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Getting Bibi Off the Hook

Simcha Rothman MK is due to address the Middle East Forum next week on the subject of “The Undue Influence of Israel’s Supreme Court”.

Rothman is a member of the Religious Zionist Party headed by the far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich. The Tikva Fund tells us that Rothman is “a leading voice in the fight against judicial activism and for the proper separation of powers in Israel”.

Given that interest, it is hardly surprising that he supports the legislation of an Overriding Clause that would limit the power of Israel’s courts. Indeed, Rothman said that legislating an overriding clause was the number one item on their party’s agenda in coalition talks before entering the present government.

Why should that issue have been such an important consideration? Well, Rothman has an agenda. Wikipedia informs us that he is “a critic of the corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu … and supports immunity from prosecution for serving Prime Ministers”.

If that is indeed the case, then we all know what the name of the game is.

An overriding clause allowing a simple Knesset majority to nix the rulings of Israel’s courts would be, in effect, to render the latter powerless. If checks and balances are an integral part of the any true democracy, then such legislation would make Israel less democratic and we would have moved in the direction of Hungary and Turkey.

One could make an argument that the Supreme Court has too much power and that it does not reflect the will of the people, since its members were not elected democratically.

One could make a good case for insisting that, were two-thirds of Knesset members to oppose a Supreme Court ruling, then the former should have the right to determine Israel’s laws and how they should be applied.

However, that would not appear to be what is on the cards and would not serve Rothman’s objective of granting Benjamin Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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