Once in a while, when minutia gives way to real issues, it appears that rule of law vs. rule of lawyers is probably the most important issue in the upcoming election.
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich was furious after the Nazareth District Court canceled a public event planned by and for the ultra-Orthodox residents of the town of Afula. The reason: “gender discrimination.”
The Afula Municipality, which approves and facilitates hundreds of public events, saw nothing wrong with allowing this one to move forward according to religious norms, meaning that men and women must be segregated. But the court decided that the Orthodox no longer have any right to violate the progressive code of modesty. This despite protests by the ultra-Orthodox, who were denied their right to a little summertime recreation in the name of gender discrimination.
Following the court’s decision, Smotrich tweeted angrily: “Idiotic judicial system. Forgive me that, despite my position, I can’t find a more refined word. An idiotic progressive fundamentalism.” Smotrich went on to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “exercising zero leadership, zero governance,” and insisted that Deputy Attorney General Dian Zilber “is the actual prime minister.”
Smotrich touched a raw nerve that has become the dividing line between the political left and right: The roll and extend of power of the judicial system in a democratic regime. The right argues that it has become the de facto unelected government of Israel, that the Supreme Court and its cohorts have turned Israel into a progressive judicial oligarchy. The left argues that the judiciary is the last line of defense preventing Israel from becoming a dictatorship. The next election, it argues, is all about the survival of democracy itself.
It would be tiresome to mention the long list of Supreme Court decisions that have clearly favored the leftist agenda, so one should be sufficient. Following the passing of the Nation State Law, legislated in July 2018, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut decided that 11 judges would convene in order to determine whether or not the law was legal. This move, argued right-wing jurists, was illegal, since according to Israeli law, the Supreme Court has no authority to judge Basic Laws according to ideological preferences. A Basic Law, they say, can be overruled only if the law itself violates Israeli law, which it doesn’t.
In his recent article in Globes, Gil Bringer, senior advisor to former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, argued once again that the judicial system has replaced the “rule of law” with the rule of judges, effectively stripping the law of its original meaning and intent.
To back up his critique, Bringer quoted from a letter sent by a recently retired senior attorney from the State Attorney’s Office. In the letter, addressed to her colleagues, she says the following: “Facing the increasing affront to the rule of law, the shaking of democratic cornerstones and innumerable political interests, your place upon the pages of the history of the State of Israel and Israeli society is more important than ever. The State Attorney’s Office is not just another public body. Today, the State Attorney’s Office is the rule of law in Israel. It is the Democratic party.”
If there was any doubt that this letter reveals the inner mindset at the State Attorney’s Office, just consider the recent news regarding the invasion of the Red Sea resort town of Eilat by Indian crows. These birds are not only invasive, they are aggressive, attacking people and animals who come anywhere near their nesting sites. The residents of Eilat want their mayor to eliminate, or at least cull the crow population.
It’s an elementary request aimed at enabling local residents to live without fear of being attacked on the streets. But it has, of course, been opposed by animal rights activists, who care more for this invasive species than for people. However, what should have been a local quarrel solved by Eilat’s mayor has now been handed over to the judiciary, which will seriously deliberate on whose rights should take precedence, people or crows.
Asking my bookie who has the best chance to win, he told me 5:1 in favor of the Indian crows.