Ayelet Shaked to High Court: Back off nation-state law

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked sent a warning shot across the bow of the Supreme Court, telling it to keep its hands off the Nation-State Law. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Speaking at the Kohelet Policy Forum Conference Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked forcefully argued that the High Court of Justice should not hear petitions filed against the Nation-State law, Israel’s newest Basic Law.

The Kohelet Policy Forum is a research institute in Jerusalem. According to its website, its goal is “to secure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to strengthen representative democracy, and to broaden individual liberty and free-market principles in Israel.”

Shaked said, “The doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional reform – more than being Chelm-like, is dangerous. It is liable to lead to the collapse of every governmental foundation, including the principle of separation of powers, which is the basis of our democratic system.”

She called the alleged problems with the law – including, among other claims, that it is racist and discriminatory – “a constitutional illusion,” deriding left-wing organizations and politicians that have appealed to the court as trying “to save us by using a drug that will not help counteract a disease that will not come.”

The Nation-State law defines the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, encourages Jewish settlement and recognizes certain symbols such as the country’s flag with the Star of David. It was voted in as a Basic Law by Israel’s Knesset on July 19. Basic Laws in Israel are quasi-constitutional laws which carry more force than other laws.

Shaked noted that the High Court has no right to intervene when the legislative branch passes a Basic Law. “In a democracy, the court is not a partner to setting the constitution. The Knesset sets this and the court only rules in that light,” she said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who also attended the conference, backed up Shaked’s remarks. “I call on the High Court justices to think hard and not take us to the depths that no democracy should sink to … Reject them [the petitions] up-front and immediately,” he said.

Since the Nation-State law’s passage, it has been embroiled in controversy, with detractors labeling it as racist and damaging to the country’s minorities, a charge Israel’s government strongly denies.