Justices spar with lawyers defending reasonableness law as 13-hour hearing ends – The Times of Israel

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
After the High Court of Justice concludes its hearing on the judicial overhaul’s reasonableness law, National Unity Party head Benny Gantz says the country must respect the justices’ ultimate ruling, whatever it may be, and says the prime minister “must say so clearly, in his own voice.”
Gantz says he continues to support reaching a broad agreement on the country’s “constitutional rules” but vows to “stand strong against any attempt to politicize the justice system or harm the deep principle of democracy.”
He praises the hearing itself as one that “revealed a first-rate source for Israeli pride… a Supreme Court that held a pointed and respectful debate, on an essential and important matter for the character and future of Israel.
“The debate showed us how critical effective judicial oversight is to the decisions made by public representatives,” he said, while also laying bare the dangers of the overhaul in its extreme form, which “could erase the Declaration of Independence, erase its values and principles, diminish our founding document. That is what we are fighting for. Those principles must serve as the basis of agreements between us.”
One of the victims of a suspected terror shooting in the West Bank town of Huwara is identified by settlement news outlet Israel National News as the grandson of late Jewish extremist rabbi and Knesset member Meir Kahane.
The man is said to be the son of Rabbi Benjamin Kahane, killed in a shooting attack near the settlement of Ofra in 2000.
The Brooklyn-born Meir Kahane, assassinated in 1990, founded the Kach movement, which is blacklisted in both the US and Israel as a terror group. It is thought to have inspired the Otzma Yehudit party currently in the Knesset, though party leader Itamar Ben Gvir has attempted to distance himself from Kahane.
Religious Zionism MK Tzvi Sukkot says one of the victims was a close friend who was his study partner for the last three years. He says the other victim is also a friend.
The pair have not been officially named. Both suffered light injuries.
After 13.5 hours, the fateful High Court hearing on the reasonableness law comes to a close.
Before it does, government lawyer Ilan Bombach reprises his morning appearance, telling the court that the government isn’t about to start working changes into the Declaration of Independence, after judges indicated it could hold the status of a foundational statutory charter in some regards.
“But that doesn’t turn it into a legal text. It’s unthinkable to take a document on sovereignty and use it to negate future sovereignty,” he chides the justices.
Justice Isaac Amit tells Bombach he isn’t really buying what the government is doing.
“The feeling I get is as if I heard ‘we know the law is bad, and now we’ll suggest a few tricks, call it what you want and we can use outside considerations [normally deemed unreasonable],” he says. “Why all the run-around?”
As the hearing comes to a close, Chief Justice Esther Hayut tells the parties they have 21 days to submit any addenda to their arguments, but the clearly tired and nearly-retired justice caps those arguments at 10 pages.
Bombach, apparently not out of words, asks for more space, and gets an extra five pages plus a gentle rebuke after already taking up 2.5 of the hearing’s hours, according to Hayut.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is closing off several hiking trails in the Judean Desert, warning of flash flooding in dry riverbeds as rains move into the region Wednesday.
The authority says it is forbidding hiking in the Darga, Tekoa, Mashash and Og streambeds near the Dead Sea in the West Bank. In addition, it is closing off trails in Wadi Qelt.
Much of the country is expected to see showers Wednesday morning, a somewhat early start to the rainy season after the dry summer.
Thrillseekers often flock to desert riverbeds during early rains to watch flash floods turn the arid landscape into a frenzy of gushing watercourses, a dangerous and sometimes fatal pastime.
High Court justices are continuing to hear arguments with the hearing on the reasonableness law nearing its 13th hour, though most TV channels have ended their stakeouts and have switched to regular programming.
Meanwhile, tempers are flaring (as much as they do in the uber-dignified court setting) as fatigue appears to set in.
After listening to several attorneys representing petitioners seeking the law’s annulment, a lawyer for MK Simcha Rothman, a main architect of the government’s overhaul legislation, gets into it with the bench, asking if the liberals consider the more conservative judges “antidemocratic, dictatorial and monarchial?”
After Justice Barak Erez accuses him of making a straw-man argument, he yells at the judges that he won’t apologize for the fact that their power is being restrained.
He also feuds with Justice Uzi Fogelman, claiming that judging reasonableness means walking in a minister’s shoes.
“I won’t listen to this again and again,” Fogelman fumes. “This isn’t walking in someone’s shoes, we’re looking into the considerations [behind the decision].”
Settler leader Yossi Dagan blames Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government for the shooting attack at Huwara that lightly injured two Israelis.
“I’m standing here and I say to the prime minister, the defense minister and all the ministers: This is your responsibility, it’s in your hands,” says Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council.
“You are responsible for the fact that Jews are shot here again and again in the middle of the State of Israel,” he says.
The far-right Otzma Yehudit party says it will hold a special meeting tomorrow after the security cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said there would be no decision on party leader and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s demand to harshen conditions for Palestinian security prisoners until after the Jewish High Holidays.
“The party will hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the faction’s steps following the cabinet meeting this morning where Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to reject harshening the conditions of the terrorists in the jails and his insistence on leaving the situation where they enjoy great conditions,” the Otzma Yehudit statement says.
