The Planned Overhaul of Israel’s Judiciary

 

 


Israel’s Minister of Justice recently introduced a legislative package aimed at overhauling Israel’s judicial system.

The explicit intent of the reformers is to weaken the judiciary’s capacity to oversee the executive and legislative branches, while concentrating power in the hands of the coalition, which in the Israeli system controls the legislature. Supporters of the changes justify them as necessary to rein in an unaccountable judiciary, while opponents of the changes fear that the removal of the only effective check on executive power in Israel will jeopardize civil liberties, economic prosperity, and Israel’s international standing.

The series of initiatives include:

  • An ‘override clause’ designed to curtail judicial review of legislation.
  • Changes to the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee designed to ensure the government controls appointments to the bench.
  • Cancellation of the ‘standard of extreme unreasonableness’ utilized by the Supreme Court to intervene in executive orders.
  • The transformation of ministerial legal advisors into political appointees.

 

The Override Clause:

Changes to the Judicial Selection Committee

The Standard of (Extreme) Unreasonableness

Public Opinion On the Proposals

Publications Regarding The Planned Overhaul of Israel’s Judiciary

Articles

Research

The Curtailing of Judicial Review and Economic Indices

Will the overhaul of Israel’s judiciary impact Israel’s economic stability?

Op-ed

The Coalition Agreements of Israel's 37th Government: The Appointment of Legal Advisors in Government Ministries

Turning ministry legal advisors into political appointees will deprive them of their ability to protect the rule of law and will reduce public trust in the ministries.

Op-ed

The Proposed “Reform” of the Judicial System Poses Risk to the Israeli Economy

Debilitating the judicial system would deal a blow to overseas investors’ motivation to invest in Israel and lead to a sharp drop in its credit rating. We need only look at the precedents of Turkey, Hungary, and Poland, to understand just how serious the threat is.

Book Summary

The High Court Wars: The Constitutional Revolution and the Counter-Revolution

The appointment of conservative judges to the court, and even the enactment of a certain version of the override clause, will not bring about the destruction of the Supreme Court, and will certainly not turn Israel into a totalitarian state. However, the continued attacks on the Court, and the potential passage of the most extreme proposals pose a serious challenge to Israeli democracy.

Book Summary

Checks and Balances: The Override Clause and Its Effect on the Three Branches of Government

The debate surrounding the Override Clause should really focus on the disproportionate power of the Knesset and not on the power of the Supreme Court. All other democracies have structural mechanisms that limit the concentration of power in the hands of one institutions - we must create such a mechanism in Israel as well.

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Explainer

Prof. Amichai Cohen on the importance of protecting the Israeli Supreme Court

Why is the Supreme Court's independence so important to Israeli democracy and what are the proposed reforms attempting to achieve? Listen to a short explanation by Prof. Amichai Cohen, senior fellow at IDI.

Op-ed

The Case for a ‘Constitutional Truce’ in Israel

There’s a need for judicial reform, but the Supreme Court plays a crucial role in safeguarding democracy.

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Webinar

JFNA-IDI Webinar - Israel's New Government

Eric Fingerhut, CEO and President of the JFNA with Yohanan Plesner, President of IDI and Prof. Suzie Navot, VP of IDI discuss the new government's legislation proposals and the future of Israeli democracy. January 2023.

Overview

The Operational Independence of the Police: A Fundamental Principle in Foreign Legal Systems and Should Apply in Israel as Well

The bill to amend the Police Ordinance has been compared to practices in other countries - however it ignores the fact that other countries have in place procedures that guarantee the operational independence of the police when it implements the policies laid down to guide its actions

Op-ed

Israel Heading Toward a Silenced, Paralyzed Society

The blow would be hardest for organizations whose role is to defend vulnerable groups, including; those living below the poverty line, the elderly, women, and people with disabilities.

