Thanks to Kahlon, Israel's Supreme Court Appears Safe

Legislation aiming to curb court's authority has been warded off by Kulanu Party leader, but it's regrettable that under Netanyahu's rule it's necessary to fight for such basic democratic values.

Emil Salman

Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon could have settled for the achievements he made for his party in the coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. All his conditions to advance housing reform, his flagship program, were accepted. He received the finance, environmental protection and housing portfolios as well as the planning administration for his party.

But Kahlon did not make do with this. He sees himself as another link in the liberal-democratic tradition of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, as reflected in the Likud of years past. As such, Kahlon insisted on and succeeded in warding off two real threats that clouded the new government’s term – the planned legislation to weaken the Supreme Court and the so-called nationality law.

“We must not forget that the Supreme Court is the last shelter of the weak and it must be as strong as possible,” Kahlon said in an interview with Haaretz in January. He backed those words with action. Kahlon objected throughout the coalition negotiations to legislation that enables the Knesset to reenact laws that the High Court had struck down, and insisted on blocking a move that would give politicians a majority on the Judicial Appointments Committee. By so doing he bolstered the principle of the supremacy of justice, a central pillar of democracy.

Kahlon also understood that the nationality law was intended to undermine the liberal-democratic tradition he adheres to. In 1959, Begin said in a Knesset speech: “We do not accept the semi-official opinion that a state gives rights and a state is entitled to deny rights. We believe there are human rights that precede the human life form called a state.” It seems that Kahlon’s objection to one of Netanyahu’s flagship laws is linked precisely to these issues. By enacting the nationality law, extreme nationalist factions want to enable the courts to rule in favor of the state’s Jewish values over its democratic ones.

However, apart from the praises Kahlon deserves, it is regrettable that under Netanyahu’s rule it is necessary to fight and protect such basic democratic values.