1 of 3 | President of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut and all fifteen justices assemble to hear petitions against the reasonableness standard law in the High Court in Jerusalem, on Tuesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Israeli Supreme Court Justices seemed critical of the government's effort to end judicial scrutiny of its decisions on Tuesday during a hearing after thousands protested the new standards outside the court the day before.
The new government's law that prevents the court from using the so-called reasonableness standard in challenging government decisions faced a Supreme Court that initially appeared unmoved.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said the reasonableness standard had been part of important checks and balances in Israeli law for at least 40 years and charged the government has offered no guarantee on how those checks will continue.
"The reasonableness standard has existed for decades, at least 40 years if not since the beginning of the state, and you are blocking every court from granting relief to litigants and saying the court cannot even hear the case," Hayut argued.
"There are thousands of individual decisions that ministers make that affect citizens' daily lives, and citizens who report to the courts on unreasonable decisions but they aren't able to prove that inappropriate considerations were used. Most of the time we don't intervene, but sometimes there is a reason to do so. But today the law prevents every court in the country from doing so."
Lawyer Aner Helman, who represented Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, said the Supreme Court should be concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu's government's decision to reel in the court.
Baharav-Miara refused to defend the Basic Law and urged private counsel to handle the duties, which Helman said initially concerned him and became even more worrying once he read the government's response to the Supreme Court.
"We saw an amazing example where the Knesset asked if the court has authority and then said 'we will decide,'" Helman said.
"If there is one thing that should frighten all of us, it's when they come and tell us 'trust us, we won't harm the Basic Laws,'" said Helman. "That means we all need to be very careful."
Ilan Bombach, who represented Netanyahu's conservative government, argued that the Supreme Court had no authority to challenge the law.
"You can't say 'we previously ruled,' it doesn't count as a source of authority, it must be based in law," Bombach said. "This is the reason for the convening of 15 judges to decide whether they have or don't have the authority."
The court said Israel's Declaration of Independence gives it the power in such measures, but Bombach fired back, saying that the historical document was "hasty" and doesn't have the force of the country's Basic Law, which essentially acts of Israel's constitution.
On Monday, thousands protested the government's judicial reforms in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Protesters have taken to the streets for most of the year demonstrating against the court reform proposals.