Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon was one of the initial co-sponsors of a bill – aimed at limiting the power of the Supreme Court – that he is currently fighting against in coalition talks, Likud officials revealed Tuesday.
Bayit Yehudi asked that the coalition guidelines being drafted include supporting legislation that would add politicians to the judicial selection committee.
Kahlon told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting Monday night that his party would not join the coalition if the bill was in the guidelines.
The bill was submitted to the 17th Knesset in 2007 by current Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and co-sponsored by several then-Likud MKs, including Kahlon and President Reuven Rivlin. It has been resubmitted in subsequent Knessets but never passed into law.
Sources in Kulanu said Kahlon changed his mind about the bill, as he has on diplomatic issues. They said just like he was no longer a member of the so-called Likud rebels who opposed the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, he also no longer supports steps that could harm the legal establishment.
Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni issued strong statements opposing any legislation that could harm the courts, warning that the rule of law could be harmed by the government Netanyahu is forming.
“Once again we are hearing voices threatening the Supreme Court from a dangerous right-wing government that is being established,” Herzog said. “Whoever fears the rule of law and wants to grossly interfere with how judges are selected is trying to politicize matters that must be decided impartially. Only those who want to twist our basic values would allow himself to play dangerous political games on the backs of the citizens of Israel who are protected by the laws.”
Netanyahu apparently backed down, and the bill will not be included in the coalition guidelines. Bayit Yehudi officials expressed frustration with the decision.
“Over the past 20 years, the courts have taken too much power and paralyzed the country and the IDF,” a Bayit Yehudi official said. “We will not concede on our demand for sanity to be restored.”
The battle over judicial empowerment or activism, depending on one’s viewpoint, became a major issue following former supreme court president Aharon Barak’s mid-1990s revolution in which he applied new Basic Laws to create a new constitutional law framework to fill in spaces where he believed the odd absence of an Israeli constitution needed supplementation.
Barak’s successor, Dorit Beinisch, is viewed as having continued his revolution, or at least having maintained the positions he took.
Beinisch’s successor, recently retired Asher D. Grunis, was hoisted onto the judicial throne by some of the same rightwing politicians who now wish to pass the law in dispute, leapfrogging other justices who were designated to lead the court before him, with the hope that he would roll back the revolution.
While Grunis did roll back the revolution some, including with a line of major rulings last week on the Anti-Boycott Law, east Jerusalem Arab rights and Palestinian prisoner rights, which greatly disappointed human rights groups, the right wing believed he was often outvoted by a court that was still too liberal for them.
The most standout example was the High Court’s twice striking down the government’s migrant policy as unconstitutional, with Grunis voting in the minority on the second decision.
Grunis’s successor, Miriam Naor, is viewed as somewhere in between him and Barak-Beinisch, which the Right views as insufficient and, therefore, necessitating a greater shake-up of the courts.