Government

Lieberman et al. v. Cassif et al.

Case/docket number: 
EDA 1806/19
Date Decided: 
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Decision Type: 
Appellate
Abstract: 

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the Hadash-Ta’al list but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list and rejected three requests to disqualify Dr. Michael Ben Ari and Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election. The decision to disqualify Cassif was submitted to the Supreme Court for approval, as required under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. The decisions on the disqualification of party lists and the decisions to reject the requests for the disqualification of candidates were appealed to the Court in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law.

 

2.         On March 17, 2019, the Supreme Court (President E. Hayut, Justices N. Hendel, U. Vogelman, I. Amit, N. Sohlberg, M. Mazuz, A. Baron, G. Karra, D. Mintz) delivered its decisions on the Elections Decision Approval and the Elections Appeals. Due to the strict statutory timeframe imposed upon such decisions under secs. 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Knesset Elections Law, which require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”, the Court issued its decisions without stating reasons. On Thursday, March 21, 2019, the Court released a summary of its reasons.

 

3.         In its summary, the Court ruled as follows:

 

EDA 1806/19:  

 

The Court majority (Justice D. Mintz dissenting) reversed the decision of the Elections Committee to bar the candidacy of Dr. Ofer Cassif.

 

The Committee’s decision to bar Cassif was based upon the grounds of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or support of armed struggle against the State of Israel. While the Court was severely critical of Dr. Cassif’s statements, particularly those implying a comparison to Nazi Germany, those statements did not, in the opinion of the majority, fall within the compass of support for armed struggle. The majority was also not convinced that Dr. Cassif’s statements in regard to the desirable character of the State of Israel met the necessary evidentiary standard for demonstrating the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

EA 1866/19:

 

The Court (Justice N. Sohlberg dissenting) granted the appeal against the Committee’s decision to approve the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari’s candidacy, and unanimously dismissed the appeal against the approval of the candidacy of Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir.

 

The Court found Dr. Ben Ari’s conduct and statements expressed incitement to racism as a dominant, central objective. The Court was of the opinion that the evidence convincingly demonstrated a “critical evidentiary mass” that comprised repeated, unambiguously inflammatory statements against the Israeli Arab populace over the course of years. The Court found that the evidence against Mr. Ben Gvir did not meet the stringent requirements for grounding a ban of his candidacy by reason of incitement to racism.

 

EA 1867/19:

 

The Court dismissed the appeal against the approval of the Hadash-Ta’al list in a unanimous decision, holding that the evidence presented did not meet the demanding standard for proving that the lists supported armed struggle against the state. It was further held that, in accordance with the Court’s case law, the desire that Israel be “a state of all its citizens” does not, of itself, demonstrate a negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state to the extent that the list should be banned from standing for election.

 

EA 1876/19:

 

The Court (Justice D. Mintz dissenting) reversed the Committee’s decision to bar the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the Knesset elections. In this regard, the Court gave some weight to the fact, pointed out by the Attorney General, that because a joint list was concerned, banning Balad could lead to the banning of the Ra’am list, although no objections were raised to its participation in the elections. Weight was also given to the fact that most of the statements and actions grounding the request to bar the list were made by members of the party who were no longer candidates, while the evidence against the current candidates did not rise to the level necessary for barring a list from participating in the elections.

 

4.         On July 18, 2019, the Court published its full judgment.

 

President E. Hayut, writing for the Court, held:

 

A.        The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression. Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights. Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

 

Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

 

            B.        Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions or expressions of the candidate constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In accordance with the case law, the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; Hebrew as the primary official language of the state; the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state

 

As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary”. It was further noted that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime

 

            C.        The criteria outlined in the Court’s case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the disqualification are as follows:

(-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them.

(-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance.

(-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. Objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression”.

(-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive”, and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify disqualification. The burden of proof rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification.

 

Justice I. Amit (concurring):

 

1.         Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment.

