year filled with many blessings.
These are incredibly critical times. In a very real and powerful sense, the future of our people rests with those of us who are in Israel.
May we secure safety in the land and flourish.
May we stand strong against a hostile world, without fear, as we are called to do so.
May we embrace our extraordinary heritage with pride, always weaving it into our lives.
May we reach out to each other with good will and stand before the Almighty with humility.
I had thought I might examine further issues in some detail in this posting but have decided to table this until after Rosh Hashana.
What I will say here is that I now have just a glimmer of hope that there may not be a crisis with regard to the Court decision on cancelling the reasonableness law, which is a Basic Law.
During the hearing yesterday, which lasted 13 hours, Chief Justice Hayut said:
“We can’t nullify Basic Laws every other day. There needs to be a mortal blow to the basic tenets of the state as a democratic state.”
According to attorney Aner Helman, who was present as the representative of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, it [the law under consideration] is “a major blow to the rule of law.” I am not a lawyer, but this strikes me as ludicrous. The whole point of the “reasonableness” standard was that it allowed justices to strike down government decisions based on their sense of what was reasonable, rather than based on an article of law. Eliminating this standard seems to me to strengthen the rule of law.
(As an aside I note here – to be explored further at another time – the fact that the representative of the attorney general was speaking against the government position strikes me, and many others, as outrageous. This is something that will have to be addressed in due course.)
MK Simcha Rothman (RZ), Chair Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, gave a major presentation to the Court.
“In a democratic country, the people are the sovereign. Don’t try to take from the nation of Israel democracy, and their trust in democracy…,” he told the Court.
“In fact, the very existence of this discussion indicates that the court does not respect the judgment of the public.” (Emphasis added)
A very brief explanation of the government position: The Knesset gets it authority from the people, who are sovereign and select their representatives. The Knesset legislates Basic Law. The Court gets its authority from Basic Law. That is, it can void legislation or certain government actions based on the fact that they are in conflict with Basic Law (just as the US Supreme Court can void legislation that conflicts with the Constitution.) If the Court cancels a Basic Law, it assumes authority not allocated to it, thereby undermining democracy.
Since I last wrote, new rumors surfaced regarding last minute attempts to reach a compromise between the government and the opposition on judicial reform. I mention this here but have no greater expectation of success on this than I had expressed previously.
Let us head into Rosh Hashana, then, with hope of better days ahead.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.