Coalition chairman and Likud faction leader MK Yariv Levin is again working on legislation that would overhaul the justice system and reduce the power the courts have over the Knesset, his main legislative platform.
Levin, who sits on the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, believes he can garner enough votes in the coalition and in the committee to pass the reforms. He believes that with former Likud ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan no longer in the Knesset, his reforms would face much less internal opposition, as the three were generally considered stalwarts of the courts.
"There is consensus on the need to change things so that there is more transparency and a diversity of opinions," Levin said.
His first piece of legislation aims to change the makeup of the Judicial Nominations Committee. The committee currently comprises nine members: three Supreme Court judges, two representatives from the Israel Bar Association, two MKs and two ministers. Levin wants the judges to forfeit one seat in favor of another MK or minister, which would give the coalition a majority.
"Letting representatives from the judicial system enjoy a majority in the committee that elects their peers is wrong," Levin, who believes that the justice system is stacked with officials holding left-wing worldviews, said.
Levin also wants to hold public confirmation hearings for those nominated to the Supreme Court.
"In the United States, [prospective] justices go through a Senate hearing," he says. "The committee's deliberations [in Israel] are not open to the public; even the minutes are sealed."
The coalition chairman did not mince words about the Supreme Court: "The justices decide critical cases in a 6:1 or 6:0 majority; change is all the more necessary when the courts encroach on the legislative and executive branches."
Levin has co-sponsored a bill with Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On to televise the oral arguments presented before the High Court of Justice.
"Information is spread over the Internet, on radio and on television, but the High Court of Justice is running things as if it's in some sort of bubble," he says.
Levin dismisses those who say that his reforms would inflict damage on the rule of law.
"The concept of the rule of law implies a distinction between those who legislate the law, those who apply the law and those who enforce the law. But the way things are right now, the justice system strikes down Knesset laws and sets norms based on the justices' worldview, all while it effectively decides who sits on the bench. You can call this many things, but democracy is not one of them," he said.
Earlier this week Levin presented a bill stating that "the Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and the birthplace of the State of Israel." This article could potentially impact future court decisions relating to the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria.
Under the proposal, the official status of Arabic as a national language would also be downgraded.
In an interview with Army Radio Monday, Levin defended his proposal, saying, "It is not as if there is currently a balance between a Jewish state and a democratic state and we are coming along and disrupting it. This balance has been grossly trampled on and we are here to remedy this situation."