Israel is a proud and strong institution of democracy, renowned for its commitment to the rule of law and its independent judiciary. The recent proposals for judicial reform proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have sparked concern from some quarters who argue that the proposed changes would undermine Israeli democracy. However, the truth is that these reforms are vital for the preservation of true democracy in Israel.
The two main parts of the reform call for a change in the way judges are nominated in Israel and for the adoption of an override clause enabling parliament to pass laws that were previously canceled by the courts. Such a clause exists in Canada, a well-respected democracy.
For decades, Israeli courts have been overstepping their bounds, using their authority to cancel laws and intervene in political matters that should be left to the elected branches of government. The constitutional revolution led by former chief justice Aharon Barak, while well-intentioned, has allowed the judiciary to expand its powers in ways that undermine the separation of powers and allow unelected judges to impose their will on the elected branches.
This has been criticized by prominent legal experts, such as Richard Posner, who have argued that this approach undermines the fundamental principles of democracy.
Israeli courts deal with deeply political questions that should be left to elected officials. Courts in Israel have ruled laws as unconstitutional on issues of immigration, economy, national security and internal security.
All of this is happening while Israel has no written constitution, only basic laws that have not been adopted as a constitution. Therefore, the parliament has never given the courts the authority of judicial review but rather the courts took it without right.
Another area where reform is desperately needed is in the way that judges are appointed in Israel. The current system, which relies on a committee of lawyers to nominate judges, has been criticized for being too insulated from public opinion.
The proposed reforms would change this by giving equal representation on the nomination committee to each branch of government, ensuring that politicians accountable to the people have a say in the appointment of judges.
Critics of the proposed reforms argue that they would undermine the independence of the judiciary and hurt the rights of minorities; however, this is a false narrative.
THE PROPOSED changes would restore the balance of power between the branches of government and ensure that the judiciary is accountable to the people. Democracy is not just about protecting individual rights, it is first and foremost about ensuring that the will of the majority is respected.
A minority of unelected judges should not have more power than the people themselves. This is the case right now in Israel where unelected judges that are named by an unelected committee deal with deeply political questions.
Furthermore, it is important to note that these proposed changes are in line with the practices of other democratic nations. The idea of an override clause, for example, is based on similar provisions in the Canadian constitution and no one would argue that Canada is not a democracy. Similarly, the idea that politicians should have a say in the appointment of judges is a common practice in democracies around the world.
It is a common phenomenon that Israel is often held to different standards when compared to other countries and this is also the case with this proposed reform. The fact that Israel is being criticized for taking steps that are in line with what other democratic countries do, is a clear indication of double standards being applied to the one and only Jewish State.
Israel, a vibrant democracy, is going through a vigorous public debate about the place of courts. It is an issue that is controversial in almost all democracies where fans of judicial activism argue with fans of judicial restraint.
Only in Israel do people find that this healthy debate is a danger to democracy and only when fans of judicial restraint want to implement their policies. This is hypocritical, a double standard and unacceptable. What is considered a legitimate internal debate in other countries is seen as an affront to democracy when it comes to Israel.
So let me be clear: the judiciary in Israel will stay independent, individual rights will stay protected and the rule of law will continue; however, democracy will be strengthened by reinforcing the ability of the Israeli people to rule themselves.
In conclusion, the proposed judicial reforms in Israel are not a threat to democracy but a necessary step to ensure that democracy is protected. It is time for Israel to join the rest of the democratic world in adopting the same rules and standards that apply in other countries.
These reforms should be viewed as an opportunity to increase democracy in Israel, not as a threat to it. The criticism of these proposed reforms is yet another example of the double standards applied to Israel, which is unacceptable and unjust.
The writer is a Knesset member of the Likud party.