Ben Gvir has been adamant that his measures would go into effect immediately despite opposition from Netanyahu and the security services.
Ben Gvir wants family visitation rights for Palestinian security prisoners to go down from once a month to once every two months.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says two Israeli men wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara are in good condition.
The pair came under fire while driving through the town, and are lightly wounded by glass shards after bullets shattered the windows of their car.
They are being taken to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, MDA says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk says.
The planned meeting comes after the two leaders spoke last week by phone amid tensions between the countries, Korniychuk tells the Ynet news site.
Ukraine is angry over Israel’s limited, non-military support and ongoing close ties with Russia.
The countries are also at odds over the treatment of Ukrainian refugees and Jewish pilgrims heading to Ukraine.
Medics and security forces are responding to reports of a shooting attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are treating two men in their 30s who are wounded by glass shards as a result of the shooting.
Both men are conscious, MDA says.
The Israel Defense Forces says troops are responding to the attack, without providing further details.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party breaks its silence on today’s dramatic High Court of Justice hearing, releasing a statement asserting that the court would “undermine democracy” if it invalidated the Basic Law it is considering.
“The most important element in democracy is that the people are sovereign. The Knesset receives its authority from the people. The government receives its authority from the Knesset. The court receives its authority from the Basic Laws enacted by the Knesset,” the statement reads.
“If the court can cancel Basic Laws, it makes itself sovereign instead of the people. This extreme step will undermine the foundation of democracy. This is a red line that must not be crossed,” it continues.
The US Treasury slaps terrorism sanctions on a family network of seven individuals and businesses in Lebanon and South America accused of financing the Hezbollah terror group, including a Lebanese man who officials say was involved in two deadly attacks in Argentina in the 1990s.
Amer Mohamed Akil Rada was described as “one of the operational members” who carried out the attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. A 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina killed 29 people.
“Today’s action underscores the US government’s commitment to pursuing Hezbollah operatives and financiers no matter their location,” says Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.
The Iran-backed group is designated a “foreign terrorist organization,” and Washington also claims that the group has been involved in drug trafficking in Latin America to generate revenue.
Rada, according to the Treasury, spent over a decade in South America before relocating to Lebanon. During his time there, he allegedly ran a charcoal business that frequently exported from Colombia to Lebanon and used “80 percent of the proceeds of his commercial enterprise to benefit Hezbollah.”
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf held undisclosed meetings with former prime minister Naftali Bennett and opposition party leader Benny Gantz in recent days, Channel 12 reports.
According to the reports the talks focused on the normalization deal the US is trying to mediate with Saudi Arabia, among other regional issues.
Sources familiar with the talks tell Channel 12 that the US was trying to gauge Israel’s redlines, beyond what has been conveyed by the Netanyahu government.
US officials have in recent weeks also met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
Lapid told the Americans he was vehemently opposed to allowing Saudi Arabia to carry out any nuclear enrichment on its soil.
The report said Gantz and Bennett were believed to have also highlighted the dangers of a regional nuclear race if the Saudis had their own program.
El Al flight ELY313 to London is returning to Ben Gurion Airport to make an emergency landing after encountering a technical fault.
The aircraft had been in the air for some 75 minutes when the problem was discovered.
It is expected to land at 8 p.m. local time.
Details of the problem were not immediately clear.
מטוס 737 של אל על בטיסה ly313 ללונדון (LTN) עושה את דרכו חזרה לנתב"ג לאחר תקלה pic.twitter.com/hH8mwuCSI6
— Asslan Khalil (@KhalilAsslan) September 12, 2023
The White House condemns a decision to open an impeachment investigation into US President Joe Biden over his son Hunter’s business dealings as “extreme politics at its worst.”
“House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” Ian Sams, White House spokesman for oversight and investigations, says on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he is directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into US President Joe Biden over his family’s business dealings.
McCarthy says the House investigation has found a “culture of corruption” around the Biden family. The announcement from the Republican leader comes as he faces mounting pressure from his right flank to take action against Biden.
McCarthy is planning to convene lawmakers behind closed doors multiple times this week, including for a meeting to discuss the Biden impeachment. The speaker also is struggling to pass legislation needed to avoid a federal government shutdown at the end of the month.
The Republican leader is once again at a political crossroads — trying to keep his most conservative lawmakers satisfied and prevent his own ouster. It’s a familiar political bind for McCarthy, who is juggling the impeachment inquiry and the government shutdown threat with no clear end game.
Biden’s White House has dismissed the impeachment push as politically motivated.
“Speaker McCarthy shouldn’t cave to the extreme, far-right members who are threatening to shut down the government unless they get a baseless, evidence-free impeachment of President Biden. The consequences for the American people are too serious,” White House spokesman Ian Sams has said.
The impeachment push comes as Trump, who was twice impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, faces more serious charges in court. Trump has been indicted four times this year, including for trying to overturn the 2020 election Biden won.
