Rivlin at Knesset session
Rivlin at Knesset session Flash 90

The Knesset began its winter session Monday. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stronly criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the governing coalition in his traditional speech at the opening plenum, for the ongoing efforts to restrict what the Supreme Court's authority.

"I can only describe what I see in what appears to be an ongoing attempt to weaken the gatekeepers of Israeli democracy," Rivlin said.

"For example, regarding the courts, an abyss lies between the responsible and courageous attempt to define, after many years, the relations between the legislative and judicial branches, to limit judicial review, to ask questions about the appointment mechanism, to seek a more varied and representative panel of judges - and the attempt to intimidate the court, to weaken it as an institution and to invite the public to challenge its authority and its decisions," the president said.

Rivlin compared the current efforts to restrict the court's authority to the 'judicial revolution' of the 1990s, in which former Chief Justice Aharon Barak greatly increased the power of the court at the expense of the other branches of government.

“About a decade ago, I stood before one of the giants of Israeli law, Aharon Barak, and warned that the announcement of the judicial revolution was actually a declaration of a coup. I said to him then, and I quote: ‘Any definition that changes the balance [between the branches of government], any act that expresses or even hints at stepping into the authority of another branch, creates a reality of ‘chaotic democracy,’ of a systemic and dangerous chaos,” Rivlin said.

“Today, three decades after the announcement of that ‘judicial revolution,’ I would like to point out what I believe to be the counter-movement of the historical pendulum, in what seems to be a decision among the top echelons to tip the balance [in the other direction],” he added.

In contrast, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in his speech at the opening of the winter session that "the separation of powers in Israel has become a myth." He said that the executive and judicial branches have taken authority away from the Knesset, making "the opinions of the MKs unnecessary."

"The division of power between the three branches and the strict observance [of that separation,] so that each of them will carry out its unique function, are necessary and not just a decorative. These are the defining elements of our governmental structure. These are the things which guarantee the freedom of our citizens. Without them, Israel's prosperity as a Jewish and democratic state is in danger," Edelstein added.

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