Scathing criticism was leveled Sunday at Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) over a series of bills they presented to Knesset meant to curtail the power wielded by the High Court of Justice.
Levin, who sits on the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, has been promoting the bills for several months, saying he seeks to reform the judicial system, which he believes is dominated by Left-leaning officials.
His focus so far has been changing the makeup of the Judicial Nomination Committee -- which currently comprises three Supreme Court judges, two representatives from the Israel Bar Association, two MKs and two ministers -- in a manner which many MKs believe would infringe on its authority.
"Protesting over the constitutional revolution and judicial activism does not justify going out on such a limb. The separation of powers by a metaconstitution mandates that the authorities supervise each other and even the Knesset, which is the only body whose members are directly elected by the public, cannot pass legislation that contradicts its own laws," MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) told Israel Hayom.
"In the absence of a constitution, there is an unwritten constitution and there is an imperative need to add Basic Law legislation to it, to regulate relations between the [executive and judicial] authorities," he said.
Commenting on Levin's proposed changes to the Judicial Nomination Committee, which had suggested, among other things, that the Knesset elect the chief justice, Rivlin said: "Next, they're going to suggest that judges be named through admission committees and that they be permitted to use lobbyists. It is unworthy and it will politicize the judiciary."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who chairs the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, vowed to "fight any attempt to impinge on the High Court or Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic country. These dangerous proposals are meant to weaken the court by subjecting it to politics."
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that the bills proposed by Levin and Shaked -- who is backed by Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett -- constitute "a targeted assassination of Israel's democratic character."
Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) also slammed the move, saying, "The opposition will not allow the Levin-Shaked bills to go through. This is a blatant and violent attempt to undermine the foundation of the rule of law in Israel. The Israeli public wants a democracy and it will not allow a group of undemocratic MKs to trample all over it."
"This proves once again that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has lost his grip on the reins of power," MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said. "The Likud's hilltop youth, headed by Yariv Levin, are leading Israel into the murky waters of a totalitarian state."
MK Karin Alharar (Yesh Atid), who serves on the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, warned that "infringing the power of the judiciary would leave the principle of separation of powers null and void. It is inconceivable that the courts will become another tool for the government to use to ratify its policies and decisions."
Levin dismissed the criticism saying the bills enjoy extensive public support: "I was surprised by the wide support we are receiving from people from all walks of life. Several people have expressed concern that this might violate democracy, so I would like to make it clear that this legislation is meant, first and foremost to sustain democracy and create a balanced justice system, the likes of which exist in most countries around the world."
Levin stated that "the most important piece of legislation is the one calling for a change in the makeup of the Judicial Nomination Committee, by which the number of the court officials serving on the committee will be reduced from three to one, and will be replaced by the president of one of the district courts and a member of the academia, who will be chosen by the prime minister."
Shaked also rejected the criticism, saying "These bills mean to curb judicial activism in Israel and address the weakness of the executive and legislative authorities' vis-à-vis the judiciary. Naturally, the media is in a hurry to depict us as fascists who go against the rule of law. I suggest we be judged based on our actions."