Attempts to Reform the Israeli Judiciary Aren’t a Threat to Democracy

Nov. 30 2022

The platform of Israel’s incoming government will almost certainly include proposals to weaken the immense power of the supreme court. Among them would be a law that would empower the Knesset, with a simple majority, to override the court’s rulings. Last week, the outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid declared that the so-called “override clause,” if implemented, would “crush Israeli democracy,” and various academics and journalists have issued similarly dire warnings. Ruthie Blum, drawing heavily from an open letter (in Hebrew) by Gadi Taub, rebuts these criticisms:

There is no dispute that in Israel there is no structural separation between the legislative and executive branches. This is not unique to Israel; it characterizes the parliamentary system everywhere. Does this mean that separation of powers only prevails in a presidential system? Certainly not. It means that the separation of powers is not hermetic in the parliamentary system, and thus the nature of its checks and balances is also different. But the remedy cannot be the authorization of a court, with no defined limit to its power, to have the final decision-making authority in all matters, when its members are not appointed by elected officials, but rather, in practice, by their peers.

The definition of democracy is, indeed, the “sovereignty of the citizens.” This should be stressed in the face of the misleading discourse adopted by jurists following [the former chief justice, and architect of the court’s radical expansion of its own powers] Aharon Barak, who reduced the expression of this sovereignty—elections—to the rank of “procedure.”

The idea that the will of the people is a fascist monster, and thus needs to have an unchallengeable authority placed over it, is misleading and, in any case, undemocratic. If the people do not want democracy, there will be no democracy. No court will be able to impose democracy—or liberalism (i.e. human rights)—from above, without the sovereignty of the people.

Concentration of power in the hands of the court does not constitute insurance against the danger of the trampling of human rights. . . . In the Dred Scott ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court supported slavery, while the elections that brought Abraham Lincoln to power led to its abolition in a bloody war.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court, Yair Lapid

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy