Christian Zionists have long been critics of the Israeli Supreme court and supporters of judicial reform in Israel. Because, frankly, the Israeli Supreme Court has become quite a left-leaning, non-Zionist—not to mention, undemocratic—institution. As such, the judiciary has ended up on the daily forefront of “lawfare,” or judicial warfare, against the biblical restoration of Israel.
Recently, Israel has been thrown into severe turmoil over judicial reform by the left-wing politicians who lost the previous elections, as well as their compatriots in Israeli media. Many competing voices are now vying loudly for support, including appeals to the large number of Christians who support Israel. In this political frenzy, it is important for Christians who love Israel, to pause and be reminded of what some Christian Zionists like myself have been saying before this political frenzy started.
For years, I have tried to explain to Christian friends the dire need for judicial reform in Israel, and I will do so now again. For most who love Israel from afar, judicial reform seemed like a complex, insider baseball-topic. Now, the issue has exploded all over the news and the streets. For Christian Zionists in Israel on the front lines—contending for the right of Israel to exist, for the diaspora to return, for the Holy Land to be undivided, and for the right of Jews to live their biblical calling in their land, freely as Jews—for us, the judiciary has been an issue for a long time.
For example, in early 2017, the Christian prayer network I am a member of publicized the following prayer topic:
“Pray for strength and unity among those who fear God in Israel to enact new laws that can limit the undemocratic influence of the Supreme Court.”
It was not the first time the prayer topic had come up throughout the years.
Christian Zionists I know personally have often expressed discomfort with the apparent humanistic and masonic style of the Supreme Court Building itself, and note that many of the anti-Zionist decisions from the court increased after 1992 when the court moved into the new building.
During Netanyahu’s previous years as PM, I joined in with the laments of politicians like Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked, who criticized Netanyahu for letting important opportunities for judicial reform pass him by.
True, these may only be anecdotes. But in my experience, they give a sense of how Christian friends of Israel—in Israel—have often felt about Israel’s Supreme Court. The court undoubtedly does good as well. Thank God, Israel has a functioning court system, and we rejoice when just decisions are made. Still, while it might not be true for all Christian Zionists, the general critique I have witnessed has been the same as that of our conservative Jewish friends—the activist judiciary has real problems.
The Nature of the Problem
To summarise bluntly, when the State of Israel was reborn in 1948, it was led by secular socialists. The first, provisional government could never settle on a constitution, mainly because the secular and the religious factions failed to agree on such core issues as the purpose of the state, the state’s identity, and the long-term vision for the state. It is a fierce, ideological battle that continues to this day.
When the first right-wing government was elected in Israel in 1977, the left-wing, secular camp went into panic mode. A coping strategy developed. The judiciary was still a left-leaning institution. It was unelected and it had the power to ensure only likeminded people ended up as judges. As Evelyn Gordon has described it, the judiciary carried out a quiet coup in five steps.
First, it abolished the restriction of “standing.” Afterward, anyone could petition the court with grievances over any government decision, even those who were not affected by that decision.
Second, it got rid of the restriction of “justiciability” which limited the court from political domains, like foreign affairs and budget policy. Thereafter, basically every government decision became subject to the court’s judicial review.
Third, the court began evaluating not only if a government decision was legal, but if it was “reasonable,” giving it nearly unlimited veto power over government policy.
Fourth, the court made the state’s attorneys legal advice binding. It also made it practically impossible for the government to fire their own attorney, or seek other council.
Fifth and finally, since Israel lacks a constitution, in 1992, the court seized upon two “basic laws” (which were expressly not meant to be a constitution) and made them their own, vague constitution, to be interpreted at the will of the Supreme Court.
The judicial revolution was now complete.
In practice, this means that Israel is not only subject to the whims of essentially self-appointed, progressive judges, but at the mercy of anti-Zionist organisations constantly petitioning the Supreme Court to review, and often overturn, nearly every move Israel makes.
The situation is hampering the restoration of Israel in concrete terms—while also being undemocratic. As Rabbi Tuly Weisz put it, it goes against the Biblical principles of checks and balances on those in power.
The sun seems to be setting on the West as it sinks into secularist darkness. Israel, meanwhile is doing the opposite. The current, right-wing government is the most openly conservative and religious government I can remember. It campaigned on judicial reforms and won a broad electoral victory. Regardless of whether it succeeds in its efforts, current events show the significance.
The root of the backlash stems from the unsettled issue of whether Israel should be a secular state “like all the other nations,” or whether it has a unique, God-given calling—different from other nations. The spirit of protest and division sweeping the streets today does not stem from Israel’s biblical heritage and values, but from an international, leftist ideology.
To dig deeper, Zman Tikun has easy to grasp resources about judicial reform in Israel.