Monday, June 29, 2015

MK Nissan Slomiansky: "We need to highlight that Israel is a Jewish state"

"THE 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 (translation)

MK Nissan Slomiansky
Although only a few weeks have passed since he took office as Chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky (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 Finance Committee.

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."

"The 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. "

"Change 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 ".

"Everyone 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."

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