One of the favorite rhetorical bludgeons used against the
religious public in Israel is the "rule of law." Secular
journalists and politicians constantly champion the
importance of the rule of law for democratic systems of
governance like that in Israel, and accuse the religious
community of undermining it whenever we criticize a decision
of the High Court or a law that we consider unjust. In fact,
our criticism of the system is much less damaging and
subversive of the system than the way the Left plays with its
own laws -- as can be seen in the current efforts of the
government to amend the Basic Law of the Government to allow
it to add Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers.
We support democracy and Israeli democracy in particular. We
do not think that our support for Israeli democracy is any
weaker than the support of the Left, though we admit that we
believe that there are other causes, which have no one else
to champion them, that need our efforts more than Israeli
The support of the Left for the rule of law is very
selective. They freely violated the law against meeting with
the PLO only five years ago; they do not respect the legal
demolition orders given against illegally built Arab
buildings; and weekly they violate the social laws against
working on Shabbos with the full backing of anti-religious
ministers and members of Knesset.
The recent initiative to expand the government is one of the
worst offenses against the rule of law. To expand the
government positions for no substantive reason, merely to
allow the Prime Minister to pay some political debts and to
aggregate more power, will clearly undermine the force of the
Basic Laws, and the respect of the public for all laws.
No one today defends the government's law to add ministers on
substantive grounds. Minister of Justice Beilin opposed the
law. Professor Rubinstein, the chair of the Knesset Legal
Committee that prepared and approved the law, opposed the
law. All the coalition members on that committee opposed the
law. Chaim Oron, who is slated to get one of the new Cabinet
positions, also opposed the law. The major coalition partners
did not press to pass the law.
Even under the existing law, Israel, with 16 cabinet
ministers, has more than the average European country, some
of whom are ten times its size. It certainly does not need 24
ministers to govern. On the contrary, more ministers at the
government table will probably make things unwieldy and
harder to govern. With the trend towards increasing
privatization, the government should shrink, not expand.
The change was made mainly to give ministerial positions to
Michael Melchior (Meimad), Amnon Lipkin-Shachak (Center), and
Matan Vilnai (One Israel). All are political neophytes who
have never before served in a Knesset.
However, the big winner from the expansion is Ehud Barak. He
now has that many more prime political positions to give out,
and will have that many more loyal supporters. Limiting the
power of the prime minister was one of the explicit reasons
given for the Basic Law that restricted the number of legal
One of the Basic Laws was changed for the basest of reasons.
All of the loudest guardians of the law aided and abetted
this travesty. Let us, at least, register our protest.