Navigate to News section

A New Knesset Session, a New Assault

Independent judiciary, certain NGOs are in government’s crosshairs

Liel Leibovitz
November 14, 2011
Prime Minister Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting yesterday.(Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images)
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.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.