High Court Faces Harsh Criticism Over Alleged Overreach

Sep 12, 2023 3:01 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

In what can be seen as a symbol of an increasingly polarized battle between the Knesset and Israel’s Supreme Court, MK Simcha Rothman’s incendiary remarks before the full bench have ignited a heated debate about the Court’s role in legislative matters.

Highlighting his point, Rothman shared a compelling story: “Prof. Haim Hanani, Vice President of the Technion in the early 1960s, posed a challenge to his students, ‘What information do you need in order to design a pipeline that will transport blood from Haifa to Eilat?’… None of you asked why a pipeline is needed to transfer blood from Haifa to Eilat. Not one of you considered whose blood this is and who spilled it.” Rothman’s narrative was clear: it’s essential to ask the right questions, to determine the moral and ethical validity of a proposal rather than just its feasibility.

Drawing parallels, he remarked, “These questions are akin to those raised by Hanani’s students; they consider how to design the tube in which the blood flows without asking why such a tube is necessary.” Rothman strongly criticized the Supreme Court justices, hinting at their failure to gauge the essence of democracy while overstepping their judicial boundaries. “The petitioners… have presented a veritable smorgasbord of legal techniques… But the very fact that these questions have been raised and are being considered is a failure; it is how the system is failing the test.”

Rothman was not alone in his criticisms. Echoes of past warnings reverberated when Rothman quoted Chief Justice Moshe Landau: “Any annulment of legislation by a court in matters such as these will make the court a senior partner in the work of legislation and make the judges the bane of public dispute… the court will lose the trust of the general public.”

Rothman’s subsequent emphasis on the critical role of democracy was evident: “Five times we went to the polling stations, because the Israeli public believes in democracy. We believe in free elections… The path to achieve this goal is not an easy one. It will certainly be made even longer and more arduous if this Court decides that this matter is in its hands.”

He firmly underscored the difference between the court and democracy, stating that while “oligarchical elites excel at protecting the rights of the elite few,” democracy, despite its flaws, remains the “best way we have to promote and protect individual rights, equality and freedom of expression.”

Closing his remarks with a powerful plea, Rothman said, “The plaintiffs are seeking a judgement and I, in the name of the majority of the nation that elected this government, am seeking justice… This nation has been crying out for justice for years. Do not make the nation and the government wait any longer.”

While the High Court’s response remains to be seen, this episode underscores the high tensions between Israel’s legislative and judicial arms. The drama continues.


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