Israeli Supreme Court President Says Lawmakers' Calls to Ignore Rulings Undermine Rule of Law

'The road from there to anarchy and chaos is short,' Esther Hayut says of comments by Knesset chairman and Religious Zionism chairman

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, last week.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said Monday that calls by elected officials to ignore court rulings “undermine the principle of the rule of law,” and encourages anarchy and chaos.

Last week several MKs came out against the High Court justices who ruled that the legislative amendments passed in 2020, and which postponed the dissolution of the Knesset because no budget had been passed, constituted improper use of the Knesset’s authority. The justices made it clear that if similar laws were passed in the future, they’d be overturned. Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said at the time that the ruling was “an insane event. A group of six people put on a judge’s robe to carry out a coup,” and Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich called for the rulings to be disobeyed.

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According to Hayut, who was speaking at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, “When any elected official allows himself to describe a court ruling as an ‘insane event’ or as a ‘coup,’ this says more about the speaker than about the court that issued the ruling.” She added, “There are elected officials who allow themselves to call not to respect or obey court rulings that aren’t to their liking. In these irresponsible calls lies a great danger which it is important to warn against and to say as clearly as possible – undermining the legitimacy of the courts and the rulings they issue in fact undermines the principle of the rule of law, and the road from there to anarchy and chaos is short.”

The High Court ruling, considered unusual because it opposed clauses in a Basic Law, was issued by a panel of nine judges headed by Hayut, and it overturned the amendments to the law by a majority of six to three. These amendments postponed the deadline for approving the state budget, which, if not passed, would have led to the dissolution of the Knesset. These amendments were part of the “Hauser compromise,” after MK Zvi Hauser, who was trying to delay the dissolution of the Knesset after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to approve the budget. These amendments ended up having no practical effect, since the budget didn’t pass by the extended deadline, either, and new elections had to be called.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit also addressed the attacks on the High Court yesterday, saying that the statements made by elected officials following the ruling are “harsh and severe.” “These are irresponsible statements that undermine the basis for our coexistence here as a democratic society,” his spokesman said.

In response to Hayut and Mendelblit’s remarks, Levin repeated that this was “an attempt to legitimize the new legal revolution, the purpose of which is the transfer of legislative powers from the Knesset to the Supreme Court.” He added, “The attempt to delegitimize and intimidate those who are determined to defend the Knesset and democracy is doomed to fail.”

Smotrich called Hayut’s speech “arrogant and condescending,” and reiterated his call not to obey the verdict, which he described as part of “the continued judicial revolution (that is) weakening Israeli democracy. And so madame president, your ruling that invalidated a Basic Law is an insane event and a coup and it mustn’t be obeyed.”

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