Israel is an exemplary democracy for being in a region of predominantly autocratic governments. Yet recently, the Israeli High Court of Justice has been debating the constitutionality of a law that could severely limit its own power. This law, known as the “Basic Law: Judiciary”, has sparked a heated debate in Israel. It is argued that, if passed, it could open the door to the privatization of the Israeli state and erode many of the core democratic values that have been enshrined in the country’s Basic Laws.
The proposed law is part of a more general effort from the current government to increase government control. It would allow the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to limit the Judiciary’s authority by “judicially intervening in matters that the court has previously identified as its exclusive purview.” This threatens to weaken the independence of the judiciary from political influence, and in so doing, weaken Israel’s capacity as a true democracy.
Opponents of the law argue that it runs counter to the spirit of Israeli democracy, which guarantees judicial freedom and mandated the Knesset to respect the rule of law. They argue that the law, if passed, could pave the way for the privatization of state powers and erode the basic principles of democratic values.
At stake is the future of Israeli democracy itself. This debate is not merely academic, but an existential issue that will determine whether or not Israel will remain a true democracy. Given the constitutional role of the Judiciary, a weakened court will not be able to fulfill its traditional functions as a check on the Executive or safeguard the civil rights of the people, weakening the entire balance of power in the country.
Whatever the outcome of the debate, it’s critical that the High Court of Justice remains independent and true to its mandate of protecting the rights and freedoms of the Israeli people. With a growing democratic deficit in the region, it is crucial that Israel’s democracy remains strong, so that it can continue to be an inspiration and beacon of hope for other countries in the region.