Prominent US lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday urged further debate about the government’s judicial overhaul and said the premier was open to compromise.
Dershowitz’s comments came amid a stormy day that saw mass anti-government protests and fierce pushback from the opposition as the coalition pushed forward with its plans to significantly weaken the judiciary.
Dershowitz said the two principles that must be adhered to are that the Supreme Court “gets the last word” on civil liberties and issues of equality, and that the court remain non-partisan. The coalition’s proposals greatly restrict the court’s ability to block any legislation, and provide for the government to henceforth choose judges.
“If we can agree on these two principles, of a non-partisan Supreme Court and a Supreme Court that has the power to make final rulings on issues of core civil liberties, we can come to some consensus,” Dershowitz told Channel 12. “On who gets appointed to the Supreme Court, the key issue is that it remain non-partisan.”
Dershowitz called for further discussion about the contentious legislation before it moves forward.
“Have a series of debates on these issues. There are two sides to the issue and let the public decide after hearing both sides. Demonstrations are fine but demonstrations don’t produce nuance. Debate and discussion produce nuance,” Dershowitz said.
He said he met with Netanyahu during a recent trip to Israel and that the premier was open to “reasonable compromise.”
“He wants balance and he wants reasonableness and I think he would move in that direction, but right now I think the debate is too polemical,” Dershowitz said of Netanyahu.
The Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Monday approved some parts of the legislation for a first reading in parliament that will likely take place early next week.
Later in the day, the architects of the coalition’s judicial plans said they were prepared to immediately meet with opposition leaders at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem to discuss the president’s compromise proposal for the judicial overhaul plan.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee Chairman MK Simcha Rothman said they were willing to meet without preconditions, but did not agree to the president’s call to pause the legislative efforts during the discussions.
Opposition leaders rejected this proposal, saying it was disingenuous to propose talks while moving ahead with a process they see as ruinous to Israel’s democratic character.
Key elements of the overhaul legislation include proposals to severely restrict the High Court’s power of judicial review over legislation; allow the Knesset to override a High Court decision to strike down legislation; make legislation immune from judicial review at the beginning of the legislative process; and prevent the court from using the principle of reasonableness to assess administrative decisions by the government and other state agencies. It will also give the government control over the appointment of judges.