Some 3,000 people turned out Saturday night, April 28, for a demonstration, in central Tel Aviv, against the plans of the far-right government to pass legislation that would limit the Supreme Court’s authority to strike down legislation on constitutional grounds. The demonstrators, who congregated outside the HaBima national theater, held aloft signs with slogans including “Bibi get your hands off the Supreme Court,” and “Bibi go home.”
Legislation proposed by the Jewish Home party would allow 61 out of the Knesset’s 120 members to re-approve a law struck down by the Supreme Court — when it sits as the High Court of Justice, Israel’s supreme constitutional tribunal — effectively giving any government the ability to quash the ruling.
The legislation would take the form of a passage added to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. In the absence of a constitution, Israel’s basic laws set the parameters of the balance of power between different branches of government.
Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), a legal scholar who sits on the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, noted that in the Israeli system the Supreme Court’s role is to defend the rights of minorities and marginalized groups. “There is no real democracy that does not have meaningful judicial review,” commented Jabareen.
However, even if the Knesset does not pass the limitations on the Supreme Court this time around, MK Jabareen stressed, the protections of minority rights will already have been weakened. “Even the current discussion of limiting the powers of the Supreme Court, or eliminating them altogether — even this kind of discourse itself is damaging.” “The justices are influenced by this atmosphere of attacks against the Supreme Court, and that might lead to the [self-imposed] weakening of the Supreme Court without the legislation itself,” MK Jabareen concluded. “It’s a win-win situation for Netanyahu.”