The Constitutional Crisis behind Israel’s Showdown over Its Judiciary

Jan. 12 2023

Tensions are now high in Israel over the government’s efforts to pass legislation that would curb the power of the Supreme Court to strike down laws at will, and that would put the selection of new justices under the control of elected parliamentarians. To Haviv Rettig Gur, much of the Israeli left’s reaction to these proposals amounts to “panic-stricken keening,” yet he also urges the right to recognize that there are also more reasoned objections. At the heart of the conflict, in Gur’s reckoning, is a fundamental weakness in the Jewish state’s unwritten constitution:

Israel’s parliament is unicameral; no second house can veto or curtail its actions. Political parties are extremely centralized; most Knesset members are appointed by party leaders, not in a primary vote or by regional election. The executive and legislative are functionally a single body, since the government is established and manned by members of the parliamentary majority. There are, in other words, exceedingly few of those all-important checks and balances one hears about in civics classes in democratic countries.

If the court is weakened, the center-left is now asking, what will stand in the way of an aggressive majority should it seek to take away the rights of minorities?

Yet this very anxiety lays bare a larger problem. By arguing that the rights and freedoms of Israelis, and especially minorities, are sustained solely by a single vulnerable institution, the center-left is effectively declaring the battle already lost.

In [the event of a] larger constitutional expansion, a weakened court is no longer a bug but a feature. If the left believes its own claim that nothing now protects minorities except that unelected court, then even a victory that preserves the court’s powers for one more election cycle isn’t enough.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy