The Reform of Israel’s Judiciary Is an Urgent, and Trans-Partisan, Issue

Now that the votes have been tallied, it seems almost certain that the next Israeli prime minister will be Benjamin Netanyahu, leading a coalition of rightwing and religious parties. A key item on the platform of several members of this prospective coalition is reform of the judiciary, which has enormous power that it has largely granted to itself. Aylana Meisel-Diament and Yonatan Green explain what is at stake:

Though it might seem a modern partisan power struggle, the judicial-reform debate has much older roots. Founded 74 years ago, Israel developed its system of law and governance in an ad-hoc fashion, and generally in crisis periods. Political fragmentation, defense against constant existential threats, and the lack of a written constitution left a power vacuum that the Israeli court system has slowly and intentionally filled without a popular mandate to do so.

The Israeli Supreme Court, not a popular-representative body, unilaterally declared a written constitution in the 1990s, a surprise to the lawmakers who had passed the statutes the Court decided to “constitutionalize.” The Court then endowed itself with the power of judicial review of parliamentary legislation despite the absence of a duly ratified constitutional document. And the Court departed from its own tradition of restraint effectively to eliminate any limitation on standing and subject-matter jurisdiction in constitutional cases. These are just a few elements of a long and continuing appropriation of policy-making power by the judiciary.

Within Israel, demand for judicial reform—including revising the method of judicial selection and limiting the Court’s vast authority—is bipartisan and extends back nearly 40 years. While the cause is more popular on Israel’s right than its left today, the foremost advocates of these reforms have often been legal luminaries affiliated with Israel’s left or political center.

As for the more specific legal reforms endorsed by right-leaning Israeli politicians, these too are far less partisan than some observers have claimed:

[C]onsider the proposed abolition of Israel’s “Breach of Trust” criminal offense (for which Netanyahu has been indicted) and a proposed grant of revocable criminal immunity to legislators. The substance of the proposal is certainly worthy of debate, but it is incorrectly portrayed . . . as a “blatant attempt to place Netanyahu above the law.” In fact, this particular proposal is intended to apply only prospectively, and not to Netanyahu’s ongoing case. Looking at the relevant history here is illuminating. The “Breach of Trust” offense has been severely criticized by legal scholars since the 1990s, decades before the Netanyahu indictments.

Read more at National Review

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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy