Editorial

The War on Israel's Judiciary

The justice minister and tourism minister are competing with each other in the lies they tell aimed at delegitimizing the court

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, center, and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, right.
Emil Salman

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin are leading an unbridled attack on the judiciary and it seems as if they are competing to see who can be more forceful about it. While Levin casts doubt on the judges of the pre-Shaked era who ruled “according to their political opinions and not according to the legal situation,” Shaked is threatening the court with a war pitting one branch of government against another.

In defending the nation-state law, Shaked stated that the High Court of Justice has no authority to overturn Basic Laws. Since the Knesset is authorized to pass Basic Laws, Shaked is of the opinion that with the majority she has in the Knesset, the government can pass any Basic Law it chooses, no matter how discriminatory or racist, with a regular majority through the regular procedure, and the judicial system can do nothing to stop it.

>> Israel's War on Democracy Is Here - and the Justice Minister's Leading the Charge | Analysis ■ The Old, Familiar Evil Wafting Through the Clauses of the Nation-state Law | Opinion

Shaked did not make do with expressing her position. She issued a direct threat and warned of an earthquake if the High Court torpedoes the nation-state law. In other words, if you do not accept my interpretation, I will crush the court.

Shaked’s threat is part of a much broader and more dangerous effort. Both Shaked and Levin are seeking to turn the court into a political arm of the nationalist right. They aren’t hiding the plan to appoint to the Supreme Court only those who think as they do. In this fashion they are exerting pressure on any judge who hopes to be appointed to the High Court to rule in accordance with the ministers’ expectations. It’s hard to describe the extent of the damage this is causing to the judiciary’s independence. The obvious must be stated: Without independence, there is no point to the judicial system.

Shaked and Levin are also competing with each other in the lies they tell aimed at delegitimizing the court. Levin claims that he insisted on not including the value of equality in the nation-state law so as not to put the Law of Return at risk. This is baseless. Those old-fashioned judges, whom Levin regards as his enemies, have affirmed the Law of Return’s constitutional status and determined that the right to equality applies only to those who are already citizens of the state.

Levin opposes equality for other reasons, namely so that he can, out of demographic concerns, prevent a mixed Palestinian couple (from Israel and the territories) from settling in Israel and so he can offer economic incentives to settle Jews in Upper Nazareth and similar cities. At least in this he is consistent; such moves, based on racist motivations, indeed contradict equality.

Shaked, meanwhile, is recycling the absolute lie underlying the right-wing propaganda – that the constitutional infrastructure wasn’t sufficient to buttress the state as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This is true only for those who believe that Israel suffers from a surplus of human rights and equality. Under the mask of Shaked’s and Levin’s falsehoods lies the ugly head of a racist government.