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Despite setbacks, Israeli judicial reform is inevitable

“Top Story” With Jonathan Tobin and guest Moshe Koppel, Ep. 90

The man who leads the Israeli think tank at the center of the debate about Israeli judicial reform joined JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin on the latest episode of “Top Story” to discuss the controversy. Kohelet Policy Forum founding chairman Moshe Koppel explained that, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, which is constrained by the principles of justiciability and standing, there are currently virtually no limits on the powers of the Israeli Supreme Court. And unlike virtually every other Western democracy, the members of the court are not named by the executive and legislative branches.

As Koppel, whose group is widely credited as being behind the push for reform noted: “In Israel, absolutely none of these limitations on the court’s power exist. Zero.”

Moreover, he explained that as a result of former Chief Justice Aharon Barak’s “judicial revolution,” the court also gave itself the right to rule unconstitutional basic laws that are akin to constitutional provisions in the Israeli system, something he described as “insane.”

As to what was really behind the mass demonstrations against judicial reform that brought Israeli society to a standstill until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a halt to the effort, Koppel said it was about politics. The court is dominated by progressives, while the right wins most of the elections.

According to Koppel, “The fact that the court is extremely powerful and gets involved in everything is something that is exactly to the liking of Israel’s progressives. So when they say that the proposed reforms, which are going to shift power from the court to elected officials, is undemocratic, what they mean to say is  it’s likely to weaken the authority of progressives.”

While discouraged by recent events, Koppel was still optimistic about the prospects for judicial reform in the long run. “The demographics are obvious. The right is getting stronger, “ said Koppel. “So if this necessary reform doesn’t happen this time, so it’ll happen in two years or in four years or in five years, I don’t know how much damage will be done until then, but it’s going to get done.”

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