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A triple revolution: Beit Shemesh, Nazareth and Grunis moves to background
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
12/02/2014
There is no precedent in Israel for courts to order new elections in major cities; most electoral irregularity cases involve particular ballots or station.
 
It is rare that a triple revolution happens in one day.

But that is exactly what the Supreme Court and its President Asher D. Grunis did by ordering new elections in Beit Shemesh and Nazareth and with Grunis not authoring either opinion.

Tuesday’s decisions themselves were ground-breaking, as there is no precedent in Israel for courts to order new elections in major cities.

Most previous electoral irregularity cases involved particular ballots or a particular polling station and not whole large cities.

Also, neither case was clear-cut.

In the Nazareth decision, the Supreme Court overruled the lower court which had refused to order a revote.

In the Beit Shemesh case, the court upheld the lower court’s ruling, but the lower court ruling was based on a quite vulnerable general assumption that the fraud was widespread enough that it probably could have changed at least 956 votes in favor of challenger Eli Cohen – this despite the “hard” evidence of fraud being at numbers much smaller than that.

It was also significant that the decisions were issued within the same day. The court’s unmistakable message is that ordering new elections on the bases discussed in the opinions is solid doctrine, including for future cases, and that this was not a question of a single outlier case.

The court tipped-toed away from a fourth revolution, by avoiding addressing the validity of the Jerusalem District Court’s ruling on Beit Shemesh in which it said that it was even valid to order a re-vote to uphold general democratic legitimacy, regardless of whether there is substantial proof that arithmetically the result could change.

But that might have been connected to the third revolution, or self-imposed coup: Grunis moving to the background.

It is not universal, but it is certainty traditional that the Supreme Court president, if in the majority on an game-changing issue like elections, will write the opinion for the majority.

Grunis was in the majority for both rulings, and not only did two more junior justices write the opinions, but he refrained from the modern trend of explaining why he agreed in detail, writing only a curt “I agree” in both cases.

He is known for wanting to avoid being revolutionary, but these were major rulings, and moving to the background as he did said volumes about how he wishes to be remembered, and somewhat indicates his not being in full control of the court even if he did not dissent (and this was not the first time that he marginalized himself or was marginalized).

Grunis is still president, but whether it is still his court is an open question.
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