Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Israel's Political System and Judicial Reform-- What's Going On?

I almost titled this post "Israeli Judicial Reform for Dummies," but didn't want to antagonize people. Also the topic is no joke. This is serious stuff, and it's complicated

Oy. Where should I start?

Let's start with the Israeli political system, which may be unique; though others may be similar in some ways. Let the adjectives used here be different or unique. I don't want any judgmental ones like better and worse. It doesn't pay to go there, since there is no country like the State of Israel in size, history, sociology, security needs etc. Being a democracy, Israel has developed into the country we know today, and in most ways it actually works well. 

Israel is a Parliamentary Democracy. Our parliament, called the Knesset, has one hundred and twenty 120 members. There are many political parties represented in the Knesset, and certainly even more that didn't get enough votes to be included. Now a party needs 4.5% of the votes, called the Electoral Threshold, to get any of their list in.

Each political party submits a list to election board by a certain date, and it's according to the order on the list that people become Members of Knesset. After the votes are counted, the failed parties subtracted and the numbers of MKs per party calculated, the President of the State of Israel then calls the leader #1 of the largest party and offers him/her to chance to form a coalition.

OK, I know that some of you are jumping in your seats trying to get my attention and ask why we have so many political parties. I'll start with a joke:

"two Jews five opinions"

OK, some say only three opinions, but Israeli society is too complex --remember that Israeli Arabs also vote and have a few political parties-- for two political parties to suffice. The political/social spectrum isn't a simple right/left. It also includes religious observance and many other factors. 

The Knesset reflects Israeli diversity, and that diversity isn't reflected at all in the High Court. The democratically elected MKs do not have a say in who sits as a justice on that court. The justices vote in their replacements, and they choose very carefully to find people who follow their ideology, which is far to the Left of the Israeli population. In recent years they have been making legal decisions that go against laws voted in by the elected MKs. That's not democracy. 

The justices don't base their decision on laws. They base their decisions on their political ideology, which is what they treasure and want to preserve. They call it "judicial independence." It's davka that "independence" which endangers Israeli democracy. 

Justice Minister Yariv Levin's plan will reduce the power of the High Court in a number of ways. I'm not getting into the details of the laws he proposes. You can click Judicial Reform for the details. I just wanted to show that reform is needed. 

Nobody has the right to play god, not even High Court justices. 

No comments: