Michael Boyden

Is Israel a democracy?

Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s published draft bills aim at changing the balance of power between Israel’s legislative and judicial branches.

Politicians, it is proposed, will comprise the majority of the members of the committee responsible for appointing judges.

The President of the Supreme Court would no longer be appointed on the basis of seniority.

Simcha Rothman MK is introducing legislation that would effectively annul the power of the Supreme Court to invalidate Knesset laws.

Legal counsel given to the government by the attorney-general or by one of the ministry legal advisors would not be legally binding.

Even if this were not being proposed, Israel’s democratic system is already flawed. Knesset members are not answerable to their constituents but to their parties. Israelis do not vote for a particular Knesset member but for a party list. In many cases these lists were not arrived at through primaries, but rather reflect the predilections of the leader of the particular party. As a consequence, many Knesset members are not in fact chosen through a democratic process. That’s how dictatorships work from the former Soviet Union to the People’s Republic of China.

And now it is being proposed that those same Knesset members, whom we did not choose and who are not answerable to us individually, will be able to appoint our judges according to their political preferences, and pass legislation without the checks and balances of a Supreme Court to ensure that they do not overstep the mark.

It is not surprising, therefore, that many feel that, were these reforms to become law, Israel would be on the way to becoming a dictatorship.

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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