The Scheck Hillel Community School is evacuated due to reports of an “explosive alert,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials tell local 10 News.
Officials say it’s possible that it was a swatting incident, but they have not yet ruled out other possibilities.
Parents tell 10 News that students are moved to the school field after hearing a bang.
BREAKING NEWS: Scheck Hillel Community School was evacuated Tuesday morning due to reports of an “explosive alert,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said. https://t.co/UcGE3YT8PL
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) September 12, 2023
The Ynet news site reports that some children of Israeli consulate workers attend the Jewish school.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid plans to meet with Arab mayors and municipality heads tomorrow morning in Umm Al Fahm, according to Lapid’s office.
The meeting was set to discuss a sustained surge in violent crime in Arab communities.
Iran identifies the five prisoners it hopes to see freed in the United States in exchange for five Iranian-Americans now held in Tehran and billions in assets once held by South Korea.
The acknowledgment by the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York comes as the Biden administration has issued a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of US sanctions.
The moves by both Tehran and Washington appear to signal the prisoner swap is progressing as the money once held in South Korean won is converted into euros and moved to Qatar, where Iran will be able to use it for humanitarian purposes.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Ali Karimi Magham, a spokesman for the Iranian mission, confirms the list of prisoners that Tehran wants released.
The five sought by the Iranians are:
• Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, an Iranian charged in 2021 with allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent on Iran’s behalf while lobbying US officials on issues like nuclear policy;
• Mehrdad Ansari, an Iranian sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles, electronic warfare, nuclear weapons and other military gear;
• Amin Hasanzadeh, an Iranian and permanent resident of the United States whom prosecutors charged in 2019 with allegedly stealing engineering plans from his employer to send to Iran;
• Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, an Iranian charged in 2021 over allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran; and
• Kambiz Attar Kashani, an Iranian-American sentenced in February to 30 months in prison for purchasing “sophisticated, top-tier U.S. electronic equipment and software” through front companies in the United Arab Emirates.
The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the list.
A top Hamas leader arrives in Beirut to push for an end to clashes in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp that resumed despite multiple ceasefire agreements.
Days of fighting in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon left at least six people dead and over 50 others wounded, according to medical officials and state media. Stray bullets and shells hit residential areas in the country’s third-largest city, wounding five Lebanese soldiers at checkpoints near the camp yesterday.
A ceasefire declared late yesterday, after Lebanon’s head of the country’s General Security Directorate met with officials from rival Palestinian factions, lasted just hours before fighting erupted again.
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk will meet with Lebanese officials and representatives from the Palestinian factions to try and reach a settlement to end the clashes, the militant group said in a statement.
Hamas has not taken part in the clashes.
Hearing arguments of the petitioners for the High Court to strike down the reasonableness law, the justices challenge the assertion of Eliad Shraga, an attorney for the Movement of Quality Government in Israel, that they can take into account the government’s broader judicial overhaul program as a reason to strike down the legislation under review in court.
“Reasonableness isn’t the story here, they [the government] want to crush the judiciary, that’s the story, that’s what the war is about… They want to chuck out the attorney general, bring back [Shas] chief Aryeh Deri to the cabinet, and not convene the Judicial Selection Committee,” argues Shraga.
Justice Noam Sohlberg insists this is beyond the purview of the court.
“You’re wrapping things together things which are proposals, thoughts. We are judges; we cannot deal with what hasn’t happened,” says Sohlberg.
But Shraga also argues that the law itself should be struck down, not necessarily due its content, which he nevertheless calls “awful,” but because of what he describes as “the invasion” of the legislature into the realm of the judiciary.
“The mortal blow here is the blow to the independence of the court and the separation of powers which this law strikes,” argues Shraga.
The Health Ministry urges the vulnerable and “those interested in reducing risk” to wear masks in crowded indoor gatherings amid a rise in COVID infections.
A ministry statement says that it is constantly monitoring infections from new variants and currently sees a moderate increase in hospitalizations.
“Ahead of the holidays and as a result of the increase in infections, the Health Ministry recommends that those who are in vulnerable groups and those interested in reducing the risk of infection should wear masks in closed areas with large crowds,” the statement says.
“Also, it is recommended to wear a mask when meeting those in high-risk groups,” the ministry says.
The Knesset’s Finance Committee approves a budget transfer of NIS 700 million ($185 million) to a program funding teachers in Haredi and independent educational institutions.
The transfers are a partial fulfillment of coalition promises to ultra-Orthodox parties to infuse their educational systems with cash.
The funds will come from a cross-board cut to government agencies and public services. Among the affected are funds to help Holocaust survivors, childcare subsidies, the disabled, and Education Ministry resources previously earmarked to build new classroom space.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who chairs the Finance Committee, says that the transfer is part of his vision to increase funding for ultra-Orthodox schools, whose content is largely unregulated by the Education Ministry and which are not required to teach core curriculum subjects.
“We are making every effort to correct the injustice that has accumulated over the years in the lack of funding for Torah education and Torah institutions,” Gafni says.
