"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." So goes the well-known American catch phrase. Similarly, in our country, certain individuals insist on "tending to" things that don't need repairs, making it necessary to protect these items from such "treatment."
The Knesset was reportedly preparing to deliberate a bill designed to lay siege to the High Court of Justice from three fronts. Firstly, the proposed law would give the Knesset -- the most political of Israel's authoritative bodies -- the power to designate the Supreme Court president along with his or her deputy. It would also reduce by two thirds the number of representatives from the Supreme Court sitting in the commission for electing judges. Lastly, it would grant the Knesset free reign to re-legislate laws that were struck down by the High Court because they were in clear violation of the human rights outlined in the Basic Laws, namely human dignity and liberty.
This purpose of this bill is to influence the individual makeup of the High Court, the identity of its president and the effectiveness of its rulings. If the bill is approved, certain politicians would become responsible for electing the individual destined to head the justice system. They would comprise the strongest contingency in the commission for appointing justices, which also designates Supreme Court justices, and they would have the power to castrate fundamental Supreme Court rulings meant to protect the individual from authoritative decisions that violate basic rights.
For decades, the Supreme Court president and his or her deputy have been appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee, according to seniority. The criteria is technical, naturally eliminating any need to prop up individuals to gain high office. The new bill seeks to transfer the authority of designation to the Knesset, clearly politicizing the process of electing the president of the Supreme Court, the future of which he or she is watching out for.
For decades, justices in Israel were tapped by commission that is composed pluralistically. It comprises three High Court judges, two ministers, two MKs and two reps from the Israeli Bar Association. This bill proposes leaving just one Supreme Court judge in the committee, though the number of politicians will remain unchanged. This would greatly strengthen the relative power of politicians in the committee. I don't need to elaborate on the significance of that development.
The third element of the bill -- allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws that were struck down -- is no less alarming, particularly given the fact that the issue came up shortly after the High Court made two crucial rulings: one that canceled a law allowing the detention of illegal migrants for an extended period of time without trial, and another that facilitated the dismissal of several mayors who were being prosecuting for serious offenses. The new bill looks like an attempted "retaliation" by certain legislators over these rulings. One could disagree, either in principle or ethically, with this or that explanation justifying a judicial ruling. It's even possible to propose other solutions to deal with these issues. But we need to shun this clear attempt to weaken the Supreme Court through an admixture of politically influencing its composition and voiding its rulings.