Nobel Prize winner Professor Robert Yisrael Aumann tells Israel National News about the letter he signed with other professors and doctors in support of judicial reform.
Aumann, who received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2005, describes the letter as very factual and referring to the judicial revolution spearheaded by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak three decades ago that greatly extended the powers of the Supreme Court.
“The current effort is to roll back the the situation to what it was before Barak’s Revolution where he greatly extended the powers in all kinds of ways,” Aumann says. “He introduced the concept of reasonableness, where if the Supreme Court thinks that some action of the government or some law of the Knesset is unreasonable, then it can just say it's unreasonable and therefore strike it down.”
According to Aumann, he spoke to Barak about the powers of the judiciary after a lecture at the Academy of Sciences, and he was told by him that the Supreme Court justices are like the people who wrote the Talmud, in that Barak believes they are legislators as well as judges.
“In fact, he's right that our sages of the Talmud were both legislators and judges, but the thing is we don't have a theocracy here in Israel, we don't have the the kind of government that was at the time of the Talmud. We have a democracy, and in a democracy, it's the elected officials that make the laws and the judges who are adjudicating according to those laws.”
While the protesters are warning of “dictatorship,” he says that the situation is just the opposite.
“It's vice versa. [Proponents of judicial reform are] saying, ‘Well, we've had enough of the judiciary meddling in affairs that are in dispute, ideological matters,” he says. “The the Supreme Court should not decide on ideological matters. The Supreme Court is there in order to judge according to the laws.”
He plays down claims by senior officials in the finance ministry that the reform will harm the economy, explaining that their public predictions of economic doom, not the reform itself, are more likely to cause a worried reaction by the public that will lead to a downturn in the economy.
“The discussion in Israel is very unique because nobody talks about the actual content of the reform, the actual items that are being brought up to legislate and to discuss,” he says.
He questions why the people claiming the economy will be harmed never bring up specific reforms they allege would do damage financially to the country.
“In the short term, the economy will suffer, but that is not because of the reform. It’s because people say the economy will suffer and the economics are very fragile. When people have to look to the future to decide whether to invest and if economists forecast that the economy will go down, people will not invest. It’s not because of the reform but because of what they hear from economists.”
He believes that the dire predictions of the economists are “irresponsible and they’re based on nothing.”
“They are irresponsible because the prediction will bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy, and this may indeed happen. But I think the wise investors will wait until they think the economy has hit the bottom and then they will invest and there will be a big boom in the economy again because the prophecies are entirely baseless and the economy itself is robust,” he says.
“If there is an effect of the reform on the economy, then it's a positive effect because the Supreme Court is very activist,” he adds, noting that “it doesn't only strike down laws of the Knesset and decisions of government officials and ministers, it also strikes down contracts which have been entered into by people.”
He predicts that once the judicial reforms have been passed, the economy will experience a period of growth.
“I’ve been saying that for years: An activist court system, an activist judiciary, is bad for the economy. I think that people will see that no harm came to the economy and they will reinvest and there will be a big boom.”