Weekly Commentary: Who sets policy in a democracy?
Dr. Aaron Lerner 2 March, 2019
Years ago, before she was an MK, Shulamit "Shuli" Mualem-Rafaeli lobbied for
IDF widows to continue to receive their pensions after remarrying (her own
first husband Moshe was killed in the 1997 IDF helicopter disaster).
The proposed change to the rules was supported by all the decision makers
who held their positions as a result of the democratic process - including
the Minister of Defense.
The proposal was quashed by the legal counsel of the Ministry of Defense at
a meeting she attended.
What legal grounds did the legal counsel of the Ministry of Defense cite for
quashing the proposal?
He said if was a budget buster.
The lawyer serving as legal counsel of the Ministry of Defense couldn't
actually cite a legal issue with the proposal.
He just felt that he knew better what was in the public interest than a
bunch of decision makers who held their positions as a result of the
democratic process - including the Minister of Defense.
This, in a nutshell, is the fierce dispute over the proper role of the
so-called "gate keepers".
Does the legal counsel of a given ministry limit his voice to advising if a
given proposed action is legal according to the written law or does the
legal counsel also serve to block proposed actions that, while legal
according to the written law, do not, in the eyes of the legal counsel,
serve the public interest?
Ironically, the people screaming "PROTECT DEMOCRACY" are the ones arguing
that the "gate keepers" should have the final say on what serves the public
interest. That somehow it is not "democratic" for the political process to
serve as the expression of the public interest.
We have a similar phenomena in our court system where rulings are made on
whether something is "reasonable" rather than if it is or isn't in
accordance with the applicable written law.
Also in this instance the people screaming "PROTECT DEMOCRACY" are the ones
arguing that the judges should rule according to what the judges believe
serves the public interest rather than according to the written laws enacted
by the democratically elected Knesset.
A word about the charges raised against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
I recommend reading Professor Ran Baratz's article in the 1 March edition of
Baratz cites the "tunnel vision" employed in the prosecution of Netanyahu on
the basis of action he was associated with that favored someone when
Netanyahu was also associated with decisions that caused great financial
harm to the same person. This "tunnel vision" considerd favorable media
coverage by an internet news service as evidence of a pay-off when that
same news service, on average, was unfavorable to Netanyahu.
"Tunnel vision" has Netanyahu lobbying with American officials for a visa
for a friend in exchange for cigars while ignoring that the reason his
friend had a visa issue in the first place was that he was being punished
for helping Israel.
"Tunnel vision" prosecutes Netanyahu for talking with the owner of a major
newspaper openly devoted to destroying Netanyahu's political career when the
operative conclusion of these conversations was that the paper continued its
crusade against the prime minister and Netanyahu went to elections to stop
legislation that served the paper's interests.
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