The Kohelet Policy Forum, the conservative think tank which provided many of the ideas for the Israeli ruling coalition’s ongoing judicial reforms, on Tuesday issued a call for compromise in order to achieve judicial reforms with a “broad consensus.”
The group published a letter on social media explaining their reasoning for seeking judicial reforms, but spoke of the need for greater consensus.
“Immediately after the Minister of Justice announced the reform, we started talks and contacts with colleagues who oppose it in an attempt to reach agreements and compromises. We did this out of the belief that it would be very desirable for such a move to pass with broad agreement, and from the understanding that there is a point in improving the proposed reform in a way that would allow the expansion of the circle of supporters,” the letter stated.
Protesters stormed the Kohelet Policy Forum offices last week, placing bags of mortar and coils of razor wire at the entrance of the offices and called the director a “traitor.”
While the Kohelet Forum developed many of the ideas included in the government coalition’s judicial reforms, and while some of the group’s members serve as advisors to coalition politicians, the group itself did not write the texts of the reforms.
In yesterday’s letter, the Kohelet Forum thanked Israeli President Isaac Herzog for his work to achieve a compromise agreement.
“We welcome additional attempts made to reach a compromise, and wish to express great appreciation for the efforts of the Honorable President of the State to bring the political parties to an agreed outline,” the letter said.
Echoing the language of Herzog, the letter also stated that, in many instances of disagreement, “the gaps can be bridged.”
Last week, one of the think tank’s members, economist Dr. Michael Sarel, wrote an open letter criticizing certain aspects of the coalition’s proposal and warning that the current reforms “as being legislated” could lead to political and economic consequences which would be harmful for the country.
Sarel expressed his agreement with the need for judicial reform but said, “The specific reform being proposed is not the one required.”
He warned that the proposed reforms, as written, “will create a situation in which there will be no separation of powers, in that it subordinates the legal system to the will of the coalition.”
“The proposed reform gives almost unlimited power to the coalition,” Sarel wrote. This, he said, raises his fears that a future coalition “will significantly erode the principles of representative democracy.”
Quoting Lord Acton’s axiom that “power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Sarel said the temptation to abuse that extra power would be irresistible.
“Separation of powers is one of the most important, influential and successful ideas in human history,” he wrote. “Separation of powers is based on a political-legal relationship between the branches of government, characterized by checks and balances that prevent abuse of power by one branch of government.”
But Sarel agreed with his Kohelet Forum colleagues that the judicial branch had upset the balance of power in the Israeli government. He also said the organization was working to improve Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial-reform plan and to find a proper balance of power.
Last month, Kohelet Forum director, Prof. Moshe Koppel, called the “override clause,” which would allow the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to override Supreme Court rulings, a “stupid idea.”
Koppel said there is an “understandable concern that it will be exploited.”
He expressed his belief that the override clause could be sacrificed in order to achieve broader support for other parts of the reform.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.