Democracy protestors have launched a petition to the Israeli ambassador in Canberra to ask the Netanyahu government to withdraw key legislation that would undermine judicial independence.
The petition, open for signing at change.org, was launched yesterday. It was initiated by the Australian branch of UnXeptable, an international group of expatriate Israelis and Diaspora Jews protesting anti-democratic moves by the Netanyahu government. The petition will go to Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon.
In Australia, UnXeptable has mounted protests in four Australian capitals in recent months, including weekly protests at Melbourne’s Caulfield Park.
UnXeptable argues Israeli expats and Diaspora Jews have an obligation to get involved in support of a democratic Israel.
The petition reads:
Dear Ambassador Maimon,
We are Zionists and supporters of the Israel envisaged in its Declaration of Independence – democratic, pluralist and peace-loving. As Australian Jews and Israelis living in Australia, we feel compelled to write to you at this critical moment in Israel’s history.
In April this year, President Isaac Herzog launched the “Kol Ha’am—Voice of the People” initiative that recognises the special responsibility the State of Israel holds for the future of the Jewish world and the reciprocal responsibility world Jewry has to express its views to the Israeli government.
We are part of the overwhelming majority of Australian Jews who reject the proposed judicial reforms (Crossroads 2023 survey showing 74% of the Australian Jewish community oppose these reforms).
We condemn the legislative agenda and initiatives of the Israeli government to change the checks and balances designed to scrutinise the exercise of power by the executive branch of government and/or the Knesset. Checks and balances are required when either the executive branch or the Knesset seeks to make changes that are against the existing laws of the land or against the accepted norms of the process of government. They are integral to a thriving democracy.
As there is no written constitution, no second chamber of the Israeli parliament or federated framework of government, checks and balances are achieved in Israel through the independence of Israel’s Supreme Court and the oversight of the Attorney-General.
We urge the Israeli government to immediately withdraw and cancel the following proposed legislation:
- Abolishing the Ground of Reasonableness (Arbitrariness Reform) (צמצום/ביטול עילת הסבירות)
To abolish the ground of reasonableness would mean that the court will not be able to rule that a government policy, appointment or administrative decision is unreasonable. This bill also threatens Israel’s democracy and protection of human rights because policy makers and civil servants would be able to make arbitrary and discriminatory decisions based on personal or political interests and citizens of Israel will be unable to turn to the court in an attempt to change the decisions.
- The Override Clause (פסקת ההתגברות)
Whereby the Knesset could reenact a law disqualified by the Supreme Court, with a simple majority of 61 members of Knesset. This bill would destroy a key democratic principle, “the separation of powers”, by granting almost unlimited power to the Knesset and the government to ensure laws deemed unlawful by the courts would still be enacted.
- Abolition of judicial review of Basic Laws (ביטול הביקורת השיפוטית על חוקי יסוד)
This would prevent the Supreme Court from overturning Basic Laws. This bill is separate and in addition to the Override Clause and it will have the power to remove any protection of laws based on Israel’s Declaration of Independence. This bill would allow the government to amend Basic Laws that change the democratic foundations of the government or that violate human rights and the court would not have authority to intervene or hold hearings on the issue.
- Appointment of Legal Advisors in Government Ministries (חוק היועמ”שים)
This bill will enable legal advisors to a ministry to be appointed by the Minister, i.e. it will be a political nomination, designed to serve the agenda of the minister. This would change a fundamental tenet of Israeli government due process whereby legal advisors are kept independent of politicians so that their advice is frank and fearless and not compromised by political interests that would be prioritised over the public interest and the “rule of law”.
- Appointment of Judges (שינוי הרכב הועדה למינוי שופטים)
This bill proposes that representatives of the government will replace the representatives of the Israeli Bar, so that the politicians from the coalition will always constitute a majority. This change will seriously impair the professional character and independence of judges. Instead of a system favouring the most capable and professional judges, it will favour the judges whose decisions serve the government of the day. Personal connections will take precedence over capabilities. A court that is less professional and less independent will not be able to protect human rights nor address any kind of government corruption.
- Appointment of the President of the Supreme Court (ביטול שיטת הסניוריטי)
This bill will fundamentally change the independence of the Supreme Court. It is proposed that the appointment of the president of the Supreme Court will be made by the government instead of maintaining the system of appointing from existing Supreme Court judges. This could mean the possibility of the government appointing an external President to the Supreme Court – and someone who is not even a judge!
If any of these bills are enacted, Israel’s democracy will be weakened, if not damaged beyond repair. In order to maintain Israel’s status as “the only true democracy in the Middle East”, the Israeli government must withdraw and cancel all of the above proposed legislation.
Photo: Democracy protestors in Melbourne brave the rain and cold (UnXeptable)