Letters to the Editor March 1, 2023: The very concept of democracy

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

 Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

The very concept of democracy

The article by David Kirshenbaum headlined “Judicial reform strengthens democracy” (February 26) misses the point. Checks and balances are crucial to the concept of democracy. The United States Supreme Court consists of nine judges. Laws passed by Congress and approved by the Senate can be overturned by the Supreme Court if the law is deemed to be in contravention of the American Constitution. 

Many important decisions such as Roe v. Wade have been decided by a 5-4 majority. The decision of one Supreme Court judge can thus reverse a law. This is part of the system of checks and balances built into the American Constitution.

Israel has no constitution and no senate. The only constraint preventing the tyranny of the minority in Israel has been the Supreme Court. It is important to note that no political party in Israel has ever received a majority of 61 seats in the Knesset. The only answer is to form a coalition government. This inevitably results in what is in reality “reverse democracy” in which the minority coalition partners dictate to the larger political party.

No matter the cost, Netanyahu is determined to be prime minister. With this goal in mind, he has totally capitulated to the demands of his coalition partners. Israel is now facing the tyranny of the extortionist minority partners in the government who have received powers that are totally disproportionate to the number of votes that they received in the election.

It is also important to note that Netanyahu has been indicted in three separate cases and is attempting to use the Knesset to prevent these court cases from proceeding.

The judicial reform presently proposed in Israel will grant almost unlimited powers to the Knesset. It will allow the same elected members of the Knesset that propose a law to overrule any objection by the Supreme Court by a simple majority of 61 votes in the Knesset. It will also allow the ruling party to have the final say as to who is appointed to the Supreme Court.

All checks and balances will thus be removed. This is made even worse by the fact that elected members of the Knesset are elected on a party slate and have no constituency to which they are answerable.

From the above it is clear that the judicial reform presently under discussion will not strengthen democracy. It will undermine the very concept of democracy that includes checks and balances on the executive and legislative branches of the government by the judiciary. This is why hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are protesting.



The excellent article by David Kirshenbaum finally gives credence and perspective to the maze of legal jargon and reforms proposed by the new government.

Seemingly, the precedent for instigating the reforms occurred in 1995 because Aharon Barak, then president of the Supreme Court, hijacked a 1992 law of Human Dignity and Freedom, and created a constitution. He thus enabled the Supreme Court to “strike down Knesset legislation in all facets of life if... it clashed with the Human Dignity and Freedom law.”

This power of the Supreme Court far exceeded the boundaries of judicial oversight and in effect gave the court legislative powers beyond its scope. The court can actually “jeopardize” passage of a bill simply via objections from the attorney-general. 

There was never power granted to the Supreme Court, prior to Barak’s law change, to be able to annul Knesset legislation. I’m sure that most of the protesters have no idea that the new proposals actually will restore proper constitutional power to the executive branch (cabinet), legislative branch (the Knesset), and the judiciary (the courts). However the power of each is limited in scope to their respective branches.

Mr. Kirshenbaum continues by chastising the many who have expressed “outrage at the core of the... reform bill,” in posing the hypothetical questions: would these same people question the legitimacy of the UK prime minister or their judges, because their courts lack any power to overturn their laws of Parliament, or challenge the Constitution of the Netherlands, which does not allow acts of Parliament to even be reviewed by the courts?

Of course not, and therein lies the crux of the problem. Because of the continued protests, the malignant rhetoric emanating from various elements has encouraged BDS and economic pressure from the international communities. 

Probably most of the protesters (most in the minority politically), and now the international communities, need to step back, review the proposals in their entirety, after which they will hopefully realize that Israel is not going to implode and will remain a beacon of democracy and light in a very tough neighborhood.



Should we really celebrate?

It was so depressing to read Herb Keinon’s “Creeping Anarchy”(February 28). The lack of unity in our beautiful, fabulous country is putting a damper on the celebrations for its 75th birthday. I can’t help thinking how different it would be today if Prime Minister Netanyahu had the decency to resign after his indictments three years ago.

We had already experienced two fruitless elections within the previous year, and he then took us though three more elections since then. The constant exposure to five vicious election campaigns over the past four years has taken a tremendous toll on our citizens.

And the current Netanyahu coalition is only adding insult to injury. Everyone is wondering if we should really celebrate what we have. The one glimmer of peace we had was the one year of leadership under Naftali Bennett and even that was marred by the outrageous behavior of Netanyahu and his sycophants that eventually led to the collapse of Bennett’s coalition.

“For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” – John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)



Off the deep end

Gershon Baskin has gone off the deep end (“Mea culpa,” February 16). Surely he knows that Israel liberated Gaza, eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria from two decades of illegal occupation while defending her people from the genocidal intentions of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Surely he knows that life expectancy increased and infant mortality decreased in those areas after Israel freed them from the occupiers. And, surely he knows that those gains have been lost in the areas now under Palestinian administration.

