This post is not a simple matter. To explain to an English speaking reader why the recent attack on the High Court of Justice is more than an act of political petulance by this or another politician might take some doing. After all, the English speaking world is organized upon various constitutions written lots of years ago and, aside of law experts, the principle of three separate branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) may seem trivial and is rarely, if at all, challenged. Western democracies, by and large, live by this principle and it seems to be working quite well, if not perfectly. The balance between the three branches is a delicate interplay of many factors, created during hundreds of years and its fragility precludes any careless change, which might destroy the whole edifice.
It is important (to me) to address one point before I proceed. Based on the current affairs, criticism of the attack on the High Court of Justice may be interpreted as coming from the left. It isn't so. Just a reminder: this country is managed most of the time since 1977 by right wing governments*. It naturally follows that, if any of the political wings in this country has reasons to be unhappy with the judicial branch, it is the ruling one. It is chiefly the ruling wing's legislation and executive activities that come under the scrutiny of our courts, for a good reason. Enough said.
It will be somewhat (not significantly, but still) easier to accept the claim that there needs to be a review of the judiciary branch's powers, having a goal of curtailing some of them, if our country could be called an accomplished and stable democracy. A democracy ruled by enlightened politicians and a wise legislative forum, whose only concerns are to keep the lights of democracy burning and to improve our common lot.
Unfortunately, the situation in Israel is far from being as wished. A brief look at the list, helpfully prepared by some Wiki dweller, shows the extent of corruption in our executive and legislative branches:
- One imprisoned president (another one resigned to avoid in depth investigation of his deeds).
- One imprisoned Prime Minister.
- About ten ministers.
- Approximately the same number of Knesset members
- An uncounted number of police officials punished for bribery, sexual harassment, dereliction of duty etc.
As for our ability to choose our new solons wisely: here comes the case of the latest addition to the Knesset for Likud, one Oren Hazan. These days he is a member of five Knesset committees and a deputy Knesset speaker - who used to run a casino in Bulgaria, hired prostitutes for his friends and used hard drugs.
As far as our international standing on the corruption scale is concerned:
The results, published by Transparency International, did however say that Israel dropped a spot from 36 to 37 out of 175 places in the rankings since last year and is 24th out of 34 OECD countries.Emphasis mine. I have chosen on purpose to quote the blindly patriotic and provincial Jerusalem Post, whose headline for this article is seriously pathetic: "Index: Israel one of least corrupt states in region". Yeah, compared to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon Jordan etc... for shame... You can easily imagine that other newspapers have presented the situation differently, and you would be right at that.
This is, using a very broad brush, the background of the current events, by current events I mean the elevation of one Ayelet Shaked, a BSc in electrical engineering and computer science, to the post of minister of justice. Of course, political appointees don't have to have any relevant qualifications for their assigned ministries, this situation isn't a specifically Israeli shtick. But to assign a politician, who publicly and proudly declares her anti-judiciary stance for a long time, to serve as minister of justice - what exactly did Bibi have in mind? It is your guess.
So far Ms Shaked fulfilled the expectations:
In her first public speech since being named justice minister, Ayelet Shaked underscored her criticism of the Supreme Court and made clear that curtailing the power of the judiciary branch would be a top priority.Yeah, indeed - our selfless, patriotic and arrow-straight elected representatives. As you can see.
Speaking before the annual Israeli Bar Association Conference in Eilat on Monday, the Jewish Home MK said decisions relating to governance have been wrongly placed in the hands of the justice system, rather than the people and their elected representatives in the Knesset.
No thanks, Ms Shaked, I would vastly prefer a powerful and watchful High Court of Justice looking over your shoulders and the shoulders of all of your colleagues in the government and the Knesset day and night, if you don't mind.
And if you do too... because having a BSc in electrical engineering and computer science tinkering with our judicial system is akin to letting the proverbial bull into the proverbial china shop. And it is quite the time for the powers that be to wake up** and to prevent this potential disaster for our fledgling democracy.
Before it is too late.
(*) And the first Likud PM, Menachem Begin, was a staunch protector of the judicial branch, its powers and its independence, it is necessary to add.
(**) Some of the people are already awakening, fortunately. Will it be enough? The time will show.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein bemoaned Sunday a series of reforms proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that may shake up the powers of Israel’s judicial authority, dubbing the motions “simplistic and baseless.”