Netanyahu’s judicial reforms: An act of capitulation or a strategic retreat?

By Malcolm Dash

Historic events unfolding.

It takes a certain degree of naivete for one to analyze the complex and intricate unfolding of history in real-time. And it may be presumptuous or imprudent to propose alternative prescriptions. However, after enduring an extended period of constitutional and societal strife lasting eight months, it is fitting to conduct an assessment and suggest possible remedies.

Retired generals’ incitement to public demonstrations, plus the pilot’s rebellion against their service obligations and foreign intervention, have impeded the country’s ability to operate efficiently.These elements have coalesced to create a complex and demanding milieu for the nation to abridge.

The insurrection, in one fell swoop, has had far-reaching and negative consequences. Commercial enterprises, tourism, and the country’s global image have suffered significant harm. The gravity of these self-inflicted wounds cannot be overemphasized. Many individuals and businesses will encounter challenges in managing the aftermath.

National identity-cultural characteristics

The protest movement, which has psychotic undertones, has centered on a topic that is of utmost importance, both implicitly and explicitly. This concerns its impact on national identity and social cohesion, which is at the very core of the conflict. The crux of the issue revolves around whether we should consider Israel a state for all its citizens or the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Recent protests have brought this long-standing division to the forefront and caused caustic debates and disagreements among different groups. Careful consideration ought to be given to these arguments, as they pertain to fundamental matters of identity, belonging, and inclusiveness. Any resolution or decision made regarding this matter will have far-reaching consequences for Israeli society.

The debate surrounding Israel’s future identity centers on two opposing views. On the one hand, there are those who advocate for a secular paradigmatic, progressive, post-Zionist, and post-modern concept that aligns with the values of many Western nations. If this perspective were to be adopted, the state would have to eliminate Jewish religious influence from its bureaucracy and replace its Jewish character and symbols with a nonreligious national identity.

However, there are those who argue that Israel should maintain its status as the nation-state of the Jewish people to safeguard their unique cultural heritage and religious practices. This would entail safeguarding Judaism as an intrinsic component of the state’s identity and ensuring the protection of its heritage, customs, and traditions. The question of which path to take is complex and multifaceted, requiring consideration of historical context, political realities, and social dynamics.

The street rules-millions in funding

The persistent public protests have been sparked by ex-military and security officials. Without being held accountable, they have taken on the guardianship of inciting the masses, ceaselessly fueling the fervor of the dissent movement. These well-financed demonstrations aim to delegitimize and ultimately topple the government.

This cohort has successfully secured significant support from the mainstream media, which tirelessly promotes their agenda with unwavering fervor. There are no indications of this unrelenting protest movement subsiding any time soon. Therefore, it is imperative that the authorities take prompt measures to impede its further progress.

Failure to do so will cause a gradual erosion of democracy and have long-term negative consequences for society. It’s crucial that resolute measures are taken to ameliorate the situation and hold the culpable leaders of the demonstrations accountable.

The individuals behind the current wave of chaotic protests have gone to great lengths, both financially and otherwise, in their efforts to bring down the current government. This is a bloodless coup, and the significance and magnitude of the current state of affairs cannot be overstated. It is therefore, crucial for the government to promptly take measures to tackle the chaos and reinstate a sense of stability and order throughout the country.

Security establishment

In order to ensure that justice is being served and citizens’ trust in the legal system is maintained, it is crucial to thoroughly evaluate the response of law enforcement institutions—specifically, the police force—when faced with civil unrest. There have been allegations that police officers have failed to enforce the full extent of the law against demonstrators who have blatantly violated it. This type of behavior only serves to erode public confidence in a fair application of justice, which is essential for a functioning society.

Misleading media

In today’s world, it is of utmost importance to examine and analyze the effects that both traditional print and social media have on organizing and amplifying protests. This presents unprecedented challenges for those in positions of power who must navigate the delicate balance between regulating the spread of information and managing public opinion. Digital platforms have revolutionized communication, facilitating the rapid mobilization of large groups.

