Tuesday, May 5, 2020

If you are a believer in Israeli democracy, then stop trying to override it - by Jonathan S. Tobin

Those Americans who claim to care about Israel are entitled to their opinions about its policies, but they have no business declaring that they are defending democracy by essentially seeking to invalidate it. Israel has many problems, and there are valid criticisms to be made of its new government. However, the only real threat to Israeli democracy comes from those who are falsely claiming to be its defenders.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
04 May '20..

Israel’s critics talk a lot about threats to its democracy. When they use this phrase, they are generally referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters, who are widely damned in the international media as would-be authoritarians with no respect for the rule of law.

Netanyahu bears his fair share of the blame for his country’s problems. But if there’s a real foe of democracy in the Jewish state, it isn’t him. It’s his opponents who want an out-of-control judiciary and foreign powers to override the verdict of Israel’s voters.

That became plain again this week when left-wing opponents of Netanyahu asked Israel’s High Court of Justice to invalidate the coalition government he forged with erstwhile rival Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz. The petitioners say the court should intervene in the process and declare that a person who is currently under indictment on criminal charges—as is the case with Netanyahu—should be ruled ineligible to be prime minister.

Irrespective of whether or not it would have been wise for Netanyahu to resign when he was indicted or his right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, there was no law in the books that compelled him to do so. Indeed, according to Israeli law, he can remain in office while being tried and even convicted until his last appeal has been denied.

Let’s hope it never comes to that. However, as the dialogue between the judges for the lawyers for both the plaintiffs and the opponents of the petition illustrated on the first day of arguments, there is no legal foundation for the court to declare that the will of a majority of the Knesset—the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition will command the support of more than 70 members of the 120-person parliament—is to be not only ignored, but suppressed in the name of an undefined notion of good government with no basis in law.

Chief Justice Esther Hayut made this clear when she demanded that the lawyers who were asking the court to declare that Netanyahu could not serve as prime minister to give her a good reason to do so:

“Show us something! A law? A verdict? From this country’s [history]? From [somewhere else] in the world? Something! After all, [you’re asking us to set] a global precedent? You want us to rule without a basis simply according to your personal opinion?”

(Continue to Full Column)

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