Steve Kramer

Israel, a democracy

There’s way too much hysteria from the left wing over proposed legislation in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Where do world leaders like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron get the hutzpah to lecture Israel’s elected representatives? It’s bad enough that the leaders of Israel’s previous left wing coalition  are acting as if the Supreme Court rules cannot be modified. This frenzy over the government’s projected but unspecified alterations to Israel’s Supreme Court is not the end of democracy – as is claimed – but the exercise of democracy. (This right wing government has a larger majority, 65 to 55, than the current American administration or the previous left wing Israeli administration.) 

In Israel’s media, academia, hi tech, and legal establishment, the clamor vilifying the government is non-stop.  Among the loudest critics of Israel is the American government, which fears that changes to Israel’s judicial system will eviscerate Israel’s standing as a democracy. The mass media in the US is energetically fanning the flames of this contention, expressed recently by Secretary of State Blinken: “The commitment of people in both our countries to make their voices heard, to defend their rights, is one of the unique strengths of our democracies,” he said during joint remarks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Another is a recognition that building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they’re embraced and that they endure.” Has the American government forgotten that Israel has a democratically elected government, and that if it is found wanting, it will be dissolved and a new government elected?

French President Macron told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, Israel risks disconnecting itself from democracy if it pursues the planned judicial reform. This is according to a report in the French newspaper Le Monde. If the reform were adopted as it stands, France would be forced to conclude that Israel has broken away from a common understanding of democracy., Macron told him when the two met at the Elysee Palace on Thursday night, February 2. (

Actually, Israel’s Knesset is doing what Macron and Blinken demand: voting on a consensus/agreement. Their brazen, premature, and destructive reprimands are over legislation that is far from being finalized. These demands are destructive, treating Israel like an autocratic state. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I believe that some changes to the Court are required to reduce the power of non-elected justices and return it to Israel’s elected members of Knesset, making it more like the American Supreme Court. American justices are picked by the President and accepted or rejected by Senators who are elected by the voters. Israel’s justices are chosen by the sitting justices, somewhat of a club, who favor their cronies. Currently, the role of the Knesset is minimal, but change is coming. These alterations are necessary because the Court’s role has stretched well beyond its mandate – to consider laws passed by the Knesset. 

Today the unelected Israeli justices actually formulate laws, usurping the role of the members of Knesset. In the US, legislation over alterations to the Supreme Court were voted on by the Congress on many occasions. The number of Justices on the Supreme Court was changed six times, by Congress (not by the Court), settling at the present total of nine in 1869. Even today the Congress has discussed making additional alterations.

Israel has never had a constitution due to a failure to reach an agreement. While drafting a constitution isn’t possible at this time, there are much-needed reforms to Israel’s Supreme Court. According to the mass media and officials such as Prime Minister Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron, the sky will definitely fall if the judges of our highest court will no longer be the ones who have a veto over new justices, among other changes. The fact is, that this entitlement to veto new justices is not only rare but unique among all the world’s most elevated courts. True, assigning this task to the legislature (the Knesset) will politicize it, but that’s still better than making the Court an “old boys club” whose members are prone to share very similar backgrounds and opinions.

This, and the various other reforms that have been disseminated about the Court will be debated in the Knesset. Without doubt the final bill will differ from what the reformers currently “demand.” That’s the way it works in democratic countries. 

The fact is that mass media, governments, big business, big finance and others – including many Jewish individuals and institutions – have jumped on the band wagon to diminish Israel’s government, before any legislation even happens. The claim that Israel’s democratic standing is in danger is just another example of the piling on that afflicts Israel’s every move. The New York Times and the Washington Post, two of the three most influential newspapers in the US, are leading the charge to, yet again, tarnish Israel’s image.

What you can do on your own is to educate yourself about Israel’s measured, democratic actions. You cannot rely on what the mass media reports on Israel. Nor should you rely on individuals or organizations which purport to support Israel. Even better, you should visit Israel for a vacation or even your own fact finding mission, and see for yourself. 

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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