Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5759 - August 4, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Undermining Respect for Law

One of the favorite rhetorical bludgeons used against the religious public in Israel is the "rule of law." Secular journalists and politicians constantly champion the importance of the rule of law for democratic systems of governance like that in Israel, and accuse the religious community of undermining it whenever we criticize a decision of the High Court or a law that we consider unjust. In fact, our criticism of the system is much less damaging and subversive of the system than the way the Left plays with its own laws -- as can be seen in the current efforts of the government to amend the Basic Law of the Government to allow it to add Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers.

We support democracy and Israeli democracy in particular. We do not think that our support for Israeli democracy is any weaker than the support of the Left, though we admit that we believe that there are other causes, which have no one else to champion them, that need our efforts more than Israeli democracy.

The support of the Left for the rule of law is very selective. They freely violated the law against meeting with the PLO only five years ago; they do not respect the legal demolition orders given against illegally built Arab buildings; and weekly they violate the social laws against working on Shabbos with the full backing of anti-religious ministers and members of Knesset.

The recent initiative to expand the government is one of the worst offenses against the rule of law. To expand the government positions for no substantive reason, merely to allow the Prime Minister to pay some political debts and to aggregate more power, will clearly undermine the force of the Basic Laws, and the respect of the public for all laws.

No one today defends the government's law to add ministers on substantive grounds. Minister of Justice Beilin opposed the law. Professor Rubinstein, the chair of the Knesset Legal Committee that prepared and approved the law, opposed the law. All the coalition members on that committee opposed the law. Chaim Oron, who is slated to get one of the new Cabinet positions, also opposed the law. The major coalition partners did not press to pass the law.

Even under the existing law, Israel, with 16 cabinet ministers, has more than the average European country, some of whom are ten times its size. It certainly does not need 24 ministers to govern. On the contrary, more ministers at the government table will probably make things unwieldy and harder to govern. With the trend towards increasing privatization, the government should shrink, not expand.

The change was made mainly to give ministerial positions to Michael Melchior (Meimad), Amnon Lipkin-Shachak (Center), and Matan Vilnai (One Israel). All are political neophytes who have never before served in a Knesset.

However, the big winner from the expansion is Ehud Barak. He now has that many more prime political positions to give out, and will have that many more loyal supporters. Limiting the power of the prime minister was one of the explicit reasons given for the Basic Law that restricted the number of legal cabinet jobs.

One of the Basic Laws was changed for the basest of reasons. All of the loudest guardians of the law aided and abetted this travesty. Let us, at least, register our protest.

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