Israel’s Judicial Tyranny and Its Anti-Democratic Defenders

Recent statements by Israel’s minister of justice Amir Ohana have brought back to public attention the controversy between those who wish to defend the unchecked power of the country’s overweening Supreme Court—paradoxically condemning any complaint about the power of this unelected oligarchic body as “undemocratic”—and those who wish to impose limits on its authority. Moshe Koppel comments:

[O]ne might be tempted to argue that the court is limited by its dependence on the law, that it has to work with the laws it’s given by the legislature. . . . This sounds plausible, but it doesn’t hold water. First, the court here makes frequent use of a [unique] doctrine it calls “interpretation by objective purpose,” which means that a law should be interpreted neither according to its plain meaning nor according to the legislature’s intent, but rather however the court deems appropriate. In short, statutory language does not constrain the bench on any occasion in which the bench does not wish to be constrained.

Second, and more shockingly, the claim that statutes can only be struck down in accordance with constitutional principles is also now being challenged. The court has agreed to hear petitions against the constitutionality of Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Since Basic Laws are Israel’s equivalent of constitutional legislation, this challenge to a Basic Law’s constitutionality is incoherent. The court’s agreement to hear this case . . . is tantamount to the claim that nothing is outside its purview, including the constitution itself.

I invite those who are now defending the court to provide an example of a single situation in which the court disapproves of a law or government action but does not—and, in their opinion, should not—have the authority to intervene. Careful: an example where the court chooses not to exercise its authority is insufficient; it needs to be an example where it doesn’t have the authority.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Supreme Court of Israel


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood