The efforts of Netanyahu’s far-right governing coalition are ‘strongly opposed,’ according to professors from prestigious US law schools.
Many eminent American legal scholars from top law schools have joined a chorus of opposition to the reforms put forth by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government by signing a public statement expressing serious concerns about the proposed changes to Israel’s judicial system.
More than 70 US law professors said the proposed changes “will seriously weaken the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers, and the rule of law in Israel” in a statement that was initially published on Sunday.
According to the statement, “We, law professors in the United States who care deeply about Israel, strongly oppose the attempt by the current Israeli government to radically overhaul the country’s legal system.”
It went on to say that “this effort includes proposed reforms that would grant the ruling coalition absolute power to appoint Justices and judges, make it almost impossible for the Supreme Court to invalidate legislation,” and it would limit the independence of Israel’s attorney general.
As of Monday morning, there were 78 professors on the list, including former deans of Harvard and Yale Law Schools and professors from Stanford, Duke, and the University of California-Berkeley, among other top US law schools.
Currently, the Human Dignity and Liberty Basic Law, one of Israel’s 13 fundamental laws, allows the highest court to disqualify government legislation. The basic laws of Israel are intended to be included in the upcoming constitution, which does not yet exist.
However, a new plan that the current government of Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has proposed would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to restrain parliament and increase the government’s authority to appoint judges.
The nine-member committee responsible for appointing judges currently has three seats for the governing coalition. The proposal would give them five, giving the government a clear majority.
An “override clause” is also included in the plan, which states that parliamentarians can enact a law that was rejected by the Supreme Court with a simple majority of 61 (out of 120) votes.
In addition, it would make it possible for ministers to appoint their own legal advisers as opposed to appointees who are accountable to the attorney general.
Israeli prosecutors and state attorneys have warned that if the plan is fully implemented, Israel will likely lose its independent judiciary and transition from a government that must justify its actions to one that can act arbitrarily.
Protesting the proposed changes, tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets, claiming that they would jeopardize the democratic checks and balances that the courts provide for ministers.
According to the American law professors’ statement, “would pose a dire risk to freedom of expression, to human and civil rights, and to efforts to reduce corruption,” weakening the judicial system’s safeguards.
The weakening of the courts would also benefit Netanyahu, who supports the changes.
The prime minister is being tried for corruption, and the law might let him avoid being found guilty or let his case go away. He has publicly criticized the justice system, claiming that it is biased against him, ever since he was indicted in 2019.