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A New Knesset Session, a New Assault

Independent judiciary, certain NGOs are in government’s crosshairs

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Prime Minister Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting yesterday.(Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images)

After a long hiatus for the holidays, the Knesset is resuming its session this week. After last season’s travesties—which included the anti-boycott bill, as well as a host of other measures designed to criminalize dissent and weaken the sovereign systems of checks and balances that give a democracy its life force—this season is slated to be even more disastrous. Here’s a partial list of the bills under consideration, which will likely be voted on in the coming weeks:

• A bill that would guarantee the government a majority in the committee dedicated to nominating Supreme Court justices. The judiciary and executive branches are currently separate entities, which explains, in part, Israel’s robust and critical court system. This, of course, is a problem for a government frequently dedicated to breaking the law, as Netanyahu’s administration does any time it colludes with settler groups. But the bill is not just a bit of ideological legislation; its practical purpose is to enable the appointment of Noam Sohlberg to the Supreme Court. Sohlberg’s record is worth a closer look; some of his highlights on the District Court include acquitting a policeman who killed a Palestinian despite admitting that the deceased was shot “without cause” and stripping an Israeli man who had dodged the draft of his passport.

• A bill that would require each candidate to the Supreme Court to appear before a special Knesset committee (currently made up mostly of right-wing legislators), without whose approval no appointment could go through.

• A bill that would rewrite Supreme Court justices’ term limits, tailored specifically to allow Asher Grunis, a conservative judge, to become the court’s next president.

• A bill that would severely limit the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments. The bill’s mastermind, Likud’s Ofir Akunis, wasn’t too subtle about the proposed legislation’s purpose: The goal, he wrote in his draft of the bill, was to curb “the inciting activities of many organizations who masquerade as human rights groups and wish to influence the political discourse, the nature and the policy of the state of Israel.”

These bills, most likely, will pass. If they do, Israel will no longer be able to truthfully call itself a democracy.

Netanyahu’s ‘Draconian Laws’ Are Attack on Israeli Democracy, Say MKs [Haaretz]
Bills to Slash Foreign Aid to Israeli Dovish Groups Put on Hold, Pending Cabinet Debate [AP/WP]

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Marc R says:

“These bills, most likely, will pass. If they do, Israel will no longer be able to truthfully call itself a democracy.”

My goodness, this is an asinine statement.

shavit says:

no marc … it’s a true statement (and it’s one Liel is by no means alone in making)

an independent judicial branch is a crucial aspect of a functioning democratic system. laws such as these severely limit (if not destroy) an important check on the legislative branch and the power of the majority.

And the United States where all judges of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and the Congress is no longer be able to truthfully call itself a democracy? eize tsviut ve hutspa!

Lansing Reed says:

Seriously, Liel, do you have any idea how American judges are chosen? Do you know the US Senate has to vote federal judges into office? Do you know that in most states, ALL judges stand for election? Is America not a democracy as a result?

And the fact that you think its ok for foreign governments to secretly fund front groups in Israel for the purpose of undermining the Israeli government, but not ok for an elected Israeli government to work with Israeli citizens, strongly suggests you are not someone who thinks seriously about these issues.

Oh, and did you know that if any of the Israeli NGOs taking foreign government money had been doing so while operating in the US, and not registered as a foreign agent, then all involved would be in a federal penitentiary?

The horror! Judges will have to have a hearing in front of the legislature! Groups that serve foreign powers for policy purposes will have to report their sources of funding and register! Who ever heard of such a crazy and undemocratic system!?!?! Oh wait…

The left in Israel has its collective knickers in a twist because this law will effectively loosen their stranglehold on the judiciary. The system as it currently stands is a joke and involves left wing judges picking each other for positions. Former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann of the center-left Shinui attempted to make the same changes as a member of Olmert’s government.

“A bill that would severely limit the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments.”

This is good.

The law in the US is that an organization that receives this sort of funding would need to register as an agent of a foreign government.

In short, “The Foreign Agents Registration Act … primary purpose was to limit the influence of foreign agents and propaganda on American public policy.”


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A New Knesset Session, a New Assault

Independent judiciary, certain NGOs are in government’s crosshairs

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