Netanyahu to CNN: Israel’s ‘Unbridled’ Judiciary Needs Reform

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his government’s controversial plans for a judicial overhaul, telling CNN‘s Jake Tapper Tuesday an “independent judiciary doesn’t mean an unbridled judiciary.”

“I’m controlling the government, and I’m responsible for its policies, and the policies are sensible, and responsible, and continue to be that,” Netanyahu told Tapper in a wide-ranging interview.

According to Netanyahu, Israel’s “extreme judicial activism,” in which the left-leaning Supreme Court has the power to overturn legislation it views as “unreasonable” and in which justices “self-select,” needed reform.

“This is a system we have in Israel. And if I say to you, this is democracy, you’d say that’s ridiculous. It’s unacceptable,” said Netanyahu.

Democracy needs “balance between three branches of government,” Netanyahu said. “In Israel, that balance has been thrown askew and you have one branch, a huge branch, a tree trunk—the judiciary—basically overcoming, arrogating to itself, the powers of the legislative and the government,” he continued.

He repeated his assertion the reforms will “make Israel’s democracy stronger.”

According to reform presented by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, justices would be appointed in a public hearing by elected officials, and not by an independent committee hearing that is closed to the public.

When asked about some of the more extreme statements made in the past by firebrand ministers in his coalition, Netanyahu said, “Well, a lot of people say a lot of things when they’re not in power. They sort of temper themselves when they get into power. And that’s certainly the case here.”

Addressing the so-called “override clause,” that would enable the Knesset to re-legislate laws that the Supreme Court had struck down, pending a 61-MK majority, Netanyahu pointed out Canada has exactly the same provision.

In Britain, meanwhile, the court does not have the power to strike down any legislation passed by parliament.

“Is Canada not a democracy? Is Britain not a democracy?” he asked.

Tapper noted that strong supporters of Israel, including attorney Alan Dershowitz, have come out in opposition of the reform.

“I respectfully disagree,” Netanyahu answered. “It brings Israel in line with most of the democracies of the world. Because Israel is right now an outlier. Israel has the most extreme judicial activism, that’s gone off the rails. And we’re trying to bring it back to where just about all the democracies are, both in the selection of judges and in the balance between the various branches of government.”

He did, however, state that he is ready to “hear counter offers” to the reform.

Tapper highlighted the Biden administration’s concerns surrounding construction in West Bank settlements, which Israel has promised to do in the wake of last weekend’s terror attacks, saying the U.S. was “worried about that bringing Israel on a path where peace is never going to be possible.”

“Well, I totally disagree,” Netanyahu said. “The Jewish people have been here for 3,500 years.”

Jews and Palestinians are “going to have to live together,” he said.

“We’re not going to ethnically cleanse the heartland of the Jewish people, we’re not going to ethnically cleanse Israel,” he said.

“For 25 years, the Palestinians—who don’t want peace with Israel, who want to see a peace without Israel, who don’t want a state next to Israel, but a state instead of Israel—they had an effective veto on Israel’s expansion of the circle of peace around it,” Netanyahu said.

“I went around them. I went directly to the Arab states, and forged a new concept of peace for peace, peace through strength. I forged four historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords, which is twice the number of peace agreements that all my predecessors in 70 years got combined.”


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