Kontorovich: Time to reverse ‘power grab’ by Israeli justice

Kontorovich: Time to reverse ‘power grab’ by Israeli justice

Kontorovich: Time to reverse ‘power grab’ by Israeli justice

Legal expert Professor Eugene Kontorovich, who has championed many of Israel’s controversial judicial reform proposals, told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Sunday that it was time to reverse the “power grab” by which judges gained considerable authority in the 1990s.

Kontorovich, who is director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, which has been advocating judicial reform in Israel for a decade, pointed to the judicial revolution led by then-Supreme Court President Aharon Barak at the mid 1990s.

“To say that what Aharon Barak did on his own without permission in 1995 can no longer be undone without undermining Israeli democracy is absurd,” Kontorovich said.

The “Barak Court” assumed the power to strike down legislation and review administrative decisions. In addition, an “independent” committee selects the judges, with elected leaders playing only a minor role.

Kontorovich called on Israel’s judicial system to mirror the US system, in which Supreme Court nominees are nominated by the president and voted on by the Senate.

Barak also introduced the term “reasonable” into Israeli jurisprudence. The term, critics say, has become a legal pretzel with loose definitions that change at the whim of High Court judges. For example, the court ruled it “unreasonable” to allow religious Jews to pray on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – because it would anger the Arab world.
Kontorovich argues that Israel is the only country where the Supreme Court controls all aspects of life. The new reforms proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, aim to rebalance that judiciary with the legislature, he said.

There is fierce opposition. On Saturday evening, some 80,000 people marched out in Tel Aviv to protest government reforms, encouraged by leftist political leaders calling the democratically elected government ‘illegitimate’ and accusing it of carrying out a ‘coup’. .

Kontorovich vehemently disagrees: “To say that the fundamental features of the Israeli legal system cannot be designed by the representatives of the people is outrageous,” Kontorovich told Breitbart.

Other critics of the proposed reforms, such as Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, disagreed with the proposals but also defended Israel against the claim that it would no longer be a democracy if the reforms were implemented. implementation: many other democracies have similar judicial structures.
Dershowitz claimed that Israel’s current system “is much better than the American system”, which he calls “overtly political”.

While Dershowitz refrained from echoing claims by opposition leaders that the proposed reforms threaten Israeli democracy, he said they would threaten civil liberties and rights in addition to making it more difficult to defend Israel before international tribunals.

Kontorovich said Dershowitz, whom he hailed as a “venerable lawyer,” was wrong on both counts. Israel’s assertive judiciary has never been able to prevent the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice from making anti-Israel rulings, he said. On the second point, “minorities currently have no protection from the Supreme Court,” Kontorovich said.

“The Supreme Court can decide to be hostile to minorities because it has done so many times and there is simply no recourse,” he said, pointing to court rulings against Jewish settlers in West Bank as well as rulings against Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

“Under the current system, judges strike down the law without appeal because they are simply unreasonable,” he said.

Another of Yariv’s proposals that has been criticized by Dershowitz and the left-wing opposition is the notwithstanding clause, which would allow the Knesset to re-enact laws that the Supreme Court struck down, pending a simple 61-seat majority. (out of 120).

According to Kontorovich, a majority of 61 seats is harder to obtain than a supermajority would be in the United States

“61 is not a narrow majority, getting 61 votes is very hard to do and the last 5 years prove it – no government has had 61 votes for anything,” Kontorovich said. “Almost all laws are passed with less than 61, even fundamental laws.”

He went on to explain that Israel’s separation of powers is evident in its multi-party system. “In the United States, when one party controls both houses and the president, which is almost half the time, it [party is] unstoppable and extremely powerful, but you don’t see any special rules in this case, [there is not] suddenly a different way of choosing Supreme Court justices just so it’s not completely political,” he said.

In Israel, every government, even a strong government like Netanyahu’s, is made up of six or seven parties and puts everyone on the same page – especially on controversial bills – when facing the Supreme Court and the enormous international pressure is extremely difficult, explained Kontorovich.

Moreover, the Supreme Court “simply outgunned the Knesset.”

The Supreme Court of Israel decides about 12,000 cases each year. By comparison, the US Supreme Court handles an average of about 80 cases per year.

“All the Supreme Court has to do is say ‘illegal’ and [the legislation is] canceled – they don’t even need to issue an opinion,” he said, citing a recent example with the controversial gas deal in Lebanon, in which the court still hasn’t drafted an opinion. ‘notice.

Instead, the Knesset must draft a law and pass it through three readings.

“The Knesset has no chance. He can’t follow. You can’t get contentious bill readings 12,000 times or even three times a year, so the Supreme Court will keep overturning them,” Kontorovich said.

“The Israeli Supreme Court controls all aspects of life. The question is, how can they hear the evidence of 12,000 cases? When they wield their powers and arrest the government [from passing legislation]they don’t need evidence, they just decide,” he said.

“No facts, no discovery. No one ever knows what the truth is,” he concluded.

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