One Politician’s 30 Years of Legal Troubles Can Explain the Controversy over the Israeli Judiciary

Jan. 25 2023

Last week, Israel’s supreme court ruled that Aryeh Deri—the head of the Shas party and the recently inaugurated minister of health, minister of the interior, and vice-prime minister—could not maintain his cabinet posts. The court argued that Deri had promised to withdraw from political life as a condition of a 2022 plea bargain in which he confessed to tax fraud, and could not renege on his commitment. Despite Deri’s insistence that he had made no such promise, Benjamin Netanyahu led his cabinet in voting for Deri’s dismissal, which went into effect yesterday.

Netanyahu’s decision to abide by the supreme court’s ruling suggests that he is not so quick to dismiss the judicial branch as some of his opponents fear; yet it also appears to some of his supporters as further evidence that the government must curb the power of the high court. But to understand this controversy fully, writes Haviv Rettig Gur, one must go back to 1993, when Deri was serving in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, and was about to be indicted on charges of corruption:

The question the high court had to answer in 1993 was not whether it was appropriate for an indicted minister to serve in government. No one, not even Deri himself, argued that it was. The question was the timing—whether the prime minister could wait to fire Deri until a formal indictment was filed with the court. The letter of the law was on Rabin’s side, as Attorney General Harish and the opinion of Justice Aharon Barak both made clear.

Also, the traditional reasons for judicial intervention did not exist: no rights were colliding or at stake; no clear law was being trampled; Rabin was not suspected of ulterior motives or failure to consider all aspects of his decision. He had weighed his decision carefully, the judges wrote, balancing the needs of the government, of public welfare, and of the public’s trust in state institutions.

But, they ruled, he’d then made the wrong call, prioritizing his government’s survival and his peace initiative over the need to ensure public trust in state bodies. [Instead, according to the court, Rabin should have fired] Deri sooner than the written law required. The “extreme unreasonableness” finding was based on the judges’ expectation that Rabin’s decision “will have extreme ramifications for the character of government in Israel, its good faith and decency.”

The decision went further. One of the key questions raised by the Deri case was what happened when a prime minister and an attorney general disagreed. In the case of Deri’s . . . firing, Rabin and his attorney general were at odds, which made it difficult for the attorney general, whose Hebrew title is “legal adviser to the government,” to represent Rabin’s view before the court. More to the point, Harish refused to do so.

What was to be done? . . . Justice Barak took up the question in his opinion and explained that it was the wrong question. The real question, he wrote, was whether the government had a right to act contrary to the attorney general’s opinion in the first place. And the answer, he concluded, was no.

This was one of several decisions that convinced many Israelis that the court had far overreached the proper bounds of its authority.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Aryeh Deri, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada