Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at Kohelet Conference in Jerusalem, October 9, 2018.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin threatened the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that the Knesset will ignore any ruling to strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law as unconstitutional.
Speaking at the Kohelet conference in Jerusalem, Shaked said that such a ruling would be “dangerous and could bring down the entire system... It would end the separation of powers.”
The justice minister said that such a ruling would be the creation of “new values out of nothing,” which she said would “clarify the absurdity” of the idea of a court striking down a Basic Law.
Shaked’s argument, which Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit agrees with, is that the High Court can only strike down regular Knesset laws, but is powerless to strike Basic Laws, which have a quasi-constitutional status in a country still without an official constitution.
“The court is not a partner to setting the constitution. The Knesset sets this and the court only rules in that light,” Shaked said.
Earlier, Levin said that if the High Court struck the Jewish Nation-State Law, that the Knesset would need to directly tell the court that it had no authority to do so and implied that the Knesset would act as if the law was still in effect even if the court struck it down.
With this threat on the table, he added, "I call on the High Court justices to think hard
and do not take us to the depths that no democracy should drop to...Reject them [the petitions] up-front and immediately."
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Opposition leader Tzipi Livni hit back, saying that the government “has a real problem with equality... We need to drop the masks and hypocrisy.”
Livni stated that those who wanted the Jewish Nation- State Law want only a Jewish state and not a democracy.
The opposition leader slammed the government for keeping the opposition off the selection committee of judges using a legal loophole, though in principle the opposition is supposed to have a vote on the committee.
Furthermore, she said that with both Shaked and Levin stating their support for equality, that they should support her upcoming proposed bill, which more formally frames Israel’s Declaration of Independence as having constitutional value.
Until now, the High Court has treated the Declaration of Independence as such, but controversially, the Jewish Nation-State Law intentionally did not mention the declaration.
Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin sided with Livni and was even more dramatic in aspects of his criticism.
Diskin called the law “an abomination of a law.”
He said that people must look at it “with clear-eyes” and realize it was passed to undermine “anyone who is not right-wing, the courts... And to weaken the Basic Law for the Dignity and Freedom of Man. It’s crystal clear.”
In addition, he said the real purpose of the law was part of a competition by right-wing nationalist elements to fight over “who is the most patriotic as they drag down the democracy.”
The ex-Shin Bet director said his main concern is “maintaining a Jewish majority” in the country, and that the current law exacerbates tensions with the Arab sector and makes it more likely that Jews could be a minority in the future between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
In contrast, he agreed with Livni that the declaration “sets the right balance, values and vision,” which makes it all the more clear that the new law was superfluous and for improper political goals.
Curiously, Haim Ramon, a former Labor party minister, supported the law and criticized Livni and his traditional left-wing political allies for opposing it.
He said that the law mostly stated obvious things, namely that Israel is a Jewish country and should run with a focus on Jewish culture in certain areas.
Ramon said that those opposing the law were playing small-minded politics.
Likewise, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Gadi Taub, who has criticized the Right on a number of issues in the past, said that the opposition to the law was politicized.
However, he said, ultimately even if he thought the wording of the law was unobjectionable, strategically it would have been better not to pass it, as it is now being used by anti-Israel critics as ammunition to falsely claim that Israel discriminates against its minorities.
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