“To the half of the country that hadn’t voted for the coalition, the extreme version was the goal, not a tactic on the way to a more moderate version. One doesn’t negotiate the dismantling of democracy on the breakneck schedule of the dismantlers.”
The Israeli right is gripped in a deep malaise.
It has its argument about the over-powerful High Court. It believes that argument. It’s been making it for decades. Now, suddenly at the helm of a wholly rightist coalition that no centrist or leftist faction can fell, it believed it had a moment of opportunity.
The government was sworn in at the end of December. By January 4, the great judicial reform was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin. The opposition, everyone understood, would rail and rage; old elites watching their displacement would not go quietly into the night. But in the end, the frustration of three decades of judicial overreach, now hardened into a grim determination, would see the coalition through.
That was the plan. Then everything started to go wrong.
It wasn’t the usual things. Former justices did indeed rage on cue. Law scholars signed petitions. But the right-wing coalition was ready with answers. The Israeli court had swollen far beyond anything comparable in the West. On dry but fundamental questions — the power of the court in vetting appointments to itself, the expansion of standing (who can appeal) and justiciability (what issues the court can take up), and on and on — the Israeli court was not, as the right has it, “a judicial dictatorship,” but it was an outlier in the democratic world.
It was wholly reasonable and legitimate to seek to rein it in, and indeed it was once a serious contention of scholars on left and right alike.
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