MK Yoel Hasson
MK Yoel HassonIsrael news photo: Flash 90

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) has announced his intention to hold an emergency conference under the title “Saving Democracy” this coming Monday.

The meeting is being held because of the new legislation that will change the way that judges are selected to the Supreme Court.

Last week, the Knesset approved two bills seeking to reform appointments to the Supreme Court. The first bill called for the automatic appointment of the Bar Association president to the Judge Selection Committee.

The second bill, dubbed the Grunis Law, was proposed by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union). It amends the present law and would allow the appointment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice with only two years remaining until retirement.

Israel's Supreme Court Chief Justices are appointed on the basis of seniority. The bill is widely seen as meant to pave the way for Justice Asher Dan Grunis to serve as the next president. Grunis is not a rightist and is not religious, but he is against the activist Supreme Court policy initiated by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who claimed that "everything is judgeable" in the courts and proceeded to act upon that principle.  Under Barak the court went against the Defense MInistry position, changed the route of the security fence to comply with Arab claims and opened route 443 to Arab drivers, despite IDF security-related objections. 

However, a third bill that would require candidates for the Supreme Court to be vetted by a Knesset committee, similar to the U.S. Senate review of Supreme Court Justices, was blocked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. His reasoning was that the bill stands in contrast to the coalition guidelines.

“The sole purpose of the legislation led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition is to weaken the judiciary and to hurt freedom of expression and democracy,” Hasson said. “It has no place in a democracy but in dark regimes.”

He added, “The dark winds which blow through the corridors of the Knesset, the parliament of the State of Israel, require a serious discussion in light of the predictable consequences of the legislation which we see day and night coming from the coalition. These laws hurt the principle of separation of powers - which is a key principle in maintaining the democracy in the State of Israel.”

Israel has no constitution and those in favor of the bills claim that the appointed members of the Supreme Court, as Chief Justic Dorit Beinisch follows Aharon Barak's principles for its operation, has usurped the role of the duly elected legislature and ministries by deciding legislative issues in the courts.

The conference will be attended by Kadima Chairwoman and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni as well as by officials in Israel’s justice system, including former Israel Press Council Chairperson and former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, former Supreme Court Vice President Justice Eliahu Mazza and more.

“Israeli democracy is at risk and if this line of legislation continues, there is real concern over Israel’s continuing as a democratic state, as provided by the country’s founding fathers when signed the Declaration of Independence,” Hasson claimed.