As though possessed by some uncontrollable compulsion to undercut the Supreme Court, several extreme rightist MKs are refusing to let go of their hopes to erode the court's status, much to the silent satisfaction of several of their left-wing and Arab colleagues. The Knesset winter session just began, and already the hostility toward the supremacy of the rule of law is stirring the political arena and causing damage to Israel's image among the democracies of Europe and America.
The move against the Supreme Court is currently spearheaded by the new "brotherhood" of Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yariv Levin (Likud). Economy and Trade Minister Bennett speaks a Western dialect that entirely misunderstands the supremacy of the rule of law. When the High Court of Justice rules that a law passed by the Knesset is unworthy, they will overturn the legal ruling and revert back to their evil ways with a majority of 61 out of 120 MKs. When the existing system, which is based on seniority, dictates that Miriam Naor is named the next Supreme Court president, they will ask Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to cut a shady deal with his friends and allow the Knesset to select the next leader of the judicial branch.
A third of the Judicial Nominations Committee is currently comprised of acting Supreme Court justices. That is because they are the only ones who don't have a personal stake in the nominations. But that is not acceptable to the Bennett-Levin alliance. They want the committee to have only one representative from the Supreme Court. Besides the prime minister's representative, the academy will also not be represented in the committee -- a shining example of the absence of academic freedom.
There is a legitimate debate over the question of whether the Supreme Court should be activist (like former chief justices Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch) or conservative (like current Chief Justice Asher Grunis). There are also legitimate claims against the Supreme Court for outlawing the detention of illegal African infiltrators in camps. (Many people feel that this ruling was wrong. I am convinced that former Prime Minister Menachem Begin is rolling over in his grave at the thought of human beings being held in detention for three years without trial. On the other hand, infiltration must be stopped. A new law needs to be passed under wide agreement and thoughtful consideration, not by bypassing the High Court of Justice.)
Mistakes have been made. Mistakes will be made in the future. But the High Court of Justice is a source of light in the Israeli democratic system. Aharon Barak's ruling in the case of the security barrier in Judea and Samaria ended up saving Israel in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and subsequently sparing Israel international sanctions.
But the extreme Israeli Right is blind to the truth. The High Court is persecuting settlers? Don't make a mockery. The extreme Left is reviling the Israeli court around the world, making it look as though it was meant to dole out justice only to Jews.
The true Jewish tradition, poured into the Land of Israel in the times of the prophets Isaiah and Amos and renewed in the visions of Theodor Herzl and Menachem Begin, always aspired for supremacy of the rule of law and granted judges the authority to overturn random laws legislated by parliament. Begin's legacy is enlightening, but most people in the current coalition have turned their backs on it.
Israel is an example of the glorious formula of Jewish democracy. The other, complimentary, side of the coin is justice and security. The High Court of Justice integrates the two sides. The court's opponents want to separate them. This is dangerous and foolish and detrimental. We have nothing to show the West other than our lighthouse of enlightenment, atop which sits our shining Supreme Court. I hope very much that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that.