Judicial Reform in Israel – A Few Opinions

Dan Rozett, Director of Community Relations and Israel Engagement, was curious what people he knows in Israel feel about the judicial reform debate. Making no claims that this group was scientifically selected or represents "The People" in Israel — and to be clear, does not represent or reflect Federation views — below is an unedited collection of opinions of people mostly in their 40s, some religious, some secular, Ashkenazi, Mizrachi, and of various political positions.

The following are not the opinions of Jewish Federation. Federation's everlasting love for and commitment to the Jewish State and people of Israel transcends any policy or government action. The work of building our Jewish State continues, and the Jewish Federation system renews and affirms its commitment to this work.

Ariel, Pardesiya

I hate the situation we are in.
The organizers of each side are extremists. They caused everything that is going on.
All sides agree that a change in the judicial system needs to happen.
I'm angry that the left hates the right and that the right is laughing at the left.
I'm angry that no one in power is really trying to find a solution that is good for everyone.
I'm angry that my left-wing friends get annoyed at people for having different thoughts and at my right-wing friends that just make fun of it.
I'm angry that I have no clue anymore what I want, just what I don't want.
I'm angry that everyone is lying to our faces.
I'm angry that there seems to be no true solution now.
I'm angry that the left just believes the left and the right just believes the right. There is a middle and most people want it, but it's hard to hear those people, even though they are the majority.
I'm angry that families and friends are being torn apart for having different opinions.
There are probably many more reasons why I'm angry. In short, if you are asking how I feel, I'm angry!!!

Dvir, Holon

I am in favor of the reform. A few points to think about.

1. First question: Is the issue really about reform or something else? In my opinion, the issue is not about the reform but about a small group of wealthy privileged people who control the media channels and find the election results unacceptable. Therefore, they are ready to plunge the State of Israel into governmental anarchy. And as far as they are concerned, if they are not in power, then everything will burn. The problem for them is that the democratically elected right is in power.

2. Second question: Who is behind the protest against the reform? Apparently, Ehud Barak and other former generals want to overthrow the majority government, unfortunately, with the help of the media channels and the millions of shekels they pour into the campaigns. They succeed in causing mass panic as if democracy is over in the State of Israel by controlling this narrative. Even wise and good people fall into this lie. And worst of all, internal divisions are coming out, as well as with our big sister, the United States. 

3. Third question: Is the reform dangerous, and illegitimate and will it harm the court? Answer: Absolutely not. There are 3 branches in the State of Israel that maintain a balance between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court and the High Court of Justice upset the balance and began to invalidate important laws that the public needed and made unilateral decisions based on the ideology of the justices themselves, instead of relying on the law. Justice Aharon Barak called it judicial activism. In this framework, judges can subject government and Knesset decisions under judicial tests created by case law. One of them is the reasonableness on which a judge examines whether the regulation/law/decision of the executive branch or the Knesset (the legislative branch) is reasonable in their opinion. The High Court began to strike down laws in large quantities, and over time the state began to lose its governmental grip, and the balance was violated. The reform aims to regulate the boundaries within which judges can overturn laws. I remind you that only the grounds of reasonableness have been reduced, and judges still have other tools that are much stronger (in my opinion) to overturn laws. 

4. Fourth question:  If it is necessary, why is there no broad consensus for change? Answer: Knesset members are creatures who feed on public opinion and passing trends to win more electoral votes. And the truth is that the reform is agreed upon by many opposition Knesset members who even tried to promote it as a promise to their voters. They are simply comfortable seeing the coalition and Bibi being torn apart in the media because it gives them political capital. And let's not forget that going against the media is always dangerous.

In conclusion, the majority in the State of Israel is in favor of the reform. The fact is that voters chose Likud and the Right to make changes, and the loud minority that controls the channels of communication creates panic. Alternatively, if we surrender to the privileged minority headed by retired generals who control the narrative and the media, and the reform is stopped, that will really be a coup d'état and the loss of democracy.

Muli, Akko

The state was established as a Jewish and democratic state. It is inconceivable that a ruling coalition will change that at full speed and without consideration for the rest of the people. The reaction of the Arab sects attests to their precise understanding of what is happening. In recent days, these are their words: "The only democracy in the Middle East has been infected from within." Even before the elections, I personally recognized what would happen if Bibi became prime minister again. It was clear beyond any doubt that he would do anything to save his skin from the outcome of the trial and even at the expense of destroying the country. All the parties recognized this and of course, celebrated at his expense and at our expense, and every demand they demanded was accepted. As tyranny progresses, we will get laws we never even dreamed of such as comparing yeshiva students to those serving in the IDF. The strength of the courts that Israelis (Bibi included) were proud of will now collapse before our eyes. Bibi, who had a glorious and impressive career as prime minister, will forever be remembered as someone who created a tyranny, dictatorship, and worst of all, the worst division within the nation not seen since the division of the Kingdom of Judah and Israel. Unfortunately, our enemies are overjoyed to see how we succeeded in creating self-destruction and internal destruction without war in a short period of time.

