Ex-chief judge: Justice minister ‘does not understand democracy’

Ex-chief judge: Justice minister ‘does not understand democracy’

Dorit Beinisch says Ayelet Shaked ‘crossed red lines’ when accusing court of seeing itself as architect of the law, warning of dire consequences if nation-state law is overturned

Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch on Wednesday hit back at Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s claims that the legal system was overstepping its mandate. Shaked has repeatedly warned of dire consequences if the High Court overturns the controversial nation-state law.

“There is a misunderstanding of what democracy is — these are demagogic expressions that belong to other regimes,” Beinisch told Israel Radio.

“There are red lines that should not be crossed,” she charged. “Things are being said that I have never heard before. These are extreme things that do not [accurately] depict the system of government.”

“The court has not taken over the Knesset, nor the people… Creating a rift between the court and the people for which it sits — is this reasonable? These are demagogic concepts.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Tuesday, the justice minister had declared that “the judges have begun, step by step, to detach themselves from the existing law and have begun to see themselves as the architects of the desired law. The court has moved from being the interpreter of the law to being its policy officer.”

For months Shaked, along with her party’s head, Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, has been attempting to advance legislation broadly limiting the High Court’s circumvention power, but has made little headway despite having Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support.

At least three petitions have been lodged with the High Court since the nation-state law was passed on July 19, demanding that justices overturn the law over its alleged discrimination.

The contentions law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” for the first time, and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence defined the state as a Jewish and democratic one. The Netanyahu government says the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are anchored in existing legislation.

But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines the constitution’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze community, whose members say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

In its petition to the court, the left-wing Meretz party said the law contradicts a previous Basic Law passed in 1992 that guarantees “human dignity” for all citizens of Israel.

Representatives of the Druze and Bedouin communities have also petitioned the court to overturn the law.

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