Play
Overview

Prof. Amichai Cohen: a historical overview of Israel's current constitutional crisis

Prof. Amichai Cohen, Senior Fellow at IDI, the Center for Security and Democracy, provides an in-depth historical overview of Israel's constitutional crisis and the background to the currently proposed judicial review reforms, particularly, the "override clause".

Op-ed

Splitting Up Ministries will Undermine Effective Governance and Public Service

Moving units from one ministry to the next, to satisfy political needs, has a negative impact on the Ministries' ability to provide the necessary service at a high level.

Op-ed

Changing the System for Judicial Appointments—Only with a Broad Consensus

Despite controversy, changes to the Judicial Selection Committee, must be made with broad consensus - and not by slimmest of majorities.

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Speech

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin Speaking at the Judicial Reform Conference 2022

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin speaking at the Fix It Don't Destroy It Judicial Reform Conference at the Israel Democracy Institute, December 2022.

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Conversation

Prof. Alan Dershowitz in conversation with Dr. Jesse Ferris at IDI’s Judicial Reform Conference

Prof. Alan Dershowitz in conversation with Dr. Jesse Ferris at IDI’s Judicial Reform Conference 2022.

Press Release

#Fix It, Don’t Destroy It

The Israel Democracy Institute’s special conference today (December 12th) focused on the implications of the proposed judicial reforms that have been proposed by members of the incoming coalition. 

 

Article

How Israeli Judges Are Appointed: Questions and Answers

Why it is a bad idea to allow the coalition the deciding voice in the appointment of Supreme Court justices? Is it true that in Israel, judges appoint themselves? The complete guide to the impending constitutional reform.

Op-ed

What Are the Challenges to Israel’s Democracy?

Israel still has no constitution, and the separation of powers seems fragile. What challenges will Israel’s democracy face in the next government?

Play
Explainer

Prof. Suzie Navot Explains the Override Clause

Why is the override clause at the heart of the forthcoming coalition's agenda and how does this relate to civil rights in Israel? Prof. Suzie Navot, Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute explains the role of the Supreme Court in Israel's democratic system in just over two minutes.

Israeli Voice Index

Supreme Court Should Retain Power – Survey

The majority of Israelis think that the Supreme Court should retain its ability to strike down legislation that contravenes the country’s Basic Laws – and only 16% said that the Judicial Selection Committee that appoints justices should be politicized by increasing the number of elected officials serving on it.

Op-ed

61 Cats Guarding the Cream

The optimistic hope that the majority will not take advantage of its power to perpetuate its rule is akin to leaving the cream to be guarded by 61 cats. The temptation is just too strong.

Op-ed

The Proposed High Court Override Clause Will Reverse Gender Equality Gains

The new coalition's shortage of women and its proposed High Court override clause are a danger to the struggle for gender equality in Israel.

Article

Judicial Reform in Israel

In this edited transcript of her conversation with BICOM Director Richard Pater, Vice-President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute Professor Suzie Navot argues that judicial reforms proposed by the right-wing bloc – to Knesset override of the Supreme Court, executive immunity, and the appointment of judges – threaten Israeli democracy and the already fragile separation of powers.

Podcast

Judicial Reform

Prof. Suzie Navot sits down with Richard Pater of Bicom, to discuss judicial reform. Prof. Navot explains the background of Israel’s legal system, its uniqueness among other parliamentary democracies and the significance of potentially implementing an override clause.

Explainer

The Override Clause Explainer

Turning court rulings into a “recommendation” that the Knesset could override, is likely to exacerbate tensions that already exists between the Supreme Court and the Knesset.

Op-ed

The Destruction of the Rule of Law

The proposal to abolish the Judicial Selections Committee would lead to politicization of the judiciary, undermine judges’ independence, and shift the careful balance reached through it between the branches of government.

Article

Terms of Office of Supreme Court Justices

In Israel, judges sit on the bench until they reach the age of 70, while advocates for changing the current method of their appointment often support the idea of limiting Supreme Court judges’ tenure.