 

In putting those principles into practice, each disqualification is examined independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”.

 

2.         Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, it should not be subject to the probability test.

 

Justice U. Vogelman (concurring):

 

1.         Given the nature of the rights and balances involved, “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

 

2.         There is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread”.

 

Justice M. Mazuz (concurring):

 

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state”. The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

 

            In practice, the unification of the causes was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

 

2.         The proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state.

 

3.         There is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application.

 

The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections. The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability. Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg (concurring and dissenting):

 

            From the very outset, the Court adopted a strict approach to the interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt.

 

            There is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme, and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases.

 

            As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires the Court to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before it.

 

Justice A. Baron (concurring):

 

            Incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz (concurring and dissenting):

 

The Explanatory Notes to the 2002 Basic Law: The Knesset Bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear”. Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past.

 

Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past. If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions.  

 

            Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements, so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

 

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

 

Justice G. Karra (concurring):

 

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2).

 

Justice N. Hendel (concurring):

 

1.         The probability test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. The basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes.

 

2.         It would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past. Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise.

Full text of the opinion: 

                                                                                                                                    EDA 1806/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1866/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1867/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1876/19

 

In re:                                      Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

 

Plaintiffs in EDA 1806/19:               1.         MK Avigdor Lieberman

                                                            2.         MK Oded Forer

                                                            3.         Yisrael Beiteinu Faction

Appellants in EA 1866/19:               1.         Issawi Frej

                                                            2.         Ofer Kornfeld

                                                            3.         Atara Litvak

                                                            4.         Debbie Ben Ami

                                                            5.         Sonia Cohen

                                                            6.         Richard Peres

                                                            7.         Eran Yarak

                                                            8.         Gil Segal

                                                            9.         Shifrit Cohen Hayou Shavit

                                                            10.       Osama Saadi

                                                            11.       Wiam Shabita

                                                            12.       Yousouf Fadila

                                                            13.       Meretz Faction

                                                            14.       MK Stav Shaffir

15.       Reform Movement for Religion and State – Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism  

16.       Tag Meir Forum

Appellants in EA 1867/19:               1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Hoshaya Harari

                                                            4.         Yochai Revivo

                                                            5.         MK David Bitan

                                                            6.         Elidor Cohen

                                                            7.         Yaakov (Kobi) Matza

                                                            8.         Yigal Harari

                                                            9.         Yaakov Dekel

                                                            10.       Shimon Boker

                                                            11.       Yossi Shalom Haim Rozenboim

Appellant in EA 1876/19:                             Ra’am List

 

                                                                        v.

 

Respondents in EDA 1806/19:         1.         Dr. Ofer Cassif

                                                            2.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1866/19:            1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            4.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1867/19:            1.         Hadash-Ta’al List

                                                            2.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            3.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1876/19:            1.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            2.         Likud Faction et al.

                                                            3.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari et al.

                                                            4.         Attorney General

                                                            5.         The Knesset

 

EDA 1806/19: Approval procedure under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1866/19: Appeal under sec. 63A(d) and sec. 65(A1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1867/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1876/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

 

The Supreme Court

Before: President E. Hayut, Justice N. Hendel, Justice U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice N. Sohlberg, Justice M. Mazuz, Justice A. Baron, Justice G. Karra, Justice D. Mintz

 

Supreme Court cases cited:

1.         EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. MK Ahmad Tibi, IsrSC 57 (4) 1 (2003)

 

2.         EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset (Jan. 21, 2009)

3.         EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee for the 19th Knesset v. MK Hanin Zoabi (Feb. 18, 2015)

4.         EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset, IsrSC 39(2) 225 (1985) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/neiman-v-chairman-elections-committee]

5.         EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 42(4), 177 (1988) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/kach-v-central-election-committee-twelfth-knesset]

