Ironically, Likud was historically the party of both Jewish nationalism and deep respect for the judiciary. Its first leader, Menachem Begin, was admiringly (though mistakenly) quoted by followers as accepting an unfavorable court ruling with the words “there are judges in Jerusalem!” But now Israel's Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to gut the Supreme Court and neuter it. And that is perhaps the greatest threat to Israeli democracy of all time.
Above: Benjamin Netanyahu
The Economist has a good article on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to gut Israel's Supreme Court. Here's a brief excerpt:
Israel’s Supreme Court has long been a solid pillar of the Jewish state’s democracy, holding to account governments of all political stripes.…
Just how interventionist the Israeli Supreme Court has been is open to debate. Some civil-rights groups think it is too timid, especially on security-related issues. In a landmark decision in 1992, the court opposed the mass expulsion of 415 Hamas members to Lebanon; but after a 14-hour pause it allowed the government to proceed. Two weeks ago, in another decision that angered the left, the court upheld a law that allows cases to be brought against Israelis who call for any form of boycott against Israel and its settlements in the West Bank. The court, however, struck down a clause allowing compensation to be awarded without proof of damage.
But such rulings in favour of the government and security forces have not endeared the court to the right. Likud and its allies were incensed by two rulings in recent years that struck down laws allowing the authorities to hold African migrants in long-term detention without trial. The ultra-Orthodox parties see the court as a secular enemy, because of its rulings on issues of state and religion—including a judgment that yeshiva students should not be exempt from serving in the army.…
Ironically, Likud was historically the party of both Jewish nationalism and deep respect for the judiciary. Its first leader, Menachem Begin, was admiringly (though mistakenly) quoted by followers as accepting an unfavourable ruling with the words “there are judges in Jerusalem!”
Today Likud is run by a leader who has sworn to break the power of the “old elites” and whose colleagues see the Supreme Court judges as remnants of a privileged left-wing establishment which disregards Jewish values in favour of secular and universal principles. The struggle to limit the powers of the Supreme Court is part of a broader contest over the nature of Israel—pitting religious and nationalist activists against advocates of a more liberal and secular-minded country.
There are a few survivors of the old Likud spirit. One is Mr Netanyahu’s rival, President Reuven Rivlin. On April 29th Mr Rivlin made a rare political intervention by criticising the new proposals, saying “we have to ensure a strong democracy.” The Supreme Court’s president, Miriam Naor, also departed from protocol, declaring that “the court is the last barrier preventing harm to human dignity and other basic rights. It is one of the reasons Israel is seen as a member of the family of democratic nations.” What she might have added is that, with Israel facing potential indictments for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, it can ill afford to tarnish the image of its Supreme Court.
Read it all here.