There are currently eight petitions against the Nation-State Law awaiting action by the High Court – and in a speech Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked urged the court to ignore the petitions and recuse itself from making a decision on what the Knesset passed as a Basic Law, Israel’s version of a constitutional law. Speaking at a legal conference in Yerushalayim, Shaked said that an unprecedented decision to declare illegal a Basic Law would “create chaos” and harm the court far more than it would change anything.
“The doctrine of changing constitutional-level laws is not just foolish, it is dangerous. In a democracy, the courts have no say on what a constitution says. Intervention on a Basic Law would be the beginning of the end of the rule of law,” Shaked said, adding that it would be a fatal violation of the separation of powers that is supposed to typify a democracy.
Demolishing a Basic Law, Shaked said, would be tantamount to effectively declaring a dictatorship of the High Court, “who[m] Israelis would look to in our dark night of dictatorship to save us. And never fear – the craziness that caused us to abandon democracy will certainly not affect the High Court, which will certainly act in a democratic manner. The 15 judges of the court will be sufficient to save us – this, after all, is what they were ‘elected’ to do,” she sarcastically added.
Also speaking at the event was Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who said that “many critics have viewed the law as ‘fascistic’ and ‘racist,’ but the truth is exactly the opposite. I know this because I support the bill, and I grew up in Russia, a country where the dignity of man was totally disregarded. I could not possibly support this law if it was undemocratic.”
The Nation-State Law is a concept – and a piece of legislation – that was first proposed back in 2010 by Likud MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Avi Dichter, with a simple premise: That the idea of Israel as a Jewish state be anchored specifically in the law. The law, as it was passed by the Knesset as a Basic Law, includes sections stating that Israel is indeed the “national home” of the Jewish people; that Israel is obligated to preserve Jewish culture and tradition; that the Jewish calendar be used whenever possible to conduct state business; that Jewish law be the “source of inspiration” for legislation by the Knesset and decisions by the courts; that Jews be given the opportunity to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship; that Hebrew be recognized as the primary official language of the country; and that the state encourage Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.