“This is the first mission that was carried out in accordance with the coalition agreements, and I hope that we will continue, with the help of Heaven, to fill in all the gaps that have harmed the ultra-Orthodox public,” he says.
Chief Justice Esther Hayut tells Aner Helman, who is representing the attorney general, that there needs to be a “mortal blow” to democracy for the court to justify striking down a Basic Law.
“We can’t nullify Basic Laws every other day. There needs to be a mortal blow to the basic tenets of the state as a democratic state,” Hayut says.
Helman responds, saying that the reasonableness law represents “a major blow to the rule of law, it’s dramatic.”
In his first comments in the hearing, conservative justice David Mintz questions Aner Helman representing the attorney general as to what source there is for the court to strike down a Basic Law such as the one that eliminated the use of the reasonableness standard.
Aner argues that the Declaration of Independence, which stipulates that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, is the ultimate source for ensuring that the country remains a democratic country.
“By referring to the Declaration of Independence you are creating something out of nothing, there is no implied authority [from the Declaration of Independence],” says Mintz, who has previously written that the court has no authority to strike down Basic Laws.
The justices also ask Helman if the government’s legislation is so damaging to Israeli democracy as to justify striking down a Basic Law.
“Are we not living in a democracy today?” questions Justice Noam Sohlberg.
Helman replies that the test for striking down a Basic Law is not if democracy no longer exists but if the legislation damages Israel’s core democratic principles.
But Supreme Court President Esther Hayut joins Sohlberg’s line of questioning, pointing out that damage to democratic principles “has to be a mortal blow” to justify striking down a Basic Law.
A representative of  Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara tells the High Court that it needs to be very concerned by the government’s decision to limit the overview of the court.
Gali Baharav-Miara is not representing the government, having told it to get private representation because she could not defend the reasonableness law.
“We saw an amazing example where the Knesset asked if the court has authority, and then said ‘we will decide,’” lawyer Aner Helman says, presenting the AG’s position.
“If there is one thing that should frighten all of us, it’s when they come and tell us ‘trust us, we won’t harm the Basic Laws,’” Helman says. “That means we all need to be very, very careful.”
An interim agreement with the Teachers Union has been reached, the Education Ministry announces, after some 200,000 high school students stayed home today.
The deal would end sanctions on high school activities enacted by the union at the beginning of the year, even as a strike in protest of the sanctions, called by Israel’s National Student and Youth Council, saw many skip school today.
The sanctions were enacted by the Teachers Union as part of ongoing negotiations with the government in regard to pay and other issues. They affect extracurricular activities and other events for high school students, including the annual Holocaust education visit to Poland.
The new agreement stipulates that high school teachers are to receive a one-time grant of NIS 2,400, a gradual salary increase, and other benefits, Ynet reports.
In return, the union has agreed to end the sanctions and halt further demands in negotiations for a period of four years on issues where agreements have been reached.
The student strike today saw a “near complete absence” among 11th and 12th graders, and about half of 10th graders staying at home, according to a report in the Calcalist business daily.
The National Student and Youth Council spokeswoman tells The Times of Israel that the strike affected schools in “every sector,” including secular, religious and Arab.
Iran’s judiciary confirms that it was holding a Swedish national, saying he had “committed crimes” in the Islamic Republic.
“This Swedish citizen has committed crimes in the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” judiciary spokesman Massoud Satayshi says.
Last week, the European Union said Swedish diplomat Johan Floderus, a 33-year-old who works for the bloc, had been detained in Iran for more than 500 days.
Satayshi said the Swede was sent “to prison with a legal order.”
He said an investigation into the case “is being finalized” and will be sent to the relevant court “in the coming days.”
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said last week that the bloc had been pushing “relentlessly” for the Swede’s release.
The Swedish government has also called on Iran to free Floderus.
Lebanese media, citing a non-Israeli source, confirm Israel’s accusations that Iran is building an airfield in southern Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel.
The source says that the site can accommodate large drones, including armed ones, similar to those produced by Iran, according to Lebanese media outlet Al-Jadeed.
The source says they believe drones launched from the airfield will mostly be used internally.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran of setting up an airport in southern Lebanon, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli border, which he said was being used “for terror purposes” against Israelis.
The Hezbollah security forces have arrested a man suspected of spying for Israel, according to a report published in the Lebanese news outlet Al Jadeed.
The man, only identified by his initials M.T.D, is in his thirties and comes from the town of Majdal Zoun, in the Tyre district in southern Lebanon, but according to village residents lives in Germany.
The report published yesterday says he comes to Lebanon periodically, rents apartments and cars in the Tyre area, uses unregistered phone numbers, and provides coordinates of specific sites to his Israeli contacts.
The man was reportedly arrested upon his arrival at Beirut airport by Hezbollah security agents.
On August 25, Lebanese authorities said they arrested a couple at Beirut airport as they were trying to flee the country, who reportedly confessed they were spying for Israel inside the country.
Such claims are made regularly, but their veracity cannot be established. Lebanese security services have arrested dozens of people over the years on suspicions of collaborating with Israel, with some receiving jail terms of up to 25 years.
