Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two draft laws that recently passed a first reading in the Knesset are illustrations of how good intentions on the part of short-sighted legislators can lead to bad law, if not catastrophe.

The more benign of the two is a law proposed by MK Gideon Saar of Likud that requires a majority of 80 MKs for ratification of an agreement ceding Israeli sovereignty on the Golan. While the result of such legislation is entirely agreeable, the foolishness lies in the fact that the law itself can be -- and almost certainly will be -- passed with the support of far fewer than 80 MKs. The theoretical possibility of a small number of MKs requiring a large number of MKs for some legislative purpose just makes no sense. It's also futile. Consider the current example: the law requiring 80 MKs for ceding the Golan can be repealed without 80 MKs (either an ordinary majority or 61 MKs would be sufficient, depending on the final draft), so that the support of 80 MKs will, in any event, not actually be required in practice.

Such legislative shenanigans should not be tolerated just for the appearance of some short-term political advantage. In the end they will come back to bite us.

The less benign draft law requires an indicted Prime Minister to resign. To appreciate the full insanity of such a law, consider the current law, apparently passed when cooler heads prevailed. A Prime Minister is only forced to resign when 1) he has been convicted of a crime with moral turpitude AND 2) all appeals have been exhausted AND 3) 61 MKs have voted to depose him. (Note that 61 MKs are always sufficient to replace a Prime Minister, provided that they agree on a replacement; in case of conviction, only the requirement for an agreed replacement is waived.) The reason for all these requirements is simply separation of powers. We don't want the Court to depose a Prime Minister; this is the job of the legislature.

The current proposal would waive ALL three requirements. In fact, any Attorney General could depose a prime Minister at will just by cooking up an indictment. Effectively, this would mean that every Prime Minister would be held hostage to the Attorney General, who could simply raise an eyebrow to get a wayward Prime Minister to fall into line. And since Attorney Generals, though theoretically servants of the government, are in fact servants of the Court, this would only further exacerbate the existing absurd imbalance of power in favor of the judicial branch. It is no wonder that the Court's friends on the left support this legislation, but it is hard to fathom the depth of short-sightedness required for those on the right to support this law, just because its ostensible proximate target is Ehud Olmert.

There is a common thread connecting the above two pieces of silly legislation. In each case, the Knesset does not trust itself to act wisely and honorably in some future instance and hence wishes to now tie its own hands. While each proposed remedy is ineffective, one can hardly argue with the diagnosis.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Effectively, this would mean that every Prime Minister would be held hostage to the Attorney General, who could simply raise an eyebrow to get a wayward Prime Minister to fall into line.

Or, it would simply strengthen the ties between the PM and the AG (who's nomination usually comes from the PM anyway). The PM would make sure to find the "right friend" to be the AG, ensuring it would be the PM who kept the AG in place, and not vice-versa.

3:57 PM  

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