Israel’s newly elected coalition government has set its goal on reining in the power of the Supreme Court.
It plans to reduce the retirement age of justices, ensure that politicians have a greater say in the selection of judges, and introduce a law that would enable the Knesset by a simple majority to overthrow the decisions of the Supreme Court.
Anyone who knows what happened in Germany with the dismantling of the Weimar Republic, or is aware of what is taking place in Hungary and Poland today should be deeply concerned about what would inevitably lead to an erosion of Israel’s democracy.
In an article entitled “The Last Days of the Independent Supreme Court in Hungary?” in the Vervassungsblog, a journalistic and academic forum of debate on topical events and developments in constitutional law and politics in Germany, the writers argue that “the Fidesz government has relentlessly tried to bring the Supreme Court to its knees and guarantee its political influence over the judges“.
The Guardian newspaper reported: “Concern about political meddling in Hungary’s legal system comes as Budapest tries to unlock billions of euros in EU funds currently frozen over concerns about the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary“.
In addressing the issue of constitutional independence in Poland, the European Commission noted back in 2017 that the constitutionality of laws passed in Poland could not be assured given the disabling of its Constitutional Tribunal.
Manish Tewari, Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Washington based Atlantic Council, noted in an article on how Hitler and Stalin destroyed political opposition: “Any democracy is as strong or as weak as the institutions that underpin its edifice. When democracy is sub-verted, it is the institutional reliability of the judicial system that is dismantled first. A grand sweep of history bears testimony to these maxims. Whenever judicial independence is undermined, tyranny, chaos and then anarchy, in that order, are its inevitable corollaries“.
We all know that there are anti-democratic and fascist elements in Israel’s new government. Given the power that they have, they could easily destroy Israel as a Western, pluralistic, liberal democracy. The charedim will be delighted. Those who wish to dismantle Israel as a true democracy will be thrilled. The rest of us cannot allow it to happen.