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.

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy