Israel’s justice minister: Supreme Court isn’t above checks and balances

Shaked hit back at opposition attacks that changes to the Supreme Court spell the end of democracy.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

“No branch is above the rules and outside the system of checks and balances,” said outgoing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at an Israel Bar Association Conference in Eilat on Monday morning.

“I call on all those who believe that every shift in the system of balances is the end of democracy – stop with the crying and the hollering,” she said. “There is a feeling that powerful claims from the conservative side slam up against walls of intimidation and demagoguery from the other side.”

Since April’s election, Israel’s opposition parties have focused their attacks on proposals by right-wing parties to make changes to Israel’s judicial system, labeling them as the ‘end of democracy.’ This theme was reflected in a Tel Aviv protest on Saturday night called by the opposition parties under the banner:  “For democracy and the rule of law – a defensive wall for the State of Israel and Israeli democracy.”

Israel’s right-wing argues that the changes are necessary as the Supreme Court has arrogated too much power to itself, interfering in areas of life that aren’t its concern, justifying its meddling under the concept that everything is justiciable. The right-wing also argues that Israeli Supreme Court judges are self-selecting, ensuring that only like-minded people are elected, leading to a court that favors left-wing positions in its decision-making.

One of the changes proposed by Israeli conservatives is the Override Clause, in which the Knesset has the right to vote to overturn Supreme Court rulings that cancel laws, giving Israel’s parliament final say.

Shaked, who favors such a law, said at the conference, “The idea of ​​importing the Override Clause from Canada was Aharon Barak’s, and I do not recall that there were then petitions about the destruction of democracy.”

Former President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak is widely credited, both by the right and the left, with initiating the changes that have led, in the right’s view, to an overly powerful Supreme Court.

Current Supreme Court President Esther Hayut also spoke at the conference. She attacked the reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She described the discourse surrounding the court as “blunt, insulting and unbridled.”

Hayut noted the remarks Netanyahu made during her  swearing-in ceremony when he spoke of the importance of the court’s independence and maintaining a respectful dialogue between the branches.

“Since the same ceremony at the president’s residence a year and a half has passed, and I ask what has changed during this period? In my opinion, the answer is nothing,” she said.