6.         EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi, (Dec. 10, 2015)

7.         LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties, IsrSC 50(2) 45 (1996)

8.         EA 1/65 Yaakov Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset, IsrSC 19(3) 365 (1964) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/yeredor-v-chairman-central-elections-committee-sixth-knesset]

9.         EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 43(4) 221 (1989)

10.       EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset (unpublished)

11.       EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset, IsrSC 46(3) 541 (1992)

12.       HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset, (May 27, 2018)

13.       HCJ 11225/03 Azmi Bishara v. Attorney General, IsrSC 60(4) 287 (2006)

14.       HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General, (Dec. 9, 2015)

15.       HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, Haifa District, IsrSC 27(2) 764 (1973)

16.       HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 53(5) 520 (1999)

17.       AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police, IsrSC 57(1) 61 (2002)

18.       LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet Gesher-Tzomet List for the Nazereth Illit Local Council Elections, IsrSC 53(1) 351

19.       HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset, (Dec. 30, 2018)

20.       EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

21.       HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party, IsrSC 49(1) 758 (1995)

22.       HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board, IsrSC 41(1) 421 (1987)

23.       HCJ 399/85 MK Rabbi Meir Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority Directorate, IsrSC 41(3) 255 (1987)

24.       HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner, (Dec/ 28, 2016)

25.       HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685 (2004)

26.       CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach Advocates v. Assessment Officer – Akko, (May 25, 2019)

27.       CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel, (Sept. 5, 2018)

28.       CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron, (Dec. 3, 2017)

29.       CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel, (Nov. 25, 2018)

30.       AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing, Southern District – Ministry of Public Security, (Feb. 26, 2019)

31.       HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 61(2) 202 (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-minister-interior]

32.       HCJ 7625/06 Martina Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior, (March 31, 2016) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/rogachova-v-ministry-interior]

33.       EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

34.       CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel, (Aug. 31, 2015)

35.       EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset v. Tibi, IsrSC 57(4) 1 (2003)

 

 

Judgment (Reasoning)

(July 18, 2019)

 

President E. Hayut:

Introduction

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset (hereinafter: the Elections Committee or the Committee) approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif (hereinafter: Cassif) from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the list of “Hadash – headed by Ayman Odeh, Ta’al – headed by Ahmed Tibi” (hereinafter: Hadash-Ta’al) but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list in its entirety. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Ra’am-Balad) and to bar Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election.

            These decisions were the focus of the appeal and approval proceedings before us.

            The three appeals – EA 1866/19, EA 1867/19 and EA 1876/19 – which will be presented below, were filed on March 12, 2019, in accordance with sec. 63A(d) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969 (hereinafter: the Elections Law) (in regard to the disqualification of a candidate) and secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of that Law (in regard to the disqualification of lists). The approval proceeding – EDA 1806/19 – was filed on March 10, 2019 by the Elections Committee, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter: Basic Law: The Knesset or the Basic Law).

2.         Sections 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Elections Law require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”. In regard to the elections for the 21st Knesset, which took place on April 9, 2019, we were therefore required to render judgment in the appeal and approval proceedings no later than March 17, 2019. Under the time constraint from the time of the filing of the proceedings – March 10, 2019, and March 12, 2019 – to the date upon which we were required to render judgment – March 17, 2019 – we allowed the Respondents in each of the proceedings to file written pleadings, and we heard supplementary oral arguments before a nine-judge panel, as required by the Law.  The hearings took place on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, and Thursday, March 14, 2019, and the judgment was duly handed down on Sunday, March 17, 2019, without stating reasons in view of the statutory time constraints detailed above, and as has been usual in such proceedings over the years (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections v. Tibi, [1]; EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2]; EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3]). In the judgment, a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, decided not to approve the decision of the Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of Cassif. The Court unanimously decided to reject the appeal in regard to the Elections Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Court also decided, by a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, to grant the appeal in regard to the Ra’am-Balad list, and to order that the list is not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. The Court further unanimously rejected the appeal in regard to the decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir, and decided by a majority, against the dissenting opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg, to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and order his disqualification as a candidate for the 21st Knesset. Four days later, on March 21, 2019, we published a summary of the reasoning grounding the judgment, and we now present the full reasoning.

