Israel Elections: Upcoming vote is crucial to save the courts from Likud - opinion

The Likud aim is authority without limits and power without limitations. Such governance will endanger the foundations of our young republic and shall strip us from the defenses of our liberties.

 THE WRITER speaks at a New Hope election campaign event in Rishon Lezion, last year. (photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)
THE WRITER speaks at a New Hope election campaign event in Rishon Lezion, last year.
(photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)

The threat is obvious and concrete. The Likud leadership and its satellite parties have been loud and clear about it. They plan an attack on the foundations of Israeli democracy, through a two-pronged assault against the Supreme Court. 

The first prong endangers the vital independence of the Supreme Court. Four months ago, the Likud tabled a bill that would allow the cabinet itself to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, including the chief justice. As a result, only judges who are known to identify with the ruling party and its “values” will be appointed. Not surprisingly, Mr. Netanyahu, who declared two years ago that the judges in his trial are “carefully selected leftists,” voted for that bill.

The second prong of the Likud attack aims at the supremacy of court rulings. Likud leaders have declared that they plan to pass a law that will enable the nullification of any Supreme Court decision that is not to their liking by a mere 61 votes. Since every coalition rests on 61 MKs at least, the danger of this proposal is clear: The Rule of Law will thus become the Rule of the Cabinet, and hence civil rights – that in Israel are not protected by a constitution – will no longer be secured.

Another line of attack is aimed at the professional independence of the legal advisers of government offices. They are the “first responders” to a legal challenge of a proposed unlawful decision. Yet the Likud plans to enable cabinet ministers to nominate them personally so that the legal advice they receive would conform to their will or whim. Such a bill was presented in the Knesset by the Likud in 2018 and discussed in the Judicial Committee but was ultimately rejected. It is still on their agenda.

The aim of Israel's Likud: Unlimited power and authority

 Leader of the Opposition and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media  in Tel Aviv on October 3, 2022.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Leader of the Opposition and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv on October 3, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

THIS OFFENSIVE reflects the aim of the Likud leadership: authority without limits and power without limitations. Such governance will endanger the foundations of our young republic and shall strip us from the defenses of our liberties. 

These proposals represent an attempt to abolish the principle on which a democracy is based: the dispersal of the enormous power that is vested with the government. This distribution of power is the mechanism that saves us from the arbitrary decisions that are typical of an autocracy. If Likud’s plan succeeds, our state will no longer possess the essence of democracy.

It should be noted that in a parliamentarian democracy such as ours, the coalition actually controls the parliament and its decisions through its automatic majority in the House. Hence, in our democracy, a small group of politicians leading the coalition parties is practically in control of both the cabinet decisions and the laws that the Knesset enacts. 

This leaves the Supreme Court as the only state organ that may limit the effect of cabinet decisions and Knesset laws that may unduly impinge upon the rights of individuals and minority groups. The attempt to strip its authority is a grave danger.

Fifty years ago, I joined the Likud party in its nascent stage, the Herut party. For decades, the Likud kept its basic tenet: the welding of national and individual rights. To secure the latter, the supremacy of the Supreme Court must be shielded; but in recent years, I have witnessed with growing concern how Likud has divorced itself from its basic belief. 

Hence, last year I decided to leave this deteriorating group and I joined the New Hope Party led by Gideon Sa’ar, which merged with others to form National Unity led by Benny Gantz. Being certain of their loyalty to the basics of our democracy and concluding that in the coming elections the looming threat of a weakened justice system is the main issue, come November 1st I shall vote KEN. I urge you to join me in this all-important mission. 

The writer is an MK and a former cabinet minister.