Israeli President Slams Netanyahu Government for Threatening Supreme Court

Reuven Rivlin says any hint of such encroachment represents a 'counterrevolution' and ‘chaotic democracy’

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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President Reuven Rivlin at the opening of the Knesset's winter session, October 23, 2017.
President Reuven Rivlin at the opening of the Knesset's winter session, October 23, 2017.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday accused Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of encroaching on the work of the Supreme Court in a bid to achieve a “counterrevolution” after the court became more activist decades ago.

Rivlin, speaking at the opening of the Knesset winter session, said he once told former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak of his displeasure with the court’s intervention in the Knesset’s legislative work, and called such judicial activism a “revolution.”

“I told him then, and I’m quoting: ‘Any definition that upsets the balance, any act that expresses, or even just symbolizes, spilling into the territory of another branch, creates a situation of chaotic democracy, of systemic and dangerous disorder’ .... That is what I said then, and I still hold this position regarding the danger in encroaching on the legislative branch by the judicial branch,” Rivlin said.

“Today, some three decades after the announcement of that ‘constitutional revolution,’ I want to point out what seems to me to be the countermovement of the historical pendulum – about what seems to be the leadership’s decision once again to confound the system. We are witnesses today to the spirit of the revolution or the counterrevolution. This time, majority rule is the sole ruler,” he added.

"A chasm lies between the responsible and brave effort to define, after years, the relationship between the legislative branch and the judiciary ... and the attempt to threaten the court, to weaken it as an institution."

Also addressing the Knesset, Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu attacked media and opposition members who condemned his conduct. "When one side expresses their opinion it's freedom of speech, and when the other side does it's considered incitement.  That's the method," Netanyahu said. "I have no respect for hypocrisy."

Last month Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leaders of the Habayit Hayehudi party, said they sought a new Basic Law that would limit the Supreme Court's authority to strike down laws. Basic Laws have constitutional status; the new law would let a Knesset majority override a Supreme Court ruling.

On Monday, Rivlin said the new counterrevolution had made everything political.

“The media is political, the democratic institutions – everything from the professional [civil service] to the state comptroller – political. The Supreme Court is political, the security forces are political. And is even the IDF, our Israel Defense Forces, political? The entire land and its institutions are filled with politics," he said.

“This revolution supposedly wants to rip the masks of hypocrisy off all the gatekeepers once and for all .... ‘We will show you’ – this is the soundtrack of the revolution. Statesmanship has disappeared from the land and the flood is following.”

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