Yuri Guy Ron – Contemporary Distresses of Israel's Legal Arena

I have asked our distinguished hosts to allow me to say a few words, which I hope will be of interest to you
The Israeli legal system is riled up nowadays. The tension between the Executive and the Legislative branches is high, and derived, among other things, from the intricate personal relationship of the President of the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice. It is possible, that by appointing the present minister, the Prime Minister has actually indicated his positions and intentions. This is the same Prime Minister who is currently facing several criminal investigations. Such circumstances raise different questions relating to the rule of law and the interaction between government and capital in Israel
On the opposing side, allegations are being brought up against the Israeli Supreme Court, which during the tenure of its previous President, deemed to be over activist, both with respect to its approach towards the Legislative Authority and with respect to its review of the Executive Authority
When dealing with the tension between the Executive and the Legislative branches, the rhetoric is in fact mainly theoretical, since over a period of 15 years of existence of the principle new basic, almost constitutional, laws of Israel, the Judicial Authority had only 6 times interfered with the work of the Knesset. As far as the judicial review on the Executive Authority goes, the situation is more delicate and complex
Anyhow, the present Minister of Justice is proposing diverse ideas and reforms, for debate as well as for realization, in an impossible speed and quantity. Within a period of only few months, we are dealing in Israel at once, with questions such as the details concerning the independence of the Judicial Authority; the ability of the High Court of Justice to judicially review laws of the Legislative Authority; the scope of grounds enabling the Supreme Court to review the Executive Authority; constraining the authority of the Supreme Court to criticize decisions of the Attorney General; altering the panel of the Judges Appointments Committee; limiting the right to stand before the High Court of Justice; narrowing various administrative authorities of the President of the Supreme Court (such as the authority to shift cases from one court to another); dealing with questions concerning the appointment of Courts' Presidents, Vice-Presidents and other functionaries; the involvement of the President of the Supreme Court in the appointment of the State Attorney, the Attorney General, the Courts' General Director and so on
It should be emphasized, that these propositions of the Minister of Justice to such reforms, that concern the essence of the democratic system, require broad public debate. With respect to the main reform proposed, namely the initiative to narrow the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice, I believe that proper discussion should not be whether some issues (such as security, budget and human rights) ought to be entirely beyond the jurisdiction of the judiciary by means of legislation, but rather what might be the appropriate scope of judicial interference
The State of Israel, which does not yet have a Constitution, should first generate a right Constitution anchoring the authority of the High Court of Justice, and only then to set constitutional's safeguards, and not the other way around. Limitations on the Supreme Court's judicial review must not be imposed by means of legislation. Courts should be allowed to intervene whenever a law is being disregarded; an authority is in breach of its power; or when fundamental human rights are in jeopardy
In a State in which the Arab population constitute dominant minority, along with other minority populations – such as people with disabilities, people with different sexual preference etc – who lack political power and representation at the Legislative Authority, the importance of a High Court of Justice, defending the rights of populations whose accessibility to the power centers are weak, grows even stronger. Whereas the legislator is the representative of the majority, the intervention potential of the Supreme Court appropriately constrains the governmental authorities. Generally speaking, the right approach is to enable the Supreme Court to defend weakened populations by allowing it to override unconstitutional legislation
And what about the Israel Bar Association? – It depends on the Minister of Justice as the regulator to all professional matters. The Bar, and myself as its leader, find ourselves in a rather difficult situation. The Bar has no real authority to act for the improvement of the level of the law profession. Were the Bar, or its leader, to address public matters in a way that is not in line with the position of the regulator, it may lead to lack of support or delay of professional actions which advancement we deem as crucial for the benefit of our practice. Not necessarily due to lack of purposefulness on the part of either governmental ministry, but simply because unfortunately, this is how most of our human world operates
Nevertheless, since it is the defense of human rights and the rule of law that guides me more than anything else and since, in a democratic society, such defense is the effective duty of the Supreme Court, and is also depending on the scope of powers of the Judicial System, I am left with no other choice
I express and react, worry and anxious
Under the existing circumstances, shielding the profession is that much harder

Thank you for listening, and I hope my words have raised thoughts which, among other things, will contribute to your activity in your respective organizations