Twelve Angry Men (and Women) // Congresspeople need to stay in their lanes

Didn’t their mothers ever tell them not to meddle in the affairs of others?
The twelve American Congresspeople, that is, who introduced a formal resolution taking a side in the ongoing and robust debate in Israel over judicial reform.

Apparently not.

One resolution sponsor asserted that “The Netanyahu government’s anti-democratic agenda not only threatens Israel’s standing in the world, but also the very core of the special relationship between the United States and Israel.” And expressed the hope that “this resolution serves as a warning to the Netanyahu government to reverse course.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s mortal sin, of course, in the livid lawmakers’ eyes, was daring to guide the Knesset to pass legislation limiting Israel’s High Court from tossing out laws simply because it deems them “unreasonable.”

(In a jurisprudential version of Escher’s famous “hands drawing each other” lithograph, the court will now entertain challenges to the law, mulling, perhaps, whether the “reasonability law” is reasonable.)

Whether or not those Congresspeople realize how widely accepted it is that Israel needs some form of judicial reform is unknown. How familiar they are with the fact that Israel’s High Court under Aharon Barak in the 1980s and 1990s became one of the most activist supreme courts in the world is unknown.

Whether they are aware that the late Judge Robert H. Bork characterized Israel’s High Court as incompatible with democracy and hopelessly subjective, likewise unknown. Do they realize that no democratic country other than Israel allows supreme court justices to choose their own successors? Ditto.

What is known—and should be, by the Congressional complainers—is that, although they are certainly entitled to their personal opinions, well-informed or otherwise, about what they think other countries should do or not do, American lawmakers’ job is to address American issues, not internal Israeli ones.

And they, along with President Biden, who has cautioned Mr. Netanyahu to go slow on judicial reform, should know, too, that leveraging political positions to try to influence another sovereign country’s internal affairs is an offensive overstepping of boundaries.

To be sure, a government is justified in calling out another country for human rights violations or other egregious acts or policies. But we’re talking here about a straightforward, if divisive, internal political deliberation. For any member of Congress, elected to advocate for his or her constituents, such nose-sticking into Israel’s domestic business is indefensible. Israeli issues are for Israelis to decide.

Imagine if members of the Knesset proposed a resolution to support one or another side of a polarizing American issue, like gun control, drug policy or border security. You might be able to imagine it, but you will never encounter it in reality. And rightly so.

Ironically, President Biden not long ago impugned the legitimacy of the US Supreme Court, saying it was unmoored and unprecedented in its efforts to “unravel basic rights and basic decisions.”

What’s more, there was a recent dust-up on our own shores about the relationship between the nation’s legislature and its highest court.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito contended that “no provision” in the Constitution allows Congress to regulate the Supreme Court. Howls of protest emerged from a den of Democrats. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut called Mr. Alito “stunningly wrong” and berated the conservative wing of the High Court as “seeing themselves as…having just as much power and right to impose their will on the country as Congress does.”

Representative Ted Lieu of California, addressing Mr. Alito, said: “Congress has always regulated you and will continue to do so. You are not above the law.”

Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, among a slew of others, also criticized Mr. Alito’s contention that the Court is not ultimately beholden to constitutionally sound laws passed by the Houses of Congress, should the Justices find those laws not to their liking.

Hmmm. It seems that, west of the Atlantic, appropriately passed laws can’t be cavalierly swept off the books by the Supreme Court. But in Israel, at least to 12 angry Congresspeople, the Knesset’s will is at the mercy of the High Court.

Judicial submission to the will of the electorate for me, but not for thee.

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