Who is Undermining Israeli Democracy?

You may also like...

11 Responses

  1. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Although I agree that the present system of judicial selection in Israel should be revised, I believe at least some of the revisions that are currently under consideration would be cures that are worse than the disease because they would include not only appointment by the Knesset, but also re-appointment by the Knesset, thereby subordinating the courts not only to political pressure but also to a high degree of instability as the majority in the Knesset changes hands. I think the American system of appointing judges for life terms, with a 2/3 majority of the Senate required for confirmation, is an excellent system because it gives a reasonablly sized minority the power of veto and it frees federal judges from political pressure by giving them life tenure. I believe that a similar system for Israel would be a great improvement over the current system, but the reforms that are being proposed would, instead, eliminate the Supreme Court as an independent branch of government.

    Moreover, I wonder about all this talk about how activist the court is. If the court really as activist and left wing as it is often portrayed, why is it that the issue of draft exemptions for yeshiva students has been pushed off for so many years? The members of the Supreme Court would make themselves heroes to a sizable portion of the public if they were to eliminate this exemption, but yet, they have not done so. Rather, the court has pushed the Knesset to handle the issue. This is only one example – there are many aspects of the religious status quo in this country that the Supreme Court has left alone despite challenge, such as the conversion system, the absence of public transportation on Shabbat, and many others. In fact, the very existence of a state rabbinute is something that would clearly be held unconsitutional in the United States.

    Finally, I would argue that the best way to define, and therefore limit, the power of the courts would be to implement a constitution. Without a constitution, the judges have an open field to in effect implement their own unwritten constitution, although they do have the basic laws to provide something of a framework. A constitution defining the powers of government and the civil rights of the public might curb some of the court’s alleged activism. Yet, it is the religious parties that have most emphatically opposed proposals for writing a constitution.

  2. Tal Benschar says:

    `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.

    When Dorit Beinisch uses the word “democracy,” she does not mean the dictionary definition of that word (rule by the people), rather she means “consistent with the philosophy of us enlightened Israelis, and not that of the benighted religious/Sephardic/Russian masses.”

    Kind of like the use of “democratic” in “People’s Democratic Republic of Wherever,” for those old enough to remember such.

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    There is no question that the Israeli Supreme Court is very different from the US Supreme Court. The secular Ashkenazi elite is scared to death that the rest of the countryi.e. the majority will rule. They write openly about Israel no longer being a democracy by whice they mean that they are not the unchallenged rulers any longer. I was just in Israel and always am surpised at how many food establishments outside of Jerusalem advertise “Mehadrin Kosher”. This wan’t the case a decade ago.
    The secular elite see their children moving out of the country and those that remain lacking a strong “Jewish” identity. They see their vision of the state being wrecked by a combination of Sephardim (primitives in their minds), chareidim ( too scary to describe) and Arabs ( who they are realising aren’t happy with their status in Israeli society.) This is a kulturkampf and I assume the Supreme Court will fight very hard to keep the status quo as long as they can.Time will tell.

  4. cohen y says:

    ‘Moreover, I wonder about all this talk about how activist the court is. If the court really as activist and left wing as it is often portrayed, why is it that the issue of draft exemptions for yeshiva students has been pushed off for so many years? The members of the Supreme Court would make themselves heroes to a sizable portion of the public if they were to eliminate this exemption, but yet, they have not done so. Rather, the court has pushed the Knesset to handle the issue. This is only one example – there are many aspects of the religious status quo in this country that the Supreme Court has left alone despite challenge, such as the conversion system, the absence of public transportation on Shabbat, and many others.’

    They would love to,but until close to half the country suports them on one of the big ones,they wouldn’t cross a red line.For then the knesset would be called to override them,and their game would be up.(Benish ,once, very quietly admitted as much.)

  5. cohen y says:

    ‘Finally, I would argue that the best way to define, and therefore limit, the power of the courts would be to implement a constitution. Without a constitution, the judges have an open field to in effect implement their own unwritten constitution, although they do have the basic laws to provide something of a framework. A constitution defining the powers of government and the civil rights of the public might curb some of the court’s alleged activism. ‘

    agree absolutely.

    ‘Yet, it is the religious parties that have most emphatically opposed proposals for writing a constitution.’

    No one ,with the exception of americans(and the left who prefer it this way,) seem to appreciate it.Hillel Kook(Herut),(aka Peter Bergson) who did,walked out of the first knesset in (and moved to america)when he saw the situation.

  6. yishai says:

    beware of the constitution!

    a “constitution” in Israel will be minoritiy rights (arabs not haredim), religious freedom for secular not for religious (freedom of coercion, not religious freedom), equality (to get drafted), and, of course, a state of laws (the supreme court as undisputed ruler of the state).
    So be careful for what you wish.

  7. DF says:

    Per Jonathan Rosenblum’s words, the Israeli supreme court does NOT, in fact, have control over the sword or the purse, exactly as Hamilton wanted. It must look to the executive for enforcement of its orders, and to the Knesset for its operating funds. Which begs the question – why hasn’t the Knesset, or at least the PM, stepped in? Do they in their hearts agree with the courts, or do they actually beleive the court’s propaganda, that even minor tinkering would undermine the judiciary?

    I suspect the former. That is, occasionally they might be upset by one or two of the court’s decisions, which is natural. And it’s true the court has a left-wing inclination. But the alternative might end up a type of theocrocy, in which battei din and charedim are in charge. And that’s something almost nobody, INCLUDING religious people other than hard-core charedim, truly wants. And thus the system remains.

  8. Tal Benschar says:

    But the alternative might end up a type of theocrocy, in which battei din and charedim are in charge. And that’s something almost nobody, INCLUDING religious people other than hard-core charedim, truly wants.

    When “religious people” say hashiva shofteinu ke varishona three times a day, I wonder what they think they are praying for.

  9. Ori Pomerantz says:

    cohen y: If the court really as activist and left wing as it is often portrayed, why is it that the issue of draft exemptions for yeshiva students has been pushed off for so many years?

    Ori: I have a confession to make. I didn’t know the answer, so I went to Ein Dor and asked the lady to talk to the ghost of Machiavelli(1). He suggested two reasons:

    1. To have an easy excuse to bash Charedim.

    2. To avoid having a militarily trained population whose loyalty is questionable. In a war between Israel and the Arab countries the Charedim would fight for Israel. But what would happen if there was a significant disagreement between the Israeli government and the Charedi gdeoli Israel?

    (1) Not really, but it makes a good story.

  10. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Tal Benschar: When “religious people” say hashiva shofteinu ke varishona three times a day, I wonder what they think they are praying for.

    Ori: Possibly they’re asking G-d for it because they don’t believe we have men qualified to be that kind of judge.

  11. myron chaitovsky says:

    IIRC, at some point Barak presented–with great pride–his views on the structure of Israel’s judiciary, and did so in the presence of a prominent member of the U.S. judiciary. To his dismay, that jurist–whose name I canot recall–objected to Barak’s presentation, going so far as to dress him down somewhat, insisting that the Israeli system was contrary to norms of democracy and violative of the checks and balances system extant in the U.S. I further recall that you, Jonathan, wrote about this at that time.

    Can you remind us who the American jurist was?

Pin It on Pinterest