Another Nail in the Coffin of Israel’s Democracy
The final snapshot of the outgoing Knesset – the most right-wing and most disgraceful of Knessets in the last decade – was provided at the beginning of this month by Chief Justice Esther Hayut.
Hayut decided that the High Court would deliberate on the petitions against the Nationality Bill, which states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People. This bill is a Basic Law, passed by “the Right” in an extremely moderated and watered-down version of the original. Chief Justice Hayut decided that the bill would be deliberated upon by a broad panel of eleven justices. The large panel is a gesture to Hayut’s colleague, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
This is a precedent, supremely important - and bleak. For the first time in Israel’s history, the court will deliberate on the disqualification of a Basic Law – a part of the Israeli constitution that is supposed to be the basis for adjudication and legislation. The very deliberation on possible disqualification of a Basic Law puts the High Court above the constitution, above the people and unequivocally determines that the sovereign with the final word in Israel is the High Court. If the High Court can disqualify a Basic Law, this means that no majority, no coalition or democratic measure can override it.
Who presided over the judiciary’s victorious ‘achievement’? Who tranquilized the Israeli public all the way from liberty to tyranny? Hayut? Former Chief Justice Dorit Beinish? No. The person who did this with Netanyahu-like finesse is the Right’s crown princess, Ayelet Shaked.
In this past Knesset term, Shaked was to the Justice Ministry what Miri Regev was to the Ministry of Culture. Much ado about nothing. Instead of choosing meaningful, deep reform that would subordinate the judges to the law and the justice system officials to the will of the voter, Shaked preferred blusterous, empty duels and a few insignificant judicial appointments.
In practice, she neutered the major reforms, either by melting them away or emptying them of content. When MK Amir Ohana proposed to allow the democratically elected Justice Minister to appoint the Attorney General of his/her choice, Shaked rewrote the bill so that the AG would be appointed by a search committee with a majority of unelected state officials. In addition, the committee would give precedence to state workers and the length of their term on the committee would be no less than seven years.
In other words, Shaked took the attempt to infuse the elected body with some governance, and turned it into another nail in the coffin of sovereignty of the People. That is just one example. There are many others, but they are not so important because the grand finale of Shaked’s term –the High Court deliberation on disqualification of a Basic Law - testifies more than anything else to her disgraceful failure to safeguard the remnants of Israeli democracy.
As cited above, Chief Justice Hayut announced that she intends to mark the final, official transfer of Israeli sovereignty from democracy to judicial Deep State with a full-honors funeral, replete with 11 judges. The pomp and circumstance are certainly appropriate. Because the judicial Deep State established by Netanyahu and Shaked puts the American model that coined the concept – and that to its embarrassment is still hiding in the shadows – to shame.
Because here in the Israeli Deep State, nothing is hidden or camouflaged. In the Israeli Deep State - the product of the “Right” that has been in rule for the last decade - the surrender of the democratically elected echelon was implemented with full agreement, complete cognizance and awareness.
Instead of a free country and victory over our enemies, instead of a free state for Israelis and a one-state-solution, Shaked has given us a Deep State for Israelis and a two-state-solution. Just like Miri Regev’s old Right, Shaked argues Right but goes as far Left as possible.
Now, Shaked has announced the establishment of an alternative party – the New Right. The New Right promises the Nation more of the same in a new, shiny package sans the devoutly religious, democracy and a party mechanism.
The upcoming elections are elections over our freedom. Our freedom to live as Jews, to choose our leaders, to legislate our laws and to live without fear. In the next elections, we can start anew. Not with the “New” Right and not with the old Left. In the upcoming elections, we can choose a new beginning with a truly new reality.
In the upcoming elections, we can choose liberty.
We can choose ZEHUT.
Image By Mark Neyman / Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63646445