A reader asked me to comment on the existing internal conflict in Israel…
Israel’s government has passed the first part of its legal overhaul. The law’s ripples are dramatic
The Israeli government has passed the first major piece of legislation in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s legal system — part of a broader plan that has triggered nationwide protests, divided the country and rattled the powerful military and influential business community.
The plan seeks to weaken the country’s Supreme Court and transfer more powers to the parliament. Supporters say Israel’s unelected judges wield too much power. But opponents say the judges play an important oversight role, and that the plan will push Israel toward autocratic rule. <Source>
Given the original challenge of reaching a consensus on critical issues, Israel lacks a formal, comprehensive written constitution, considering its population's diverse religious, cultural, and political backgrounds when Israel became a state.
However, there exists a quasi-constitutional system of "Basic Laws" which were to be assembled into a constitution at an unspecified time.
The fundamental issue with the Basic Laws is the ease with which they can be introduced and amended in Israel’s parliament, known as the "Knesset," which is responsible for making laws, supervising the government's activities, and representing the Israeli public.
The Basic Laws initially lacked precedence over regularly introduced legislation, hence the Judiciary was imbued with judicial review to serve as a reasonableness check on legislative activities.
And therein lies the problem as the current legislation passed by the Knesset (64-0 after the opposition left in boycott) limits the reasonableness standard and reduces overreach from unelected activist (and primarily secular) judges.
Understanding the background…
Israel’s political landscape is diverse and multifaceted, with two significant ideological camps, the secular left and the religious right, which often clash in Israeli politics. These two groups hold differing views on various issues, including religion, state affairs, social policies, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The secular left believes Israel is much like any other democratic state. It should be governed by secularism, liberalism, and progressive values, including advocating for the separation of religion and state, civil rights, social equality, and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They mirror the U.S. left in that they typically support a more liberal approach to social issues, including LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, and immigration policies, prioritizing issues like social welfare, education, and healthcare. The secularists are critical of the influence of religious institutions in the government and advocate for a more inclusive society, even if it means allowing the State of Israel to devolve into a non-Jewish state.
The religious right represents a coalition of parties and individuals influenced by the importance of Jewish heritage and more traditional religious values in shaping Israeli policies, advocating for a more vital role of religion in public life and politics. The religious right is dedicated to maintaining a Jewish character for the state and often opposes concessions to the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conservatives seek to preserve or expand settlements in the lands traditionally associated with Judaism, such as Judea and Samaria, which are contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The religious right parties also advocate for more conservative treatment of social problems such as marriage, abortion, and LGBTQ+ rights.
The clash between the secular left and religious right has been a defining and continuing feature of Israeli politics for many years, with both sides given to passionate argumentation.
The role of the Israeli Supreme Court and its “reasonableness” doctrine…
The Israeli Supreme Court consists of an unelected panel of judges appointed by a self-serving committee headed by the Minister of Justice. It tends to be insular and of a like mind on many issues.
The "reasonableness test" is a legal doctrine the Court employs as part of its judicial review process. In essence, the Court assesses whether the decisions made by administrative authorities, government agencies, and other public bodies were ones a reasonable decision-maker could have reached under the given circumstances – nullifying decisions they deem “unreasonable.”
The criticisms of the Court composition and reasonableness test…
The primary criticism of the Israeli Supreme Court is that it is a self-serving, unelected panel of judges that disenfranchises Israeli voters by wielding extraordinary power over the decisions of duly elected officials.
Other concerns with the reasonableness test include:
Subjectivity: Reasonableness is a subjective standard open to interpretation by judges with varying views on what constitutes "reasonableness," leading to inconsistent outcomes.
Lack of clarity: The term "reasonableness" is too vague and imprecise, making it challenging for judges to understand and comply with the standard.
Cultural and contextual bias: What is considered reasonable is influenced by cultural norms, societal expectations, and prevailing attitudes, leading to prejudice, discrimination, and unfair treatment.
Hindsight bias: Assessing legislative actions in hindsight often leads to distorted views of reasonableness, as judges may now have more information and context than was available to the jurists at the time of their ruling.
- Lack of flexibility: Reasonableness tests might not account for unique or extraordinary circumstances where rigid adherence to precedent or theoretical ideals may not be appropriate.
Role of experts: In some cases, reasonableness tests require expert witnesses' input, whose opinions may be divergent and subject to bias and disagreement.
So why are they rioting?
Much like the progressive left in America and its media propagandists, leftists are taking to the street because the current religious right government coalition is attempting to revise the functioning of the judiciary-- which the secular left believes is their fiefdom and needs to be protected as such at all costs. Like the United States, the progressive left in Israel turns to the courts to achieve what could not be debated and passed in the Knesset.
Once again, the Obama/Biden administration attempts to influence and interfere in internal Israeli politics on behalf of the progressive left -- and the eventual destruction of Israel.
JULY 24, 2023 - BRIEFING ROOM - STATEMENTS AND RELEASES
Statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Israel Judicial Reform
As a lifelong friend of Israel, President Biden has publicly and privately expressed his views that major changes in a democracy to be enduring must have as broad a consensus as possible. It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority. We understand talks are ongoing and likely to continue over the coming weeks and months to forge a broader compromise even with the Knesset in recess. The United States will continue to support the efforts of President Herzog and other Israeli leaders as they seek to build a broader consensus through political dialogue. <Source>
[OCS: Since the Obama Administration, anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel within the Democrat Party have grown exponentially. There is no doubt that President Obama openly snubbed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the great world leaders, and interfered in his re-election bid.
Likewise, President Biden hosted Israeli President Herzog, who holds a largely ceremonial position with few powers and serves as the symbolic head of state, while snubbing Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is the actual head of government and holds the most significant executive power in Israel.]
When a group of unelected individuals can overrule elected representatives on the vague grounds of “unreasonableness,” you no longer have a democracy. A clear and present indication of how necessary the newly passed law is to a functioning democracy.
And to point out how crazy the Israeli political system is, the existing judiciary could nullify the latest vote because they believe it is "unreasonable."
As my mother, may she rest in peace, used to say, “Put ten Jews in a room, and you will have eleven opinions.”
We are so screwed by the secular left in both America and Israel.