Sunday April 20th 2014

New Bill Promotes Checks & Balances for Supreme Court

by Naama Ben-Yaakov

Likud Members of Knesset Z’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin proposed a bill on Wednesday that would allow the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to veto appointments of Supreme Court judges.

The bill came in response to years of judicial activism viewed by the Israeli public as promoting narrow political and cultural agendas representing less than 1% of the country. The Supreme Court has also been accused on several occasions of representing the class interests of Israel’s wealthiest citizens and sometimes even the local political interests of the European Union and United States.

The legislation being proposed by Elkin and Levin states that every judge and president appointed to the Supreme Court would be subject to a public hearing in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Any appointment vetoed by the committee would not be able to serve in the Supreme Court.

“This law will break the hegemony of the anti-Zionist elite in the justice system and return the sovereignty of the people and the Knesset to democratic life in Israel,” Levin said. “Whoever vetoes laws should have to stand before the public and be chosen in a transparent and democratic process.”

“This law will prevent the method in which Supreme Court judges appoint their friends to the bench, and will prevent judges with post-Zionist agendas from being appointed.”

Indy News Israel reported in June that the “Rehavia Gang” that has ruled Israel’s judicial system for 16 years may finally be losing power.

The two most notorious representatives of the ‘gang’ – named after the upscale Jerusalem neighborhood where most of its members reside – are present Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and her predecessor, Aharon Barak.

After assuming the presidency of the Supreme Court in 1995, Barak transformed the country’s highest judicial body into what many Israelis view to be a self-perpetuating oligarchy functioning as an alternative government to the elected one. Barak was infamous during his term for striking down several parliamentary laws as unconstitutional despite the state of Israel not yet possessing a constitution.

Beinisch succeeded Barak in 2006 and continued his activist approach but completes her term on February 28, 2012. Another veteran judge, Edmund Levy, is expected to retire in October 2011.

Levin noted that his bill “has a special importance because a new Supreme Court President will be chosen in the next few months. This will end the ‘seniority method’ that exists today.”