How Israel Can Avoid a Constitutional Crisis

Yesterday, Israel’s supreme court—in an unprecedented plenary session—heard arguments over a recent law that removes its own ability to override executive-branch decisions on the grounds that they are “unreasonable.” The law in question is only one small portion of an intended program of judicial reform, the rest of which has yet to make it through the Knesset. The court’s ruling, expected in a few weeks’ time, could have momentous consequences, determining whether it has the authority to overturn Basic Laws, which, in Israel, function in lieu of a constitution. Haviv Rettig Gur writes:

The court . . . will spend the coming weeks ruling on the constitutionality of a constitutional limit being placed upon it. No wonder many observers expect a “constitutional crisis.” Whether or not a compromise on rewriting the reasonableness law is hammered out in the Knesset, the larger crisis will remain. If the politicians reach a compromise that still clips the court’s wings, would the court abide by it? And if the court strikes down the law altogether, as many expect, will the Netanyahu government acquiesce?

The court has claimed for three long decades that the Basic Laws have a special constitutional status that confers on the court the power to cancel other laws that conflict with them. Yet it now plans to expand that power to the Basic Laws themselves. That it is possible to find legal arguments supporting this step doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Even if it’s the right thing to do, it will have some inevitable consequences; one of these will be the weakening of the standing of the Basic Laws.

There is only one path out of the impasse, a path that none of Israel’s elites, political or judicial, are interested in taking. It is the path that gives the country Basic Laws that are respected by the High Court because they are first respected by the Knesset, that are hard to change and therefore change only after serious thought and broad agreement, and that because of that broad agreement enjoy widespread public trust and can be amended without panic and protest.

Israel needs a true constitution, one with enough robust checks on government power to make constitutional reforms something less debilitating and terrifying than they are now. The responsibility for setting Israel on a better path, then, rests with the Knesset, with the very parliamentary majority that still refuses to learn the lesson of the past ten months: constitutional change requires trust.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Israeli Judicial Reform


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security