GOAL: A SUPREME COURT THAT REPRESENTS THE ENTIRE PUBLIC"
Nissan Slomiansky, the new chairman of the
Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice, is against the enactment of Basic
Laws and in favor of setting new rules. In a confrontational interview he
criticizes the Supreme Court ("Haredim and Arabs feel they are without
representation") and promises to see that more and more laws passed by the
Knesset will be grounded in Jewish law
By Gideon Alon, ISRAEL TODAY
, June 29, 2015
|MK Nissan Slomiansky|
Although only a few weeks have passed since he took
office as Chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee, MK Nissan
(Jewish Home) has strong and clear positions on issues of law
and justice, and he knows just what he intends to accomplish during his tenure.
Slomiansky (69) has served ten years in the Knesset,
but not continuously. He previously served for more than 20 years (1998-1977)
as mayor of Elkana, where he lives with his family. He was a founder of the Gush
Emunim movement, and the secretary general and member of the Yesha Council. In
1997 he became an MK for the first time on the NRP list. He lost his seat in
the next elections to the 15th
Knesset, but returned to the Knesset
in 2003 as part of the National Union and has served two terms. In the elections
to the 18th
Knesset he won first place in the list of the Jewish Home
party, but gave up his place for the benefit of the late journalist Uri Orbach.
In the 19th Knesset was appointed to the prestigious post of chairman of the
MK Slomiansky is a very hardworking MK and a pleasant
person all around. He was born in Ramat Gan and studied at the YBA Nechalim
yeshiva high school and then at Yeshivat Hesder Kerem b'Yavneh, where he
received rabbinical ordination. He also has two Master’s degrees, in Physics from
Bar-Ilan University, and in Jewish Law from Tel Aviv University.
The Chairman of the Constitution Committee makes no
secret of the criticism he has of the Supreme Court, and in particular the
judicial activism of the former Chief Justice Aharon Barak
. When I
reminded him that eight years have passed since Barak resigned, he replies:
"But his spirit still reigns there in the Supreme Court."
court is not the legislator"
The platform of the Jewish Home party says that
you oppose the excessive and unnecessary intervention of the Supreme Court in
legalization. What does that mean?
"During the period of Justice Barack, the
Supreme Court became the country's chief legislator. For example when I was a
legislator, I passed a law that had a particular purpose with explanations and
justifications. But when the law came up for judicial review, Barak said: 'I
interpret the law differently than the legislature,’ and from that moment on, his
interpretation became the binding interpretation in all circumstances.
"Barak also assumed the authority to overturn
laws passed by the legislature, which was never the intended role of the Supreme
Court. He was not the legislature. If he thought that a law needed changing, there
were ways that he could unofficially direct the attention of the politicians to
changing the law. The Knesset is the democratic body elected by the public, and
therefore the Court must act in accordance with the laws of the Knesset, and assume
the authority to overrule them."
You also claim that the Supreme Court is
disconnected and does not reflect the general public. How so?
"I'll give you a few examples. In the Barak era
the Court upgraded two laws that the Knesset enacted as ordinary laws into
Basic Laws [referring to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic
Law: Freedom of Occupation - GA]. This gave these laws enormous power comparable
to a constitution, and then the Court began to compare any new law that the Knesset
enacted to these Basic Laws. If Barak’s understanding of the new law passed by
the legislature contradicted a Basic Law, he abolished the new legislation. You
understand what tremendous authority he assumed for himself? Furthermore,
analysis of Supreme Court rulings made by various parties clearly proves that
there is still a strong tendency toward the Left on the Court. I aspire that
the Supreme Court will be connected to the public, with everyone being
represented in some way. Today there are sectors of the general public,
including the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, who do not feel that the court
represents them, and that for all intents and purposes, the Court exists in a
vacuum; and that's not good. Once wider sectors of the public feel that the
Supreme Court represents them, it will give the Court legitimacy. "
the composition of the committee"
How will you handle this situation?
"First of all by expanding the composition of
the Judicial Appointments Committee, so that there will be three ministers
instead of two and three MKs instead of two, because today there are three
judges on committee who typically operate in coordination with two
representatives of the Israel Bar Association, thus controlling a majority on
the committee. We need to create a situation on the committee where five
committee members will not be able to veto judicial appointments."
Why are you against legislation of other Basic Laws
to complete a Constitution?
"In principle, we are against Basic Laws and a
Constitution, because we believe that Israel already has a constitution and it
is the Bible. In one of the meetings of the Knesset Constitution Committee,
which was attended by Justice Barak, I argued with him about the importance of
the Constitution. I asked him: 'If you have a constitution, who will interpret
it?' And he replied, ‘the Supreme Court.’ I told him I thought the constitution
should interpreted by a special court established just for constitutional
review, or another external entity composed of public figures, to which he
replied: ‘If so, then there is no point to a Constitution.’ The meaning of his
words is that once the Constitution is ratified with the Supreme Court as its
interpreter - then there will be nothing to prevent the Supreme Court becoming
the supreme sovereign."
Your party's platform states that "legislation
should be avoided that imposes religious or secular standards, and the status
of Jewish law should be upgraded in the country.” What does that mean?
"There's no reason for there to be a conflict
between the legislation in the Knesset and Jewish law. To date, no legislation
passed by the legislature contradicts Jewish law. It is very important that the
Jewish state should incorporate as many concepts as possible from traditional
Jewish law in our modern legal system, because many of the 3,000 year-old laws
have much beauty. I submitted a bill that states that every lacuna in modern legislation
should include precedents found in Jewish law. Jewish law will thereby be
modernized while at the same time enriching our modern law."
Do you support the proposal to split the roles of
the Attorney General into two positions, one Legal Counsel to the government
and the other to head the Public Prosecutor’s Office?
"The issue of separation of the functions of
the Attorney General and the head of public prosecution is a heavy topic that
needs to be changed, but it should be carried out in a serious manner. I intend
to hold in-depth hearings on this issue. The current situation is not good, the
Attorney General is essentially the landlord for all ".
is equal before the law"
How about the phenomenon of corruption in law
enforcement, prosecution, police and among lawyers?
"There is no doubt that it is a very difficult
situation when the heads of government - including a former president, a former
prime minister, a former finance minister and others - are sent to prison or
convicted of serious crimes. Nevertheless, we should view in a positive light
the fact that the state is waging a campaign against corruption in such cases, and
does not flinch from prosecuting even the most senior positions in government. We
must invest in denouncing these kinds of phenomena in our educational system,
even in early childhood education."
Look do you think will be the highlight of your
activity in your current term of office?
"We need to highlight any parliamentary
legislation that first of all, Israel is a Jewish state. When Barak was
president of the Supreme Court, he turned the tables and explained Jewish state
as something amorphous and abstract. Therefore, with any law enacted by the
Knesset we must emphasize that we are a Jewish state, and interpret what the Jewish
moral tradition is in this area of Statecraft. Take for example the Law of
Return. When the state was established the state’s leaders had the wisdom to
enact the Law of Return, as well as family law governing marriage and divorce,
so that we can live here as a Jewish state. We also will need to make changes in
the laws regarding governance and national sovereignty. "
Slomiansky believes he has a chance to promote these
changes: "A leader needs to have ambition, a desire to move forward, and to
know what he wants to accomplish. It’s a bit difficult with a coalition of 61
Knesset members, but I'm optimistic."