Article

How Many Laws Were Struck Down by the Supreme Court in Israel?

With calls to enact an 'override clause' to push back against judicial review back in the news, Dr. Amir Fuchs analyzed the twenty laws the Court has overturned since Israel's establishment

Op-ed

The Knesset and the Court: Is This Israel’s Override Election?

"This election will be less about which candidate ends up as prime minister, but rather the real possibility of radical judicial reforms that might soon pass in the Knesset and which would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to perform crucial oversight over the political system."

Op-ed

Whatever Happened to the Override Clause?

It turns out that voters actually want robust judicial oversight - which explains why the Override Clause and placing limitations on judicial review have not been prominant in the election campaign

Article

Attempts to Curtail the Supreme Court

The Israel Democracy Institute offers a look inside efforts to reduce politicization of Israel's Supreme Court.

Op-ed

Toward Tyranny of the Majority

Granting the government additional power, which will enable overriding Basic Laws in simple legislation must not be allowed, lest the defense of basic civil rights in Israel are compromised

Op-ed

The Weakest Constitution in the World

The Override Clause would not alter the balance between the branches of government – it would shift the balance of power between the government and the governed

Press Release

Strengthening the 'Rule of Law' in Coalition Agreements

The Israel Democracy Institute calls on Parties to Demand Strengthening of 'Rule of Law' and 'Separation of Power's in Coalition Agreements.

Op-ed

The Return of the Override Clause? A Dangerous and Unnecessary Step

Laws define the legal rules of our democracy and ensure the stability of the political system while guaranteeing individual rights and general public interest - enactment of the Override Clause would seriously undermine this balance.

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Research Reel

How Do We Choose Judges in Israel?

How are judges appointed in Israel? Who sits on the committee? And why is it so important to maintain the balance between judicial independence and democratic accountability in the appointing process? Tune in to learn more with Dr. Guy Lurie

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Personal Story

The Override Clause and Special Needs Children

Ilil Leder, relates how she was able to achieve equality in education for her daughter and all special needs children with the help of the High Court of Justice

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Personal Story

The Override Clause and Equality in Schools

Attorney Yoav Laloum relates how by petitioning the High Court of Justice he was able to stop ethnic separation in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions

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Personal Story

The Override Clause and Gender Equality in the IDF

Alice Miller describes how the High Court of Justice helped change women’s military service and improve gender equality in the IDF

Press Release

What is the Public’s Opinion on the Override Clause?

A special survey conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the
Israel Democracy Institute finds: The majority of the Israeli public fears that implementation of the Override Clause by the Knesset will give unlimited power to politicians and lead to an increase in political corruption

Article

Government Ministers to Vote on Bill to Override Supreme Court Decisions

The Prime Minister is currently fighting to remove the Supreme Court's power to strike down Knesset legislation, thereby turning the last protector of human rights in Israel into merely an advisory board. He is even threatening elections over the issue. 

 

Op-ed

Override: A Serious Blow to Democracy

Dr. Amir Fuchs argues that an override of Supreme Court decisions should be stoutly resisted by democrats from all parts of the political spectrum.

Op-ed

Overriding the Supreme Court: A Breach in the Wall of Democracy

Dr. Amir Fuchs discusses the proposal to add an override clause to Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom that would enable the Knesset to bypass the High Court and deal a a severe blow to the main safeguard of human rights and minorities in Israel.

Op-ed

Basic Law: Legislation – A Lethal Blow to the Supreme Court

IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Adv. Amir Fuchs analyze the proposed legislation that would allow the Knesset to reinstate laws that have been struck down by the Israeli High Court and warn of a threat to judicial review and civil liberties.

Play
Personal Story

The Override Clause and Shielding School Classrooms

Batya Katar describes how she was able to make the state allocate the necessary budget to shield classrooms against rockets through the intervention of the High Court of Justice