 

General Background and Normative Framework

3.         The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression (EA 2/84 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [4], 262-264 (hereinafter: the first Neiman case); EA 1/88 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [5], 185 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case); EA 561/09 Balad v. Central Elections Committee [2], para. 2 (hereinafter: the Balad case); EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 7 (hereinafter: the first Zoabi case); EDA 1095/15 Central Elections Committee v. Zoabi [6], para. 5 (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case); cf. LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties [7], 58-60 & 71 (hereinafter: the Yassin case); Ruth Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, in A. Barak (ed.), Essays in Honor of Shimon Agranat, (1986), 145, 151-152 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Gavison)).

            Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights, and it has already been held that “it is the right of a democracy to deny the participation in the democratic process of lists that reject democracy itself […] one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14 (hereinafter: the Tibi case); and further see the Yassin case, p. 62, the first Zoabi case, para. 8; the second Zoabi case, para. 6). Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, which concern, inter alia, age and citizenship (see: sec. 5 of Basic Law: The Knesset in regard to the right to vote, and secs. 6, 6A and 7 of that Law in regard to the right be elected), there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

4.         As will be explained in the brief survey below, such material restrictions have been developed over the years in Israeli law, as well. At its inception, the State of Israel adopted a democratic regime characterized, inter alia, by the values of equality and freedom of political expression mentioned above. Alongside those values, and without any necessary contradiction, the sovereign State of Israel was established as a Jewish state, in recognition of the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its land. This important fundamental principle, which Justice M. Cheshin defined as an “axiom” when he served as chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset, must also be protected. President A. Barak addressed this in the Tibi case, stating:

There are many democratic states. Only one of them is a Jewish state. Indeed, the reason for the existence of the State of Israel is its being a Jewish state. This character is central to its existence, and it is – as Justice M. Cheshin stated before the Central Elections Committee – an “axiom” of the state. It should be seen as a “fundamental principle of our law and system” (emphasis original; ibid., p. 21).

President D. Beinisch addressed the uniqueness of Israeli democracy in this regard in the Balad case, noting:             

The State of Israel’s being the only state that serves as a home for the Jewish people, and therefore preserves unique characteristics worthy of protection, is the starting point for every discussion of the character of the state (ibid., para. 3).

In this regard, it would not be superfluous to note that there are those who hold the opinion that there is a “significant moral tension that requires a process of reconciliation between opposing values (Justice I. Englard in the Tibi case, p. 64. For a detailed discussion of this subject, see:  Adi Gal & Mordechai Kremnitzer, Disqualification of Party Lists and Candidates – Does it Strengthen Democracy or Weaken It? (Israel Democracy Institute, 2019) 22-26 (Hebrew)). As opposed to this, there are those who are of the opinion that there is no contradiction between democratic values and Jewish values, but rather they derive from one another (the second Neiman case, pp. 189-190; Justice Y. Amit in the second Zoabi case, para. 3; Elyakim Rubinstein, On the Equality of Arabs in Israel, 1 Kiryat Mishpat 17, 26 (20021) (Hebrew)). Below, we will address the material restrictions established in regard to the right to vote and be elected in Israeli law. As  will be seen, these restrictions define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state without distinction between these two frameworks, in the spirit of the principles we addressed above.

