Daily Israel Report

Min. Bennett: Courts Shouldn't Govern

Bayit Yehudi chairman calls to make the courts “balanced,” and “select judges in the right way.”
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 10/21/2013, 1:45 PM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Hillel Meir

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the religious-Zionist Bayit Yehudi party, accused the Israeli court system Monday of straying from its proper role and interfering in matters that are not under its purview.

"We need to strengthen the trust in the court system, to make it balanced, and to select the judges in a more proper way,” he said, at a conference in Tel Aviv.

"In any proper country,” he said, “the government governs and the judges judge. Once the court begins to govern – it's a problem.”

Bennett's party, together with Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud), are currently advancing a bill that would make it easier for the Knesset to re-legislate a law that had been struck down as “unconstitutional” by the courts. Israel's High Court has voided a number of laws passed by the legislature as “unconstitutional,” even though Israel does not have a constitution. 

In presenting the legislative initiative to limit the courts' ability to interfere with the work of the other government branches, MK Ayelet Shaked of Bayit Yehudi declared, “The Knesset, as the sovereign power in a democracy, has the right to the final word regarding matters of value and principle.”

“Over the last 20 years there has been a constitutional revolution that has weakened the power of the executive and legislative branches, and has given preference to the judicial branch. We are interested in fixing that,” she added.

The proposal Shaked and Levin put forth, with backing from Bennett, includes the following:

- Putting the Knesset in charge of electing the Supreme Court President.

- Placing limitations on the Supreme Court’s power to overturn laws passed by Knesset.

- Giving the Knesset new powers to vote a second time for laws that the Supreme Court has overturned. The Knesset would be allowed to vote in overturned laws with a majority of at least 61 votes, for a period of no more than four years.

- The committee to select judges would be changed to give just one seat, instead of three, to representatives from the Supreme Court.

Many nationalist leaders and thinkers in Israel contend that the courts tend to lean left, politically, and that their interference in legislation is politically motivated, undemocratic and unfair. Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak is often portrayed by nationalists as the main force behind the "constitutional revolution" that Shaked was referring to, in which the courts usurped powers that do not belong to them, according to critics.