After 36 consecutive weeks of protests (massive in the streets and strategic in the army reservist corps) in Israel, the train of the judicial reform proposal launched in January by the Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, is getting a little closer to a season called “constitutional crisis”. These last two words have been the most cited and feared this Tuesday at the beginning of the momentous hearing of the Supreme Court (TS) that for the first time in its history convened all its judges. For more than 13 hours listening to allegations, questioning the speakers and pointing out the limits and duties of Justice before the Knesset in a session broadcast live, the 15 magistrates have dealt with the eight appeals presented against the first law approved of the Government’s plan aimed at to cut some powers of the TS in the relationship between the three powers. The Sentencing is scheduled between October and mid-January.Period in which Anything can happen: from the freezing of the initiative to its continuation, further tightening the rope that runs through a divided country.
Two months ago, the coalition made up of 64 of the 120 deputies after the November 1 elections approved in the Knesset an amendment that eliminates one of the main resources of the TS (reasonableness criterion) to review decisions and appointments of the rulers. Lawyers, businessmen, social and human rights activists, former high-ranking military officers and an anti-corruption association appealed to the highest judicial instance to annul it, alleging that it “modifies the basic structure of democracy.”
The TS, chaired by Esther Hayut, may decide not to intervene if it interprets that the amendment “does not substantially contradict the Jewish and democratic essence of Israel” or return it to Parliament to be corrected in such a way that the criterion of reasonableness is limited and not cancelled. “It must be a mortal blow to the basic principles of democracy,” said Hayut, alluding to the third option: the repeal for the first time of a basic law – with a constitutional character in a country without a constitution – with the possibility, also for the first time perhaps, that members of the coalition do not comply with the sentence. Without a doubt, the most expressive reflection of the institutional struggle in which, in its extreme scenario, State officials must choose between decisions of the ministers and sentences of the magistrates.
In the session, the Government was represented by lawyer Ilan Bombaj since legal advisor Gali Baharav-Miara opposes the amendment, considering that it “severely hits the foundations of the democratic system.” Bombaj recalled that the TS has other instruments to supervise and Judge Isaac Amit told him that “democracy does not die by several strong blows but in a series of small steps.”