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Thursday, March 09, 2023

Israel Needs Another Election

There is an intense debate in Israel about the Government's proposal to reform the judiciary. Without getting into the merits of that law, I do have an observation that might be worthwhile.

One way of thinking about significant constitutional change is that you need broad public support. This could be expressed in two forms. First, a party could win an overwhelming victory at the polls. Second, the party could win successive victories that are big enough to justify claiming a mandate. The first kind finds support in requirements for a supermajority to change a constitution. The second finds support in constitutional requirements (such as in Indiana) that two successive legislatures must propose the same amendment for the issue to go to the people in a referendum.

How can a parliamentary country handle this problem? In Britain, the answer was that ending bicameralism (in other words, demoting the House of Lords) went through only after the Government won successive elections on that issue by a significant margin. Oddly enough, the King was the person who made this demand and could make it stick, because only he could pack the House of Lords if they refused to pass what became the Parliament Act of 1911.

The problem in Israel is that the Government is trying to put through its judicial reform after just one election (and without a big majority in parliament). If they are confident that the people back this proposal, then they should call another election and prove that there is a mandate for reform. But there are two problems. One is that Israel has had many elections in recent years due to its internal political split, thus the appetite for another one this year is probably very low. Second, the Israel President cannot compel the Government to do this in the way that King could in Britain more than a century ago. (Today, of course, the King would have no such power.)

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on March 9, 2023 at 09:34 AM | Permalink


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