Statement- An Unreasonable Standard

Last Night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of ultra-nationalist zealots drove Israel further away from its roots as a liberal democracy and toward unabashed fascism. 

As Netanyahu and his government allies recklessly curtail the power of the judiciary to serve as a check on the executive and legislative branches of government, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned about Israel’s future. APN calls on the Biden administration to make clear to Netanyahu that these actions have consequences and that the United States will reassess its relationship with Israel if its government turns the state into a hollow democracy.

The Knesset Last night passed by first vote (out of three) a bill that would remove the power of Israeli courts to use the standard of reasonableness as a criterion to strike legislation and government executive orders. The bill (an amendment to Basic Law: Judiciary) reads: “Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, those who have jurisdiction to adjudicate according to law, including the Supreme Court in its function as a High Court of Justice, shall not discuss the reasonableness of the decision of the government, of the prime minister or of another minister, as well as of another elected official which shall be determined by law, and shall not issue an order against any of them in such matter."

Israel has almost no separation of powers between its executive and the legislative branches. The government, which enjoys a coalition majority in the Knesset, can legislate as it deems fit. The only check on the government is therefore the judicial branch and specifically the Supreme Court. Once the executive/legislative branch removes that check, Israel will become a hollow democracy.

The government of Israel can still halt its march toward the destruction of Israeli democracy by not bringing the bill to a second and third vote.

APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “An utterly unreasonable government, led by a prime minister who is facing three criminal indictments, wants to deny the Court the authority to rule on the basis of reason. That’s outrageous and unacceptable. We stand with the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who have been protesting their government’s anti-democratic campaign for these past six months, and who are determined to step up the protest. But internal pressure is not enough to stop the power-intoxicated Netanyahu government. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk and they don’t let them destroy their democracy. The time has come for the Biden administration to step up its pressure and make clear to Netanyahu that the United States will reassess its alliance with a non-democratic Israel that not only violates the rights of its Palestinian neighbors but also violates the democratic rights of its own people. If Israel wants to be a respectable member of the family of liberal nations, its government must behave accordingly.”