Eitan, Kiryat Malachi

I am very pro-reform. That being said I think it has to be done in a healthy way. It was clearly not marketed nor explained to the public in the right fashion. In Israel, there are three bodies that balance out one another other. The parliament, the judicial system, and the executive, and each one ideally is meant to balance out the other so that no one can have ultimate power.

Since 1990, Former President of the Supreme Court of Israel Justice Barak has openly admitted that in a systematic way, the judicial system has taken more and more power to its hands. The idea of the reform is to bring back the balance.

No one is saying that we should shut down the Supreme Court or that we should become a dictatorship. Those in support of the reform want to bring back the balance. It is so uneven in the current form that a clerk working in any one of the Ministers' offices actually has more power than a minister or Parliament member.

The parliament is chosen by the people and the people want to be able to have their representatives submit laws and create laws. But as of now, the Supreme Court has the power and the government legal advisors have the power to strike down laws that they PERSONALLY feel are not reasonable.

Another very important point and reason we are in this situation and why Justice Barak was successful is because the Supreme Court judges are basically friends and students of their predecessors as opposed to a more unbiased and democratic system of choosing judges. This is something that has to be changed. This also exposes a deeper problem in Israel where the top 10% elite are a very closed group that helps each other get to key positions in government, elite army units, and in the economic sector. The three main units that make up the top 10% elite are the Air Force pilots, Matkal special forces unit, and top intelligence units. I remind you that the soldiers saying they will not report to reserve duty anymore are all from these three units.

It's important to point out that when push comes to shove everyone will arrive to serve to protect the people. It is important to understand we do not serve a government in the IDF we serve the people of the Nation of Israel.

Taking the army hostage and using the reserves as a way to control the government is no different than a military takeover. The top 10% of Israel is in the media as well and this explains why the media is completely in support of everything that is going on to oppose the reform.

Zev, Haifa

I am against it for many reasons. Here are just the top 5:

  1. The judicial “reform” would give unchecked powers to the government, which controls both the executive and legislative branches in Israel’s system of government. This is a bad idea, no matter who is in power.
  2. Most of the population either opposes the reform or opposes passing it without broad consensus (several polls published in recent days)
  3. The reform has already damaged Israel’s economy, academia, tech sector, credit rating, etc. Investments are down, international firms are moving operations out of the country. It’s visible and palpable.
  4. The reform has created a rift between Israel and its most important ally, the US.
  5. Most important - by passing the reform without broad consensus, the government is damaging Israel’s delicate social fabric and combat readiness, it will take years to fix this.

Ido, Pardes Hana-Karkur

Taking reasonability out is a crime because it protects against corruption. The concept of reasonability is a crucial tool in ensuring fair and just outcomes within legal systems. A significant line of defense against misconduct and unethical behavior is eliminated by eliminating the cause of reasonableness.

In a typical democracy, three separate authorities exist: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Each of these authorities serves as a check and balance on the others, ensuring accountability and preventing power concentration. In Israel, however, the legislative and executive branches seem to have merged into one authority. This consolidation magnifies the threat to the judiciary's independence and effectiveness, which acts as a reactive authority to the executive.

Weakening judicial authority by infringing on its independence grants additional power to the executive branch, leading to an imbalance in the system. This imbalance can result in potential abuses of power, reduced transparency, and compromised fairness in decision-making processes.

The phenomena described above are all the more dangerous when the coalition composition of the elected government is made up of convicted criminals, individuals accused of crimes, groups of ultra-Orthodox who do not join the IDF, and messianic elements who want to hasten the Messiah's coming.

Moshe, Tel Aviv

The reform upsets the balance between the branches of government and weakens the judiciary vis-à-vis the legislative and executive branches. In Israel, there is no real separation of powers because the legislative branch is subordinate to the executive branch because each government will have 61 votes in the Knesset and can pass any law. Therefore, further weakening of the judiciary will turn Israel into a democracy on paper.

If the reform passes, then any majority in the Knesset will be able to do whatever it wants, and there will be no one to block it.

