The Real Constitutional Problems with Israel’s New Government

This week, the Israeli Supreme Court considers various arguments questioning the legality of the recently formed governing coalition. Evelyn Gordon writes that any outcome would be preferable to an overreaching court invalidating the coalition agreement and precipitating a fourth election. Nevertheless, she has serious concerns of her own about the agreement’s terms, which are convoluted even by the usual standards of these documents:

The biggest problem [with the agreement is] the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, the Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz. Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. [But] they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

The best-known example is the ill-fated experiment with directly electing the prime minister in the 1990s, which was repealed a decade later. . . . A less well known but particularly salient example is a seemingly innocuous reform enacted in 2016. The rule until then was that after an election, the longest-serving Knesset member would temporarily become Knesset speaker until a new government was formed, after which the government would choose a permanent speaker. Under the amendment, the old speaker simply stayed on until a new government was formed and chose a new speaker.

The change seems both trivial and sensible. . . . Yet [it] ended up producing the worst constitutional crisis in Israel’s history. [The ensuing] dispute led to the High Court of Justice riding roughshod over the separation of powers by not only creating a new constitutional arrangement in which two speakers would serve simultaneously, . . . but even dictating the second speaker’s identity.

The amendments the new unity government is making to the Basic Laws—meant to create complete parity between Netanyahu and Gantz, as well as to ensure that the prime ministry rotates between them in another eighteen months—are much more far-reaching. . . . And while some will expire automatically when this Knesset’s term ends, others won’t, planting potential constitutional time bombs for future governments.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Israel's Basic Law, Israeli Election 2020, Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus