Israel’s Supreme Court has long been held up as a resolute defender of liberal values. Recent decisions handed down by its judges, however, provide an important opportunity to revisit this claim, and to interrogate its past and present validity.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court “upholds the rule of law and strengthens human rights.” (A note on terminology. Israel’s Supreme Court also sits as the High Court of Justice (HCJ) for constitutional matters and citizens’ petitions against government entities.)
This narrative is often reproduced by Israel’s defenders. In March 2012, for example, Time magazine’s Joe Klein hailed the Court as “one of the world’s great bastions of civilized legal contemplation” and “a precious monument to the rule of law.” Read more
As the US-led Israeli-Palestinians peace process heads towards the buffers, one of the core aims and assumptions of the two decade-long negotiations – preserving a Jewish state in the majority of Mandate Palestine – has been forced into the spotlight.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recognises Israel as a “Jewish state”, a call taken up by other Israeli politicians and lobby groups internationally, has garnered a lot of attention. But ultimately, it is the explicit expression of what has been the implicit assumption of talks since the Oslo process began. Read more
Earlier this month, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared in a high profile speech that “he would not support any peace agreement that does not include the exchange of Israeli Arab land and population”. Calling it a “basic condition”, the Yisrael Beiteinu leader said that “the border will move” so as to put “the Little Triangle and Wadi Ara” in the proposed Palestinian state.
Lieberman has suggested this before. In a Newsweek interview in 2010, he affirmed that he envisaged “drawing a line” so that “at least half” of all Palestinian citizens would “no longer be part of Israel”. Read more
Given the insistence by its leaders that Israel be “recognised” as a Jewish state, some people might be surprised to know that there is considerable disagreement among Jewish Israelis about exactly what that means.
Enter the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who in addition to her key role in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seems set on making a contribution to one of the most contentious issues in Israeli politics: the state’s Jewish identity. Read more