It’s judicial ‘piracy’ of democracy, cry protesters outside high court’s Netanyahu hearing

Thousands come out to protest the court over a hearing on whether the prime minister can form a government while under indictment.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A group of protesters clad in pirate costumes stood outside the Supreme Court Tuesday morning to demonstrate against what they deemed a potential “judicial robbery” taking place that endangers Israeli democracy.

“Something bad has been going on in the Israeli judicial system in recent years,” said Matan Peleg, head of the pro-Zionist activist group Im Tirtzu, which organized the rally.

“Not for nothing do most citizens of Israel feel a widespread distrust of this system. We feel that the High Court judges are robbing justice from the system to which they are entrusted, and the right to vote from the people,” he said.

The three-justice panel inside the court had started a hearing at 9:00 a.m. on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could form a government if the right-wing bloc wins a majority in the March elections. Netanyahu has been indicted on bribery, breach of trust and fraud charges.

The petitioners in the case are prominent businesspeople and former important government officials, among others.

Although the morning demonstration was small, it follows Monday night’s protest in Tel Aviv that was attended by thousands who disagree with the judicial activism that has marked the Supreme Court for over a decade.

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The evening protest, held under the title “Only the People Will Decide! Stopping the Judicial Coup,” was organized by Im Tirtzu, the Israeli Movement for Governability and Democracy, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Regavim, and the Joint Headquarters for the National Camp, as well as a group of bereaved terror-stricken families and another of wounded IDF veterans.

“This is not a matter of Right or Left, rather this is a fight for the future of Israeli democracy,” said the organizers. “The political leanings and biases of the judiciary cannot supersede the will of the people and their elected representatives.”

“Democracy is the rule of the people, not the rule of the judges,” they added. “And we need to keep it that way.”

As the appeal began, Chief Justice Esther Hayut appeared to say the hearing was premature but left the window open for a future hearing regarding Netanyahu’s ability to rule under indictment.

“There is no provision in the law which would bar Netanyahu from running,” said Hayut. “The elections are going to be held. Afterwards, the president will need to exercise his authority. There will be a juncture at which the president will need to decide – why rule on this now and not at the next juncture?”