Democratic governments are trying to find a balance between regulating communication and protecting free speech. This issue will be a major point of disagreement in the future as we deal with the consequences of our connected world.

The rule of law or the rule of lawyers

The conflict between the rule of law and the rule of lawyers remains a critical matter in the constitutional crisis pertaining to the Supreme Court. Judges have assumed powers never given to them by Parliament. They preside over a wide range of issues, such as political, security-related, ethical, and principle-based controversies, that lack any legal foundation.

If that wasn’t bad enough, extrajudicial decisions rendered by a homogeneous court with a progressive agenda result in legislation that doesn’t align with the desires of the people.To complete their power grab, they conferred autocratic authority on the Attorney General’s office. Transitioning their function from that of a governmental advisor to the ultimate authority for approval or denial of government legislation.

It is ultimately up to the Supreme Court to bring a definitive end to the chaos of the protest movement. To do so, they must embrace and comply with legitimate reforms.Unfortunately, this court vehemently resists relinquishing its powers and will continue rejecting the proposed reforms.

What options does the government have when confronted with an unyielding legal establishment that is unwilling to implement reforms? The government can retreat and surrender its reform initiatives, lick its wounds, and hope that over time conditions change in its favor.

There exists an alternative recourse available to the government where all other options have failed. This is the override clause, also described as the “nuclear option.” In essence, this implies that statutes can be promulgated that are immune from judicial repeal.  While this approach should only be used in extreme circumstances, it can provide a way to move forward when other methods have failed.

If the government proves incapable or disinclined to enact the override clause, what other alternatives remain? It has the capacity to designate an independent Commission for Judicial and Constitutional Affairs. A Committee vested with the authority to audit, censure, and guarantee that the highest court confines itself to construing statutes rather than legislating them. They can also make decisions regarding:

  1. Composition of the court
  2. Judicial overreach
  3. Misconduct
  4. Ethical behaviour
  5. Ensure that basic laws are immutable

Netanyhu, capitulation or strategic retreat

Netanyahu does not require this article to recognize the predicaments faced by Israel or the remedies it proposes. He and his advisors must have exhaustively reviewed the issues, exploring numerous viewpoints and devising a plethora of solutions.Therefore, it is justifiable to question why the Netanyahu administration has been unsuccessful or unwilling to implement judicial reforms?

Is he fully committed to the reform policies?

Perhaps he’s intimidated by the demonstrations on the streets and the potential dangers posed by ex-military and security officials?

Does he hold the belief that implementation of the reforms may trigger a civil war?

Could the root cause be the pilots’ refusal to carry out their service obligations?

Maybe it’s reaching agreement on the  ‘Saudi normalization plan’, which may include recognition of a Palestinian state.

Possibly it’s all of the above.

To sum up,

The current and continuous divergence of viewpoints within Israeli society is a matter of great significance; it has the potential to markedly shape the future course of the nation.

Ultimately, the path forward requires mutual agreement from all stakeholders involved: members of parliament, government officials, business leaders, and the electorate. However, given the current state of affairs, the prospect of such an outcome seems remote at best.

An historical opportunity exists that may not come again for a long time, if ever. It is the parliamentary majority, consisting of 64 seats held by right-leaning parties and backed by the majority of the public.

The government has been bestowed with the authority to dismantle the hegemony of entrenched elites and their bureaucrats.

The Supreme Court serves as the primary point of departure to reverse the oppressive rule of elitist tyranny. Without a just and unbiased judicial system, dedicated to interpreting laws rather than crafting them, no other transformations can be achieved.

With the exception of an attenuated statute on ‘reasonableness’, all other reforms have been put on hold. Clearly, the government has acquiesced to and ultimately capitulated to the demands of the protest movement.

It’s high time for Netanyahu to project resolute leadership and permit the coalition to start governing. If he fails to do so, he must respect his constituents by surrendering control to someone who possesses the necessary skills and zeal to take on the task.

September 21, 2023 | Comments »

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