Justice Minister and judicial reform architect Yariv Levin
Justice Minister and judicial reform architect Yariv LevinHaim Twito

The Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative thinktank which for years lobbied in favor of the changes to Israel’s judiciary now included in the Israeli government’s reform plan, is now calling for the judicial overhaul to be softened in the hope of building a broad consensus behind it.

In a statement released to the press Wednesday, the organization noted that it has played a role both in drawing up the reforms now included in the judicial reform plan, and had advocated on behalf of the plan initially.

The forum “has been conducting research on the issue of checks and balances among the branches of government in Israel for over a decade. We believe that comprehensive reform is necessary in light of the unchecked power that the judiciary has accumulated vis-à-vis the representative branches.”

“The current state of imbalance among the branches has led to systemic dysfunction and to a sense of alienation among those segments of the population who feel the courts do not represent them.”

However, the Kohelet Policy Forum said that given the intense opposition to the reform plan among a large segment of the population, the overhaul should be softened to win “the widest possible support.”

“It is very important to achieve a broad consensus regarding the required changes. Immediately after the Minister of Justice announced the reform, we began talks with colleagues who oppose it, in an attempt to reach agreements and compromises. We did this in the belief that such reform should be passed with the widest possible support.”

The group argued that some measures included in the reform plan can be softened, while the Override Clause – a measure which would enable the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings striking down Knesset law – should be scrapped altogether.

“We found that with regard to many issues, the gaps could be bridged: for example, the manner in which the Supreme Court would be empowered to invalidate ordinary legislation, as well as the use of the “reasonableness” standard and the status of the Attorney General’s opinion.”

“Concerns about potential abuse of Basic Laws by the coalition can be alleviated by establishing a rigid mechanism for the enactment or amendment of such laws (such as a requirement for a fourth reading in a subsequent Knesset and a majority of 61 MKs in all readings), along with the clarification that they are immune from judicial review. It is also possible to reach an agreement on abandonment of the "override clause", while finding alternative solutions to specific problems it was meant to address.”

“The issue of the composition of the committee for the selection of judges remains unresolved. We believe that a solution can be reached that will eliminate the veto held by the representatives of the Supreme Court, will give the coalition an advantage in the committee, and will also increase the influence of the opposition. This could be achieved, for example, by having the coalition partially represented on the panel by professional appointments.”

The forum urged President Isaac Herzog, who has called on both the Coalition and the Opposition to enter into negotiations towards a compromise agreement, to adopt Kohelet’s draft as a basis for talks.

“Our hope is that a good compromise will help to heal the public atmosphere. Our hope is that the reform will allow progress towards the adoption of a consensual constitution for the State of Israel, which will include a comprehensive Bill of Rights.”