Israel cannot fix the judicial reform crisis by procrastinating - comment

When Israel is facing a difficult issue, it tries to solve it by delaying the moment when it needs to solve it.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu appears in the Knesset on Wednesday. (photo credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu appears in the Knesset on Wednesday.
(photo credit: YONATHAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel's grand solution to the judicial reform controversy is to do what it always does with its national problems: Delay to a later date and stabilize the status quo.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday evening a temporary freezing of the Judicial Selection Committee bill in response to the clash of overwhelming protests that shut down the country and intense political pressure from coalition and supporters.

The judicial reform process will be delayed until after the Knesset's spring recess, sometime after April 30. In order to stabilize the coalition, which has factions strongly against the delay, Netanyahu agreed to assign the National Guard to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Drastic events such as the collapse of the government aside, such an arrangement means that all the chaos of the last three months will likely be revisited in as little as a month and a half's time.

Netanyahu indicated that he expects to negotiate during the legislative hiatus to achieve a broad agreement on the judicial reform.

 Children protest the judicial reform at Habima, March 23, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Children protest the judicial reform at Habima, March 23, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

However, the opposition and coalition have a poor track record for developing an agreement on the judicial reform. Israel is expected to develop a broad agreement between reformists and anti-reformists in just over a month after Israel's leaders were unable to do so within three months. Many opposition factions expressed on Monday night that they would only accept a complete cancelation of the plan. Coalition factions still want to pass the Judicial Selection Committee bill as is.

The underlying problems that led to air traffic halting, stock market pausing and the reservists refusing to report for duty have not been solved by Netanyahu's decision.

Why is the situation not solved yet?

From the reformist perspective, Israel still suffers from a flawed legal system with a High Court of Justice that possesses far too much power. From the opposition perspective, rights and checks and balances are still not sufficiently enshrined.

The structural issues that eventually developed into the judicial reform crisis -- the lack of a written constitution with clearly defined limits and relationships between branches and a charter of rights -- also led to the longstanding Israeli policy of delay and stabilization.

At the dawn of the Jewish State, Israel's founding fathers decided to avoid the controversy of writing a constitution. They opted to stabilize the fledgling state and avoid political division, and to delay the problem of a constitution with the Harari compromise -- to introduce provisions of a future constitution as Basic Laws to be assembled at a later date.

75 years later, there is no constitution; the left doesn't have its secured rights, and the right has a High Court that it says has unilaterally cobbled together a de facto constitution to its own benefit.

On the problem presented by Gazan terrorist organizations, Israel is willing to stabilize the security situation with a limited operation to degrade military capabilities, but how to properly address the Palestinian exclave is delayed to an indefinite date.

When the High Court rules that the government must deal with the issue of haredi conscription, or the demolition of an illegal village, the standard operating procedure of the government is to file a request to delay its response and work to gratify local or international political partners.

Hopefully, the opposition and coalition can properly negotiate a consensus that addresses both sides' chief concerns, however this requires Israeli leaders to end the cycle of procrastination.

Unless Israel undertakes the difficult and often messy business of solving its problems in the present rather than delaying them for the future, the only outcome that can be expected is a repeat of Monday's instability in a month.