Through their words and actions, the leaders of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have made it clear that their goal is destruction of the nation-state of the Jews, not the building of the first-ever-to-exist Arab State of Palestine coexisting with the world’s only Jewish state.

Zionists are absolutely correct about the need to maintain a Jewish majority in the Jewish state. The state rabbinate should be working to facilitate the conversion of people who gained Israeli citizenship, legally, under the Law of Return, even though they are not Jewish according to Halacha.

Israel should also be working to be the state for all Jews, not just the haredim. And, in truth, it would be better if Palestinians who don’t want to live as part of the minority in a Jewish state could move to a Palestinian state. But Israel can’t make the Palestinians build that state; only Palestinian leaders can do it.

And it will require their undoing generations of anti-Jewish rhetoric, incitement to violence, rewarding of murderers, and refusal to rehabilitate descendants of Arabs who fled Palestine in the wake of Arab-initiated violence in the 1940s.



Zero achievements

I do not know whether Yonah Jeremy Bob deliberately set out to make the European Union look ridiculous, but that certainly was the upshot of the piece titled “Top EU Official tells FM: We will keep pushing peace, reject settlements” (February 22).

The story started out fine with Bob’s recounting that Sven Koopmans, whom the EU calls their “special” representative, looked “perturbed” when he had to address Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s call for the EU to stop interfering in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Things went downhill fast in the story’s second column where Koopmans announced that his first and main role is to “defend” the EU position on Mideast peace. One would think that a senior diplomat might want to modify his country’s position which – as Koopmans put it – had been “more or less the same since 1980.”

Imagine a 40-year-old who has zero achievements to his name since he was brought home from the maternity ward – not even passing nursery school. Consider now, that the EU’s “position” has similarly accomplished nothing for four entire decades. As Koopmans put it, he is “the EU leader for the peace process” but the problem is that “frankly, there is no peace process.”

Why would the EU want to slog on “defending” a failed position ad infinitum? Perhaps Koopmans learned that behavior from the Palestinians.

Next came the final column in which Koopmans “asked the Israeli journalists present for ideas about how to move the peace process forward.” Not surprisingly, what popped up was the novel notion that perhaps the hoary old two-state “solution” might finally be put out to pasture – but Koopmans, of course, promptly “dismissed any discussion” about that. 

This from the very same EU which praises “lively domestic political discussion” about legal reform in Israel; in other words, about whatever issue with which the EU disagrees. But discussing their own creed? Hardly.

The pièce de résistance was when Koopmans was asked if he regarded Israel’s policies as an obstacle to peace. “I don’t use these words,” Koopmans primly replied. Without batting an eyelash, he then went on to characterize Israel’s recent announcement on settlements as, yes, “an obstacle to peace.”



Condolences and false promises

Has anyone ever heard the US State Department tell Israel that the Arabs must be held accountable for their terrorism against innocent Israelis and pay compensation for the years of destruction of people, homes and land (“Vigilante settlers must be held accountable – US,” February 28). State Department spokesperson Ned Price needs to be strongly reprimanded and told that we don’t take orders from America. We’ve had enough of their Arab bias with their “get out of jail free” card while we pay the heaviest of prices. 

We are a sovereign nation in our own land. Get used to it. The people have finally awakened and said “enough.” The government has abandoned us and we are left with condolences and false promises.  We’ve had 75 years (in fact even before that) with hardly a day free of death and destruction. Is that normal?



‘Defining issue’

Regarding “Three reasons Israel can lead climate fight” (February 26): Israel should be a leader in addressing climate threats because as Michael Sonnenfeldt states in the article, climate change is “the existential crisis of all crises” and “the defining issue of our time.” And there are many reasons why Israel is in an excellent position to be such a leader.

As a start-up nation, we can provide the “ingenuity and new technology” that the article states is essential to counter climate threats, making us an innovative center for fighting climate change.

With the valuable connections that the Abraham Accords provide, Israel can lead a regional effort to reduce climate threats in the Middle East, where the threats are especially severe.

We can build on our mandate to be “a light unto the nations” and on Judaism’s powerful environmental teachings to serve as a very positive example.

As a global capital of veganism, we can help the world recognize the urgency of shifts to plant-based diets, in order to reduce emissions from cows of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, and to enable the reforesting of the vast areas now being used for grazing and growing feed crops for animals. This would sequester much atmospheric carbon dioxide, reducing it from its current very dangerous level to a much safer one.

Providing climate-related leadership would greatly improve Israel’s image worldwide and, most importantly, would help leave a habitable, healthy, environmentally sustainable world for future generations.