Judicial Reform Will Remain on Israel’s Agenda Even after Netanyahu Leaves Office

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.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Moshe Kahlon, Supreme Court of Israel

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security