Israel never comments on such allegations.
Libya’s eastern city of Derna has buried 700 people killed in devastating flooding and 10,000 are reported missing as rescue teams struggle to retrieve many more bodies from the horrific deluge, officials say.
Mediterranean storm Daniel on Sunday night caused havoc and flash flooding in many towns in eastern Libya but the worst destruction was in Derna, where heavy rainfall and floods broke dams and washed away entire neighborhoods, authorities say.
“The situation is catastrophic,” says Othman Abduljaleel, the health minister in Libya’s eastern government. “The bodies are still lying on the ground in many parts (of the city). Hospitals are filled with bodies. And there are areas we have yet to reach.”
Authorities estimated earlier that as many as 2,000 people may have perished in Derna alone. The Ambulance and Emergency Authority, which coordinates search and rescue efforts, says that about 2,300 people died in Derna but does not clarify what that figure was based on.
Emergency responders, including troops, government workers, volunteers and residents were digging through rubble to recover the dead. They also used inflatable boats to retrieve bodies from the water. Excavators and other equipment have yet to arrive in Derna.
The security cabinet says there will be no decision on National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s demand to harshen conditions for Palestinian security prisoners until after the Jewish High Holidays.
“The cabinet will hold a discussion in October on the issue of the security prisoners in jails. Until then there will be no changes,” says a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The security cabinet also authorizes a heightened alert status and the security forces’ preparations ahead of the holidays that start Friday evening with the Jewish New Year.
Ben Gvir has been adamant that his measures would go into effect immediately despite opposition from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security services.
Ben Gvir wants family visitation rights for Palestinian security prisoners to go down from once a month to once every two months.
Though Ben Gvir’s ministry is responsible for internal security, Netanyahu is widely seen as distrusting his far-right police minister and has been said to often keep him out of key discussions with top security officials.
Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut challenges Ilan Bombach, the attorney representing the government, over the total ban the law imposed on the courts’ ability to review government and ministerial decisions based on the reasonableness standard.
She argues that numerous citizens have in the past received justifiable relief from unreasonable ministerial decisions through the reasonableness standard, and that there are such cases still pending before the courts, but that they no longer have anyone to turn to.
“The reasonableness standard has existed for decades, at least 40 years if not since the beginning of the state, and you are blocking every court from granting relief to litigants and saying the court cannot even hear the case.
“There are thousands of individual decisions that ministers make that affect citizens’ daily lives, and citizens who report to the courts on unreasonable decisions but they aren’t able to prove that inappropriate considerations were used. Most of the time we don’t intervene, but sometimes there is reason to do so. But today the law prevents every court in the country from doing so,” she says.
As national attention is on the High Court hearing on the reasonableness law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial is continuing at the Jerusalem District Court.
Avi Alkalay, the former editor of the Walla news site, says that in 2015-2016, the outlet’s editorial staff underwent “very aggressive mental coercion regarding the content relating to the Netanyahu family.”
He says interventions on behalf of Walla owner Shaul Elovitch sought to portray the Netanyahus as “always good and in the right, both on politics matters and on personal things.”
Alkalay is a witness in Case 4000, which involves allegations that Netanyahu handed the Elovitch-owned Bezeq telecom giant regulatory benefits in exchange for editorial intervention in Walla in Netanyahu’s favor. Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the case. He denies any wrongdoing in this case, as well as in two other cases.
Ilan Bombach, a privately hired lawyer representing the government in the High Court hearing on the reasonableness law, argues that the law doesn’t not erode Israel’s democratic character, as petitioners argue.
Justice Isaac Amit replies that historically, “democracy dies in a series of small steps” and points at the series of other judicial overhaul laws that have been declared or have started their legislative process.
At that point, Likud MK Tally Gotliv interrupts from the backbenches, shouting that “the Knesset sanctifies democracy and preserves it.”
Court President Esther Hayut admonishes Gotliv, noting that since the MK is a lawyer she should know that interjections from the sidelines aren’t allowed in court.
The High Court judges continue to challenge Ilan Bombach on the government’s contention that the court has no authority to review Basic Laws.
Justice Anat Baron asks whether or not a Basic Law could be passed to restrict elections to just once every 10 years, or to ban Arabs from voting.
“Who will determine if that is extremist or not?” she asks.
“Those empowered to determine the content of Basic Laws are the sovereign, which is the people through elections. The court does not determine values,” responds Bombach.
The opposition leading Yesh Atid party says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is destroying Israel’s founding principles, after the private attorney representing the government in today’s High Court of Justice hearing questioned the country’s “hasty” Declaration of Independence.
In a post on X, Yesh Atid accuses the government’s representative of “going against the Declaration of Independence.”
“There is no clearer proof that there is an anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, anti-democratic government in Israel that will burn the pages of history and blacken the founders of the state, all for despicable political considerations,” the party continues.
Minutes earlier, Ilan Bombach, the lawyer representing the government, questioned the authority of the Declaration of Independence, considered a guiding document but lacking in legal standing.
“Because 37 people were authorized to sign the hasty Declaration of Independence, which at the last moment was still in draft stage, this should bind people who came later?” Bombach asked the court.
“Would it be conceivable that people who were never elected, these 37 people, the members of the Provisional Council, unwittingly created a document for us called a constitution and would bind all future generations? It is unthinkable,” Bombach continued.
Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems will be providing the military’s Artillery Corps with an upgraded version of the Skylark tactical reconnaissance drone, which has been in use since 2008.
The new model, a vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aircraft, “significantly expands the operations of tactical forces and enables fast deployment,” the firm says.
The Skylark 1 eVTOL will replace the IDF Artillery Corps’ aging hand-launched Skylark 1.
Elbit says Skylark 1 eVTOL weighs up to 20 kilograms (44 lbs) including a payload of 2 kilograms, and can fly up to speeds of 65 knots (120 km/h), up to altitudes of 15,000 feet (4,500m), and distances of 40 kilometers (24 miles).
The Skylark drones are used by the Artillery Corps to provide a live video feed to soldiers on the ground. It is known in the military in Hebrew as the “sky rider.”
Ilan Bombach, the attorney who is representing the government in the High Court hearing on the reasonableness law since Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara refuses to do so, addresses the court and focuses on the argument that the top court lacks the authority to strike down quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
Bombach says the justices are merely empowered to interpret the legislator’s words, and that there is no legal or constitutional basis for them reviewing Basic Laws.
In response, Justice Alex Stein asks: “What is the source of the Knesset to legislate laws?”
When Bombach points to a 1950 Supreme Court ruling, the judge points out that the Knesset was formed before that and that the original source of power is the Declaration of Independence.
Multiple justices challenge Bombach during the hearing by indicating that in their view, since the Declaration of Independence defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the Knesset cannot legislate laws — even Basic Laws — that erode Israel’s Jewish or democratic character. If the Knesset is limited in its capacity to pass Basic Laws, that would mean the High Court has the authority to review Basic Laws.
Bombach is rebuked by the judges for downplaying the significance of the Declaration of Independence.
“Because 37 people were authorized to sign the hasty Declaration of Independence, which at the last moment was still in draft stage, [the Declaration] should bind those who are supposed to be in the future?” Bombach asks the court.
“Would it be conceivable that people who were never elected, these 37 people, the members of the Provisional State Council, unwittingly created a document for us called a constitution that would bind all future generations? It is unthinkable,” Bombach continues.
Bombach adds that the people elected the Knesset as a constituent branch, which legislates Basic Laws, in addition to its power as a legislative branch, and that the Knesset’s power additionally stems from the people’s choice.
Bombach tries several times to switch the discussion to the reasonableness law itself, calling the question of the Knesset’s source of power a “theoretical, academic” discussion, but the justices press on the matter, pointing out that the government’s argument began by stressing the High Court’s lack of authority to intervene in Basic Laws.
Russian President Vladimir Putin describes legal proceedings against former US president Donald Trump as “politically motivated persecution.”
The Kremlin, seen as having friendly relations with Trump, has repeatedly spoken out in defense of the former president, who is facing a series of charges linked to election interference.
“As for the persecution of Trump, for us, in the current environment, it’s good because it shows the rottenness of the American system,” Putin says at an economic forum in East Asia. “It is a politically motivated persecution of one’s competitor.”
Putin, who served in the Soviet security services and is himself widely accused of persecuting, jailing and assassinating political rivals, added: “And this shows who we are fighting… As they said in Soviet times: ‘The bestial face of American capitalism.’”
Relations between Washington and Moscow, strained by a litany of issues under Putin, have hit new lows since the Kremlin launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
MK Simcha Rothman, who spearheaded the legislation of the reasonableness law, begins his response to the petitions in his role as chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and argues that the court has no right to intervene in the law.
In a tense exchange in which several justices tell him he is making political declarations rather than legal arguments, Rothman admonishes the court that “a privileged elite will not be able to protect rights in the long term,” and, citing comments made by former Supreme Court justice Moshe Landau, implies that the Supreme Court has become “an oligarchic regime of a [small] group of people.”
“What is the justification to take away the basic characteristic of the State of Israel as a democratic state, its free elections, the ability of the public to express its opinion, the ability of the public to change the laws that run their lives, the ability of the public to determine how the government is run?” Rothman demands.
Justice Anat Baron challenges him, asking: “What if the Knesset said that elections would take place only every 10 years, or that Arabs do not have the right to vote, or that it is forbidden to travel on Shabbat — what would you say?”
Rothman responds: “If we make a mistake, we can correct it when we are made aware of it, and if we don’t — we can be replaced via the ballot box.”
Palestinian gunmen opened fire and hurled an explosive device from a passing vehicle at the Jalameh checkpoint in the northern West Bank overnight, the Israel Defense Forces says.
The checkpoint was closed to traffic at the time, and no injuries were caused.
In another attack last night, a Palestinian gunman opened fire near the settlement of Sal’it, south of the West Bank city of Tulkarem, the IDF says.
The military says troops returned fire at the armed suspect, and later found an abandoned gun in the area, suspected to have been used in the attack.
Separately, 16 wanted Palestinians were detained during overnight raids across the West Bank, with clashes in some areas, the IDF says.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut says during the discussion of the reasonableness law that around the world the trend is expanding the use of the judicial test of reasonableness to review government decisions — in contrast to the Israeli law in question.
“Here, we are moving toward a trend of canceling [it],” she says, giving England and Australia as examples of countries that have increasingly used the doctrine.
Knesset lawyer Yitzhak Bart replies: “We had a big change 40 years ago and since then the pendulum has been swinging.”
The so-called “Joint Operations Room” of various Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip is holding an exercise this morning, including rocket fire.
Footage published by Palestinian media outlets shows a barrage of rockets fired toward the Mediterranean Sea.
مصادر عبرية: بالتزامن مع إجتماع للكابينت سيعقد الساعة الـ10، تجري المقاومة الفلسطينية في #غزة، مناورة عسكرية مشتركة وواسعة.#ترجمة_نيو_برس
لمتابعة آخر الأخبار عبر قناة نيو برس على تيلجرام https://t.co/6BCL5wfFPS pic.twitter.com/A24gKItYMI
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) September 12, 2023
Yitzhak Bart, an attorney representing the Knesset legal adviser, downplays the impact of the reasonableness limitation law, arguing that rather than strike down the law, the High Court could use its ability to interpret laws to remedy the vacuum in judicial review over government decisions caused by the legislation.
For example, he says, judges could rule that the law does not apply to interim governments, because such governments could abuse the absence of the reasonableness standard.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut questions this position, asking on what basis within the text of the reasonableness law the court could make such an interpretation.
“What in the law allows us to differentiate between different types of reasonableness?” she says. “Are you not inviting us to rewrite the law? If we say it doesn’t apply to interim governments… then we are rewriting the law.”
Bart later continues to argue: “It’s not that the reasonableness standard has been canceled. The precedent of previous decisions for the government to act with reasonableness remains. The attorney general and legal advisers will continue to tell the government when it is acting without reasonableness.”
Justice Ofer Grosskopf interjects: “But there will be no way to enforce it.”
Bart then says: “The idea that the ministers will only listen to the attorney general if [the court] has a sledgehammer [of being able to strike down government decisions through the reasonableness standard] is simplistic.”
To this, Justice Uzi Vogelman replies: “This argument is disconnected [from reality]. It’s a very optimistic vision.”
Yitzhak Bart, an attorney representing the Knesset in the High Court of Justice hearing on the reasonableness law, acknowledges that the legislative process was hurried and had some flaws, but argues that these are nowhere near the threshold that justifies nullifying it.
“It would have been appropriate for the discussions to go on longer, it would have been appropriate to give an expression to some of the [opposition] remarks at the committee,” Bart admits.
Justice Yechiel Kasher asks Bart how he can argue that the source for the Knesset’s right to legislate Basic Laws is the Declaration of Independence, while at the same time not viewing as mandatory that same document’s mandating that a full constitution  be legislated, which hasn’t happened in 75 years.
Bart later argues that the Knesset “didn’t want to exempt the government from the obligation to act with reasonableness, it could have done that through a regular law, but instead it reduced the court’s use of the judicial standard — while not eradicating the obligation to act with reasonableness.”
Multiple justices ask Bart how this reconciles with eliminating the justice system’s ability to enforce the resonableness standard in relation to government and ministerial decisions.
“Who ensures that [ministers] in fact act with reasonableness? You agree that there is a legal obligation, but say that there can be no judge [to enforce it],” court president Esther Hayut says critically.
MK Simcha Rothman, the primary backer of the reasonableness curtailment law and architect of the coalition’s judicial overhaul, has arrived at the High Court of Justice ahead of the hearing on potentially voiding the law.
Rothman says he will soon make a statement to the court.
One of the most consequential hearings in the High Court of Justice in the country’s history gets underway, with civil society organizations petitioning the court to strike down the government’s “reasonableness” law, an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary and a key part of the coalition’s judicial overhaul agenda.
The proceedings are being livestreamed online.

The hearing is essentially a clash over Israel’s proto-constitution, with the petitioners claiming that the law limiting the judiciary’s power to review government decisions violates Israel’s democratic character, while the government will argue that Israel’s constitutional arrangement bans the court from intervening in Basic Laws.
The government and its legal representatives will be the first to plead to the unprecedented 15-justice panel, and will argue both that the court is subject to the Basic Laws and therefore cannot overturn them, and that the law does not harm Israeli democracy.
The petitioners will then argue that the law undermines key guardrails of Israel’s democracy and should therefore be struck down.
The comments and questions the High Court justices make during the hours-long hearing will be key in gaining an insight into how they might ultimately rule on this explosive case, which could take weeks or even months.
In a rare move, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is suspending admission fees today in order to allow the public to attend a mass screening of today’s High Court of Justice hearing on the museum premises.
“At this decisive moment, at which Israeli democracy is being tested,” the Museum writes on its Facebook page, the Museum will broadcast the hearings live on a giant screen.
מחר, יום שלישי 12 בספטמבר 2023, ידון בית המשפט העליון בהרכב חסר תקדים של 15 שופטים, בעתירות הדנות בביטול עילת…
Posted by ‎מוזיאון תל אביב לאמנות – Tel Aviv Museum of Art‎ on Monday, September 11, 2023
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid argues in a statement that the issue up for question today at the High Court of Justice isn’t whether the court has the authority to nullify quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, because the reasonableness law “isn’t a Basic Law” and doesn’t even “resemble a Basic Law.”
“This is an irresponsible document that someone wrote ‘Basic Law’ on it and they have since demanded treating it as a holy scripture,” Lapid says.
“The High Court will this morning discuss a law that is a deviant and thuggish private member’s bill by Simcha Rothman, which wasn’t even passed by the government, which was managed in a process that was violent, rushed, sloppy, boisterous and unrestrained, and which has nothing to do with Basic Laws,” Lapid says.
“Those who want Basic Laws to be treated with awe should start by legislating them in an adequate process,” he adds. “Basic Laws have a procedure. A minimum of respect for the process. This minimum didn’t happen. Not even close.”
The military and police announce that earlier this week, security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle explosive devices over the Jordanian border, believed bound for terror groups in the West Bank.
According to a joint statement, on Sunday, police officers and IDF soldiers located a suspicious bag on the border. Upon further inspection, it was revealed to contain six explosive devices.
No suspects were caught in the attempt.
The incident follows recent attempts to smuggle Iranian-made explosive devices, which appear to be knockoffs of the American Claymore mine, over the Jordan border and into Israel and the West Bank.
“Israel Police and the IDF will continue to act with determination to detect and thwart any intention to smuggle weapons by hostile terror elements abroad, which endanger the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, and to prosecute these operatives” the joint statement says.
Activists in favor of the government’s judicial overhaul dress as bananas and place 250 kilograms (550 lbs) of bananas near the entrance to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, decrying Israel allegedly becoming a “banana republic” in a display that opens a day of dueling demonstrations as the High Court of Justice holds a crucial hearing on petitions to nullify the government’s reasonableness law.
בגץ עילת הסבירות.
מיצג רפובליקת בננות של אם תרצו שלא צורפו להליך pic.twitter.com/0pNn5wzWI0
— אמוץ שפירא (@amotzsh) September 12, 2023
The divisive law cancels the court’s ability to block government actions and appointments using the legal concept of reasonableness. Significantly, the law is an amendment to one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws and proponents of the legislation argue that the court has no right of judicial review over such laws.
The petitioners, an array of government watchdog and civil society organizations, argue that the Basic Law amendment severely harms Israel’s democracy.
But the right-wing demonstrators from the Im Tirtzu organization — which asked to, but wasn’t allowed to formally be added to the court case — argue that voiding the law and even discussing the petitions is akin to Israel becoming a “banana republic” ruled by the 15 justices of the top court, who will all hear today’s hearing.
“The fact that none of the 15 justices didn’t publicly demand canceling the hearing is a mark of Cain on Israeli democracy,” the activists say. “They think they’re saving democracy, but they’re actually destroying it and turning Israel into a banana republic.”
פעילי "אם תרצו" הגיעו לפנות בוקר עם רבע טון בננות ועצי בננות והקימו מיצג מחאה בכניסה לבג"ץ לקראת הדיון היום pic.twitter.com/YxNegL77DM
— לירי בורק שביט (@lirishavit) September 12, 2023
Justice Minister Yariv Levin issues a statement claiming today’s crucial High Court of Justice hearing on potentially voiding the government’s resonableness law is taking place “with the complete lack of authority” and constitutes “a mortal blow to democracy and the status of the Knesset.”
The divisive law cancels the court’s ability to block government and ministerial actions and appointments using the legal concept of reasonableness. Significantly, the law is an amendment to one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws and proponents of the legislation argue that the court has no right of judicial review over such laws.
The petitioners, an array of government watchdog and civil society organizations, argue that the Basic Law amendment severely harms Israel’s democracy.
“Presidents and justices of the Supreme Court over the generations all agreed — the people is the sovereign, and its will is represented in Basic Laws legislated by the Knesset,” Levin says in a statement.
“The court, whose justices elect themselves behind closed doors and without a protocol, is placing itself above the government, above the Knesset, above the people and above the law,” Levin claims, even though the Judicial Selection Committee features veto power for politicians on the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
Levin argues that rather than the government’s judicial overhaul, it is today’s hearing that “shakes the foundations of democracy in Israel.”
“Until today, despite highly problematic judicial activism, there was at least one agreed basis — the court respected Basic Laws,” he adds. “This is the basis that preserved democracy in Israel. The responsibility for preserving this joint basis lies with the court.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I’m proud of our coverage of this government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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Today’s Daily Briefing
Special – Deep dive into unprecedented High Court hearing
Signed, Sealed, Delivered?
A fresh look at Israel’s founding moral compass


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