Netanyahu’s Plan for Reforming the Supreme Court Is Anything but Undemocratic

Benjamin Netanyahu has put two bills before the Knesset that would curb some of the outsized power of Israel’s supreme court. The first would give elected officials greater say in the appointment of new justices. The second would place limits on the court’s ability to overturn laws passed by the Knesset. Some prominent Israelis have criticized these proposals as limits on the independence of the judiciary or even assaults on democracy itself. They are neither, writes Evelyn Gordon:

[The second] bill would . . . bar the court from overturning a law . . . unless at least nine justices—a mere 60 percent of the court’s complement of fifteen—deem the law unconstitutional. And that’s excellent policy. . . .

[I]if the court itself is almost evenly split over a law’s constitutionality, there’s clearly more than one plausible legal interpretation. And if there’s more than one plausible interpretation, it makes sense to prefer the one chosen by the Knesset, the body that actually wrote the Basic Laws that the court (wrongly) treats as Israel’s constitution. When serious doubt exists about the “correct” interpretation—which it clearly does if less than 60 percent of the court concurs—the lawmakers should get the benefit of this doubt. . . .

This brings us back to the straw man of the court’s independence. Judicial independence is indisputably essential; a country where courts merely obey government dictates is a dictatorship, not a democracy. Hence by claiming that Netanyahu’s proposals would undermine judicial independence, his critics seek to tar them as something no democracy could countenance.

But what these critics are really trying to protect isn’t the court’s independence but its excessive power—a power, without parallel in any other democracy, by which justices first choose their own successors to create an ideologically uniform court, then seek to impose this ideology on the country by asserting a right to overturn government decisions and/or [Knesset] legislation on virtually every important policy issue. . . . All the proposed reforms would do is return a tiny fraction of this power to the people’s elected representatives. And Israel’s democracy would be the greatest beneficiary.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court of Israel

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy