Can we use the Lapid speech at Kohelet in 2016 as proof of his hypocrisy?
What is one to do when the side of an argument you support presents material that has been taken out of context and, therefore, gives a false impression? I think we have to do what we do when this happens when the side of an argument we do not support does this — we have to point out the discrepancy.
The issue involves the debate over judicial reforms now before the Knesset — and the entire country.
I am not going to call out anyone in particular on this because this is something I have seen repeated by a number of individuals and organizations. In fact, I also repeated the claim once, before I checked the source material myself.
A brief portion of a speech Lapid gave in 2016 has been presented as proof that Lapid is a hypocrite because in this small section it is as if Lapid agrees totally with those now pushing for judicial reform. There is only one problem. In the next sentence, he denies that there is still a problem with the judiciary. In the introduction to his talk, he states the point he intends to make, which is very different from supporting judicial reform.
First I will translate the section quoted as proof Lapid once wanted the same judicial reforms as are now before the Knesset and which he is now vehimently opposing. Then I will translate enough of the speech so that you can judge for yourselves if Lapid is being hypocritical in his opposition to the reforms as is being argued based on this particular section.
In the part of the speech repeatedly quoted — Lapid says:
I opposed and I still oppose judicial activism from the school of the honourable Judge Aharon Barak. It is not right, in my opinion, that everything is judiciable. It is not right, in my opinion, that the Supreme Court will be transformational while it acts upon a measure of the “reasonable man,” a vague and totally subjective definition that the Knesset has never entered into the law books. It is not right, in my opinion, that the separation of powers, the sacred basis of the democratic system, is violated whereby one authority places itself above the others.
That really does sound as if he supports every aspect of the judicial reforms against which he now leads the country. And it seems like the perfect “gotcha” moment.
His 20-minute speech was called: “The Justice System versus the Political System” and he gave it in 2016 at a session of the Kohelet Policy Forum. You can watch the entire speech here (in Hebrew only).
His main argument was that instead of dealing with the electorate and with issues with which the government must contend, Bibi and the ministers in his coalition attack the court.
He opens his speech with:
The central argument that I want to present to you today is that judicial activism had already died and then it was revived. It has been revived by irresponsible politicians who, instead of doing their work, go to the court and submit petitions that are very popular and that the public likes with the knowledge that they will not be accepted [because they are not legal, he says later in the speech]. It is clear to them that they will be not accepted. It is clear to them, and they don’t want them to be accepted. They want to say: I know what to do. I know how to solve your problems, but the court stopped me. The court is to blame. [emphasis is mine]
Those who revived judicial activism were not those who are in favour of it but, in fact, those who most oppose it.
He goes on to argue that this gives them the freedom to continue to table bills that would be bad for the country, relying on the court to be the responsible adult that will kill those bills. And it is right after this where he makes the statement some have repeatedly quoted out of context.
But then in the next sentence he says:
But none of these things take place today. In fact, none of these things have been happening for over ten years. [emphasis mine]
He says that Presidents of the Supreme Court Grunis and Naor are not activists, neither by declaring themselves to be nor by behaving as such.
He says that the role of the government and the prime minister is “to act within the framework of the law or to change the law and not to whine about the law” or to blame the law when the public is not happy with the results. Lapid says that the court did not rule against the offshore gas deal; it was blamed by the government for ruling against it “so that they would not have to explain to the public why they were unable to get a majority to vote it through in the Knesset.”
Lapid says the Supreme Court is forced to remain silent while it is being unfairly exploited by the government and that in all the examples he gave, and he gave several, the court was a conservative and cautious court. Instead of facing down the extremists or doing something unpopular, the government blames the court.
He concludes with:
We see what happens in countries that have no law and no order and no strong and independent court. In addition to the perfect political trick of blaming the court that allows it to avoid its responsibilities, this is an argument that is destructive for Israeli society. Today there are too many people in Israel, extremists on the right and extremists on the left, who are fed up with democracy. The burden of the rule of law seems to them to be too much. They are looking for other solutions. And the reason they feel that way is because that is what their government is showing them, that the law is not what rescues us, the law is not what provides a framework for our lives, allowing us a shared existence — the law is a burden. The law is an extraneous harassment without which the government would [unclear] offer us a Garden of Eden on Earth. …
We are not fed up with democracy. We are not fed up with the law. We are fed up with irresponsible politicians who are preoccupied only with themselves.
In brief, he makes the claim that the court is no longer an activist court and he gives examples he believes support that contention. It is beside the point of this article to check out these examples for historical accuracy. I am looking at something else: Regardless of what you think of Lapid, does his 2016 speech at Kohelet contradict his current intense fight against judicial reforms or is there a consistency between what he said then and what he says now? In other words, does the section repeatedly quoted mean that Lapid is hypocritical regarding the judicial reform proposals? I am not saying whether he is or is not a hypocrit, just challenging those who use this particular quote to say that he is.
Should those who favour judicial reform, in part or in full, be using the much-quoted section of Lapid’s speech as “proof” of hypocrisy and, therefore, as further support of the idea that the anti-judicial reform protesters have it wrong?
I truly want to know what you think and would be happy to have you comment below this article.
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My other articles on this website on this topic: What does Lapid really want? / The Lapid Outline reminds me of two things, neither of them good / Lapid is right: The madness must stop.