Navigating Israel's constitutional crossroads: Reform or rift?

Opinion: The ball is in Netanyahu's court, a compromise is within reach; However, if he keeps ignoring it, today's rifts and damages will snowball into ruin, and the responsibility will be his and his alone

Ben Dror-Yemini|
September is approaching, and the constitutional crisis is reaching a boiling point. It could turn into a black September. However, this can still be prevented. Both sides are convinced that justice is on their side, an absolute and unassailable justice, but the more they believe in their own righteousness, the greater the harm inflicted on Israel.
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The protest movement is justified in its concern about a potential judicial reform in Israel. It's not just about revoking the reasonableness standard, amending the ultra-Orthodox draft law or the planned overhaul of the judge selection committee. It's about Basic Law: Torah Study. It's about tangible steps to undermine the Jewish and democratic character of Israel to the detriment of the ultra-Orthodox and nationalist factions.
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מפגינים ומפגינות בתל אביב
מפגינים ומפגינות בתל אביב
Protests in Tel Aviv
(Photo: Reuters/Corinna Kern)
It involves budget allocations to the ultra-Orthodox, removing core curriculum requirements, initiating the first steps toward gender segregation in places where it never existed before and significant investments in the West Bank, all aimed at thwarting the chances of a Jewish and democratic state.
Supporters of the reform are right, they have mostly been vindicated. They feel that for too many years, the judicial system has circumvented democracy and undermined it. These are not groundless allegations. Indeed, these were the claims raised by left-wing academia.
Notably, in 2004, Professor Shlomo Avineri, a prominent figure among the intellectual ranks of the Zionist left, wrote: "In the Israeli reality, after the Supreme Court ruled that every citizen has the right to appeal to it directly and that means 'everything is justiciable' and in real-time, there is no one who can rein in the Supreme Court except for the court itself... The Supreme Court must be the watchdog of the rule of law since there is no one who can restrain it. Anyone who suggests otherwise is immediately viewed as an enemy of democracy. However, the Supreme Court did not rein itself in. Quite the opposite."
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ישיבת ממשלה
ישיבת ממשלה
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen/Pool)
Understanding that the claims of reform supporters are not groundless might pave the way for national consensus. Israel needs a reconciliation committee, and it's within reach. Reform can be achieved without a shadow of concern for undermining democracy. The path is much simpler than it may seem. After all, among us are judges, some of them labeled as conservatives or even right-wing, yet there's no dispute about their integrity and expertise.
On the right, these names are well-known. Netanyahu should invite three, four or five such judges and ask them to draft a Basic Law: Legislation that will regulate the separation of powers, the authority of the Supreme Court regarding the annulment of laws and more.
בן-דרור ימיניBen Dror-YeminiPhoto: Avigail Uzi
If the ruling Likud Party's intention is genuine reform and not a dictatorship, then Likud leadership can initiate this step while freezing legislation until the reform plan is presented. Let's say to that minority within the protest camp that opposes compromise and seeks capitulation – we can ignore them. But we must not ignore the majority, yes, a majority, which includes right-wing individuals who want a compromise.
The ball is in Netanyahu's court. A compromise is within reach. It appears that every moment he avoids it, he only exacerbates the situation. And if he persists in not doing it, today's rifts and damages will snowball into ruin. The responsibility will be his and his alone.
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