Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) sparred about the role law enforcement should play in a constitutional crisis on Wednesday at a swearing-in ceremony for commanders at Border Police headquarters in Lod.
Shabtai was asked what the police would do in a constitutional crisis when two branches of government dispute each other’s authority over a matter not clearly anchored in law.
In response, he said the police were only guided by the law, and as long as he was in command, the only guiding principle would be the law.
Shabtai is set to end his tenure as police chief in January.
In response to Shabtai’s comments, Ben-Gvir said the police must act in a nonpolitical manner, but democracy dictates that policy-makers are chosen by the voters, KAN News reported.
Is Israel set to face a constitutional crisis?
Concerns about a constitutional crisis have emerged as the High Court of Justice has faced two petitions on amendments to Israel’s quasi-constitutional basic laws. The police may be called upon to enforce a ruling passed by the High Court that was rejected by the government.
The court has abated fears with the first challenge, against the amendment to Basic Law: Government that changed the terms for when a prime minister could be determined unfit for service. The new law clarified that incapacitation procedures can only be activated for health emergencies and after a series of government votes.
The Attorney-General’s Office said the law was passed to improve the personal legal situation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It circumvented the personal character of the legislation by delaying its application until the next election. A follow-up hearing is scheduled for September 28.
On September 12, a historic panel of all 15 justices will preside over a hearing on petitions against the Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard. The amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary restricted the court from being able to engage in judicial review of ministerial and government administrative decisions deemed beyond the scope of what a reasonable authority would decide.
The Law to Cancel the Reasonableness Standard is part of the judicial reform, and it has drawn tens of thousands protesters to the streets.
The High Court believes it has the power to strike down basic law amendments, but this ability is controversial and heavily disputed.