The newly elected Government in Israel has embarked on courageous justice reform, which aims to restore the proper balance between the three branches of government. This proposed reform has created a backlash in the court’s hegemony which provides a false narrative of the changes.
In this article we will provide the background which brought about the need for the reform.
Published in Hebrew by Dan Nachman & Moshik Kovarsky, translated and brought to print by Nurit Greenger
Background To Justice Reform
You may not know, but in March 2016 Israel was on a course that could have led to a financial disaster. For almost a year previously, the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, worked on the gas exploration outline that would have allowed the development of the newly discovered Leviathan, Karish and Tanin gas fields. The outline was formulated during tough negotiations with the gas companies, led by the American Noble Energy Company, which committed to invest billions of dollars in the development of the fields.
High Court Caused Near-Disaster
But then the High Court of Israel entered into the fray. In a scandalous decision it approved the outline, but demanded that the stability clause, which assured the gas companies economic certainty from the state for a limited period, be removed. The clause was logical and essential. The companies involved invested a great deal of money and the clause provided them a ‘safe period’ in which they would receive a return on their investment.
A month earlier, a High Court hearing took place where PM Netanyahu and Minister Steinitz presented an orderly position against the petitioners’ populist claims. However, on the morning of March 27, 2016, the blowback landed on Minister Steinitz’ desk. The Minister was furious at the blatant interference by the High Court in such a complex and economically complicated matter on which first class professionals had worked for a long time. Anyone else would have not hesitated to have thrown in the towel.
Fortunately for Israel, the two men and their assistants rallied and convinced the companies not to withdraw completely from the development of the gas fields, as the Americans were already about to abandon it. Had Netanyahu and Steinitz failed in their mission, Israel, today, would be facing a wrecked economy, with skyrocketing electricity prices and rampant inflation. The two men deserve the entire nation’s accolades along with bouquets of roses. The High Court and its followers in the media, who almost caused the entire process to fail, deserve thorns.
Other Scandalous High Court Interference
This is just one example, one of many, of the scandalous intervention of Israel’s High Court of Justice into matters in which it has no expertise, no shred of responsibility, while the authority it exercised and it is exercising it had robbed without any law allowing it to do so.
This ongoing intervention indirectly affects each and every citizen of the State of Israel and causes unfathomable damage to the country’s governance and the personal security of the public.
Herein below are several more examples of how the High Court deviated from the umbrella of its assigned work.
In 2009, the High Court of Justice, headed by then Judge Dorit Beinisch, abolished the newly built private prison, thereby not only causing the state’s treasury financial damage of hundreds of millions of shekels, but also significantly harmed the prisoners’ incarceration conditions. This did not bother the High Court, while in another decision they ruled the complete opposite by demanding from the state to expand the habitation area allocated to a prisoner.
Court Decisions Overrule Legislators, Harmed Citizens
Another example was when they canceled the law on infiltrators, which was passed by the Knesset three times by a large majority. That decided the terrible fate of the residents of South Tel Aviv and other slums throughout the country which did not bother or interest the High Court judges living in the wealthy suburbs of Rehaviah and Tzahalah.
Later on, these judges canceled the deposit law intended to encourage infiltrators to leave the country on their own volition. To remind the reader, the infiltrator laws permitted a temporary detention facility from which the infiltrators could voluntarily leave the country, together with a monetary gift from the state, to be received only on their way to the airport for confirmed departure. The repeal of the law prevented many infiltrators from leaving the country and thus made the life of the country’s legal citizens in their neighborhoods, where the infiltrators established residence, unbearable.
Victims of terror attacks in Israel can also thank the High Court of Justice for regularly neutralizing the demolition of terrorists’ houses, a terrorism activities deterrent method; also preventing other deterrents and punitive measures passed that could curb the acts of terrorism.
Land Rights Legislation
A law to set up land rights in Judea and Samaria, which the Knesset painstakingly passed and prevents the eviction of citizens from lands they have been inhabiting for years, with the approval of the state, was also invalidated by the High Court of Justice. The fact that the law regulates adequate compensation for Arabs who claim ancient ownership, even if they have never set foot on that land, did not help. This is how the High Court brought about the destruction of an entire neighborhood – Netiv Ha’avot – in Gush Etzion, a neighborhood where military reserve officers live. All this was due to very few meters for which the ownership was in dispute
Court Interference In IDF Matters
And finally, it is impossible not to be astonished by the High Court’s audacity that violates the command authority of the IDF Chief of the General Staff, starting with the ability to dismiss a commander in Israel’s Military Police of Investigation who failed in his duties; to the issue of haircuts in the IDF and the Court’s ruling allowing the apparent right of a soldier to grow his or her hair as he or she wishes, contrary to the army’s order.
Is the High Court ready to take on the responsibility of managing the army in wartime? Great doubt.
All these examples have been mentioned here in order to illustrate how much the High Court’s intervention in legislation, as well as in executive-administrative decisions, has harmed and could continue harming every citizen in Israel.
Justice Reform Purpose
The justice reform proposed by Minister of Justice Yariv Levin, to be reviewed in detail in a following op-ed, does not, according to law, intend to harm the rights of Israel’s citizens. Its entire purpose is to prevent the High Court of Justice in Israel from annexing powers not given to it by the Legislative Branch and using them in an illegal, irresponsible and forceful manner.