To many observers, the Israeli prime minister’s recent interest in constraining the outsize power of the Supreme Court results from his desire to avoid indictment on corruption charges. Perhaps so, writes Evelyn Gordon, but the Israeli right has been pushing for legal reform well before Benjamin Netanyahu took up the idea, and its reasons for doing so go far beyond the political exigencies of the moment. Take, for instance, the experience of Moshe Kaḥlon, leader of the center-right Kulanu party:
Kaḥlon . . . entered the cabinet in 2015 vowing to thwart any effort to curb the legal system’s power. In his coalition agreement with Likud, he even demanded and received veto power over such legislation. And he exercised his veto repeatedly, inter alia killing bills to change the judicial appointments system and to let the Knesset reenact legislation overruled by the courts.
But after April’s election, Kaḥlon’s Kulanu party signaled that it would no longer thwart such efforts, [for] two reasons. . . . First, even Kulanu voters—the most moderate segment of the center-right electorate—objected to Kaḥlon’s defense of the legal status quo. In April’s election, Kulanu dropped from ten Knesset seats to four, and the party’s internal polling found that its repeated vetoes of legal reforms were a major reason why. Many rightists simply won’t vote for anyone opposed to legal reform.
Second, Kaḥlon, [while serving] as finance minister, acquired firsthand experience of the way the Supreme Court prevents governments from governing by repeatedly overturning decisions it deems “unreasonable”—a judgment other democracies leave to voters. [Specifically], the court overruled Kaḥlon’s flagship policy: . . . Kaḥlon had won election by promising to lower Israel’s cost of living, particularly its astronomical housing prices. He therefore enacted a special tax on third apartments, arguing that making it more expensive to buy housing for investment purposes would cool demand and thereby lower prices. . . . [T]he court overturned it, claiming the legislative process was “flawed.” . . .
After more than three decades of such rampant judicial activism, too many right-leaning legislators and voters have similar stories of policies they cared about being nixed . . . merely because unelected justices or an unelected attorney general decided to substitute their own policy judgments for those of the elected government.