The Supreme Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Union has communicated to Israeli official its concern over proposed changes to laws governing the standing of the judiciary, Channel 2 reported on Friday.
European officials said they were watching Israeli coalition talks with apprehension, particularly in light of demands made by Likud politicians to enact reforms that would grant the legislature greater power in shaping the character of the Supreme Court.
The Europeans are concerned that any law curbing the power of Israel’s judiciary could undermine the Jewish state’s democratic character, thus imperiling certain initiatives with Brussels.
In an interview with Channel 2, Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who is in line for a ministerial position if and when her party consummates an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, broached the issue of checks and balances.
“I think there needs to be a change in the way we appoint judges,” she said. “We need to alter the committee that appoints judges so that the makeup of the judges will be more heterogenous.”
Shaked said that “this isn’t a left-right issue” but one of “judicial activism.”
“I want the Supreme Court to be strong and of high quality, but also more heterogenous,” she said. “Giving politicians greater say in picking judges is not illegitimate, in my view.”
Bayit Yehudi asked that the coalition guidelines being drafted include supporting legislation that would add politicians to the judicial selection committee.
“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 right-wing 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. Gil Hoffman and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.