The Knesset will soon be convening for its summer session. None of the governing coalition’s proposed legislation aimed at eviscerating Israel’s judiciary and making it akin to a Hungary-type democracy was enacted prior to the Passover break.
Not because the proponents did not want to jam the legislative package through, but because of the widespread public opposition, culminating with huge, spontaneous protests in the streets the night Prime Minister Netanyahu announced he was firing Defense Minister Gallant for the offense of warning the country that the proposals and the division they have created were causing a security risk.
Apparently, the strong, broad-based, persistent opposition, perhaps coupled with the signs of adverse impacts on the economy and with clear warnings from Washington that it did not look kindly on the changes, gave some members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party as well as Netanyahu himself reasons to pause.
One key piece of the coalition’s package, which would put all the power to appoint judges in the hands of the executive/legislative branch, i.e. the governing coalition, has been positioned for its final vote, which could be taken on virtually a moment’s notice.
In contrast to the American system, the executive branch in Israel is not separate and independent from the legislative branch. As in other parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister is the leader of the legislative coalition in power. Unlike in the U.S. system, the Prime Minister and the legislature are not checks on each other.
If the Knesset passes the legislation, the judicial system will essentially be a tool of the executive/legislative branch, i.e. the ruling coalition. There will be no checks on power.
If one takes the pronouncements of Justice Minister Levin, the coalition’s chief advocate of the proposals, and many of his allies, at face value, that is exactly the objective. They resent a judicial system that interferes with what the majority coalition wishes to enact.
They do not want to hear about democratic niceties such as due process, minority rights, defendant’s rights, asylum seeker’s rights, and all those other features that make a democracy a messy and frustrating but cherished institution. They view such nuances as nuisances. They are not shy about so stating.