Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein bemoaned Sunday a series of reforms proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that may shake up the powers of Israel’s judicial authority, dubbing the motions “simplistic and baseless.”
Weinstein’s salvo, which did not mention Shaked by name, appeared to target the freshman minister over plans that critics say will weaken the judiciary and give politicians more control over the makeup of the high court.
“There are those who believe that governance in current day Israel is not in the hands of elected officials, but rather the justice system. They believe that the separation of powers has become unclear, and should be redefined,” Weinstein said at the Herzliya Conference. “I completely disagree with this approach, I believe this is an ungrounded and simplistic approach to the idea of governance.”
Upon taking office last month, Shaked indicated her hopes to pass three controversial reforms: splitting the attorney general post into two or even three different offices, giving the Knesset the power to overrule certain High Court of Justice decisions, and reducing the voting power of Supreme Court justices on the Judicial Appointments Committee, which nominates judges to the highest bench.
In her two years as a Knesset member, the Jewish Home lawmaker, who unlike many of her predecessors in the post is not a lawyer by training, has been an outspoken supporter of limiting the judicial branch’s power.
Weinstein warned that tinkering with the powers of the justice system could have wider implications for the state of democracy in Israel.
“We must remember that the justice system preserves democracy more than democracy preserves the justice system,” Weinstein said.
“Democracy is not just majority rule. A democracy in which there are no limits on the actions of elected officials is not a democracy. Democracy that functions on the power of the majority and tramples minority rights is not a democracy. Democracy that does not preserve equality is not a democracy. Democracy that does not preserve human rights is not a democracy,” he said.
In May, Shaked said she believed decisions relating to governance have been wrongly placed in the hands of the justice system, rather than the people and their elected representatives in the Knesset.
“It is no secret that I plan to work toward strengthening the Knesset’s sovereignty. The power of the legislative and executive branches derives from the public,” she said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.