There is a fight going on right now in Israel over boundaries – not the kind meant to keep people separated, but the kind meant to keep the government separated. In Israel, the only real checks and balances of government are between the Judicial branch and parliament.
Unlike the United States, where people vote for their national leaders, Israelis vote for a party. The winning party, which is in the majority, chooses the Prime Minister. That means there are no checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government. That leaves only the Supreme Court as the check against total power.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to overhaul the justice system and give Parliament the final say in who becomes a judge. His proposal would also allow Parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions as well as limit the court’s ability to review laws passed by Parliament. In short, opponents say these measures would give the Prime Minister ultimate governing control not unlike a dictatorship.
If these boundaries are dissolved, if the justices’ rulings can be overridden, if the judiciary is selected by the majority party in office, then it becomes just another party tool to push forward any ideology it sees fit. This move would erode accountability, dissolve democracy, and establish Israel as a “winner take all” nation.
The Torah teaches us “tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice shall you pursue.” How can there be justice when the court’s decisions can be overturned by the political party in power?
Aside from losing a democratic ally in the Middle East, the repercussions of this kind of governmental shift would be felt all over the world in every Jewish community. How? Because the people of Israel are as diverse in thought and pursuits as the rest of us. If the world sees and hears only one voice of Israel, it then thinks there is only one Jewish voice, which opens the door for increased criticism and antisemitism.
Haver, the Rabbinic Council of Boulder, believes that democracy – maintaining a governmental system of checks and balances – is the only way to achieve true justice, allow for the minority voice to be heard, and uphold our moral obligation to one another.
Join us in our support of democracy in Israel. Write to the Consul General and your congressional representatives, contribute to organizations that promote and uphold democracy like Israel Religious Action Center, New Israel Fund, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, or AIPAC.
Preserving democracy enables the pursuit of justice.
Haver, the Rabbinic Council of Boulder
Rabbi Deborah Bronstein, Rabbi Emerita Congregation Har HaShem
Rabbi Ori Har DiGenarro, Conscious Learning Community
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Rabbi Emerita Congregation Nevei Kodesh
Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb, Congregation Har HaShem
Rabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny, Community Rabbi
Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith, Adventure Judaism
Rabbi Fred Greene, Congregation Har HaShem
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, Adventure Judaism
Rabbi Charna Rosenholtz, Shulchan.net
Rabbi Eva Sax-Bolder, Community Rabbi
Rabbi Alan Shavit-Lonstein, Adventure Judaism
Rabbi Marc Soloway, Congregation Bonai Shalom
Rabbi Diane Tiferet Lakein, Congregation Nevei Kodesh