Lack of judicial review of Basic Laws – The government will misuse Basic Laws. The reform does not clarify what can be a Basic Law and what cannot be. Therefore, anything they want to pass without judicial review will be called a Basic Law. We already see that the government enacts laws as amendments to Basic Laws to avoid judicial review. Such as the Deri Law and the elimination of the grounds of reasonableness. It should be noted that Basic Laws are supposed to be part of Israel's future constitution and therefore the Aryeh Deri Law does not deserve to be enacted as an amendment to a Basic Law.

Changing the Judicial Selection Committee will result in an automatic majority for the coalition and in effect politicize the selection of judges. The judges chosen will be judges "on their behalf" who will know who elected them and to whom they should be loyal.

Abolishing the system for electing a Supreme Court president will result in the president acting on behalf of the government and promoting political interests.

Eliminating the grounds of reasonableness will promote political corruption and political appointments.

An override clause will create a situation in which any law will be legitimate, even if the court invalidates it. Including racist and discriminatory laws.

Dotan, Peduel

The subject is long, cumbersome, and complex, yet in light of the importance of the matter, I will try to briefly summarize the reasons for my support for legal reform in Israel.

It is true that democracy is not only majority rule, but it is certainly first and foremost majority rule as its name suggests. It is true that majority rule has certain dangers, but my understanding is that this is the lesser evil, and the dangers and disadvantages of all other systems of government are greater and more serious.

In the State of Israel, those who represent the public and its values are its elected representatives – members of Knesset, whom the public elects and can replace once every few years if it is not satisfied with them. And it is true that in a democracy, we are obligated to include and listen to minority opinions represented by members of the Knesset.

However, the Supreme Court, which gets its power from the Knesset and is bound by its laws, can indeed discuss and rule on issues, but cannot ignore where it derives its power from. In other words, there cannot be a situation in which more than half of the Knesset (which is, in fact, "the people" for our purposes) passes legislation and the High Court of Justice rejects it based on “reasonableness.”

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the gravitation of power has been slowly creeping from the Knesset toward the Supreme Court disturbing the balance of power to the point of interfering in core moral issues such as the demolition of terrorists' homes as part of the war on terror, illegal immigration and how to deal with waves of asylum seekers, recruitment of the ultra-Orthodox into the Army, and more. Regardless of my position on these rulings, it is inappropriate to discuss them in an institution that does not represent the citizens of the State of Israel.

In light of all the above and much more I think it is time to restore the balance between the government branches and give more value to elected officials.

It is important for me to emphasize something that in my opinion is no less important than the subject itself: there have always been disagreements among the people of Israel and there will probably be more, but despite the unprecedented public discourse reported in the media,  I think that reality is much calmer for several reasons: During my recent service in reserve duty, I met people who have completely different opinions than me but understand that now more than ever it is important to go to show up for duty. A dear friend told me that when there is talk about refusal to serve, he feels even more obligated to show up. There are many others that feel the same and therefore it seems that more talk about refusal (to serve) actually leads to more people coming than expected. And even those who have declared and signed petitions that they will not serve will report for duty to defend Israel immediately when the enemy fires the first missile, if not much earlier.

Since it is difficult to explain the complexity of the reform it is important to put things in proportion (the opposite of what the media wants and does): We returned to Israel 75 years ago after 2,000 years in exile and after the horrors of the Holocaust. Since then we are only going up despite difficulties along the way. People forget that we are a young country. We are also a very strong country in almost every aspect with an extensive and ancient heritage. Even greater days await us. Am Yisrael Chai.

Rachely, Ma'ale Edumim

I am in support of the reforms.

The Government of Israel wrote its rules and laws when it was established, and from year to year changes, upgrades, and rewrites its laws in accordance with the changing reality.

I am also in favor of checks and balances. Without them, there can be no democracy only chaos.

Democracy is expressed in the will of the voters. In the 2023 elections, a majority of 64 Knesset seats was voted into office and began its steps in accordance with the agenda of the democratically elected right-wing government. We are witnessing a reality in which the judicial system, comprised of left-wing representatives, invalidates laws and prevents a government elected by a majority to pass legislation. I note that current legislators do not initiate laws that contradict Basic Laws, do not harm, or are inconsistent with existing laws; these are laws that are consistent with the agenda of the Knesset that was elected.

When opponents of the reform argue that democracy is harmed, it is because they understand that changing or replacing the ranks of judges will rob them of the control of the left, which, as I noted, is not a majority now.

In conclusion, the State of Israel in 2023 cannot be ruled by a judicial system and as things stand now, (before the reform) the will of the voters is not represented.  


Add Comment
Subscribe to posts