5.         Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

6.         As already noted, these restrictions developed in Israeli law over the course of years. Basic Law: The Knesset, which was enacted in 1958, did not originally comprise a material provision – as opposed to a formal provision in regard to competence – that restricted the right to be elected. The absence of such a provision notwithstanding, in EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [8] (hereinafter: the Yeredor case), the Court recognized the authority of the Elections Committee not to approve the participation of the Socialists list in the elections for the 6th Knesset because the list, and the El Ard organization with which it identified, “deny the integrity of the State of Israel and its very existence”. Some twenty years later, the Court again addressed the disqualification of a list from standing for election. The Central Elections Committee for the elections for 11th Knesset in 1984 disqualified the Kach list and the Progressive List for Peace from standing for election. The Kach list was disqualified by the Committee for the racist and anti-democratic principles that it espoused, its open support for terrorism, and incitement of hatred and hostility between different sectors of the Israeli populace. The Progressive List for Peace was disqualified due to the Committee’s determination that the list comprised subversive foundations and tendencies and that central members of the list acted in a manner that identified with the state’s enemies. The disqualification of the two lists was brought before the Court in the first Neiman case, which held, by majority, that in the absence of an express provision of law, the doctrine established in the Yeredor case should be limited to the causes for disqualification set out there, i.e., denial of the very existence of the state – which must be proven by clear, unequivocal, and persuasive evidence (for a critique, see Gavison, at pp. 184-195).

7.         Following the judgment in the first Neiman case, the legislature amended Basic Law: The Knesset and added sec. 7A. This section, in its original form, comprised three causes for disqualifying a list of candidates whose purposes or actions expressly or impliedly amounted to (1) negation of the existence of the state as the state of the Jewish people; (2) negation of the democratic character of the state; (3) incitement to racism.

            When the Kach list again sought to stand for election for the 12th Knesset in 1988, the list was disqualified by the Elections Committee for the reasons set out in subsecs. (2) and (3) of sec. 7A. The appeal of the decision was denied by the Court (see: the second Neiman case), which held that the list indeed negated the democratic character of the state and that its activities constituted incitement to racism. In its decision, the Court emphasized that given the importance of the freedoms that the rights to vote and to be elected are intended to realize, affirming those rights is preferable to denying them, and the disqualification of a list must be reserved for the most extreme cases. That year, the Court also adjudicated another proceeding related to the elections for the 12th Knesset. The Court majority denied an appeal of a decision by the Central Elections Committee not to disqualify The Progressive List for Peace from standing for election (EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee [9]). In 1992, after the murder of the founder of the Kach movement, Rabbi Meir Kahane (hereinafter: Rabbi Kahane), in 1990, the Central Elections Committee disqualified two lists that viewed themselves as the heirs to Rabbi Kahane from participating in the elections for the 13th Knesset. A unanimous Court denied the appeals of the disqualifications, adopting the criteria established in the second Neiman case (EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [10] (hereinafter: the Kach case)); EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [11] (hereinafter: the Movshovich case)).       

8.         In 2002, sec. 7A of the Basic Law was amended. The amendment comprised three primary changes: (1) the separate causes for disqualification in regard to negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state were unified as one cause; (2) an additional cause was added under which a list could be disqualified from participation in elections if it supported armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel; (3) it was established that not only could an entire list be disqualified, but also a candidate could be disqualified from standing for election, but that as opposed to the disqualification of a list, the disqualification of a candidate required the approval of the Supreme Court.

9.         In the Tibi case, the Court addressed a number of decisions given by the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset in regard to the elections in January 2003, among them the first decisions of their kind pursuant to the aforementioned amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided to disqualify Knesset members Ahmed Tibi of the Hadash-Ta’al list (hereinafter: Tibi) and Azmi Bishara of the Balad list (hereinafter: Bishara). The Committee further decided that Baruch Marzel of the Herut list (hereinafter: Marzel) should not be disqualified. In addition, the Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list from standing for election. In the Tibi case, the Court focused upon and outlined the criteria for each of the causes in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. On that basis, the Court decided not to approve the Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset members Tibi and Bishara from standing for election. The decision in regard to Tibi was unanimous, whereas the decision in regard to Bishara was by a majority. A majority further dismissed the appeal of the Committee’s decision to permit Marzel’s candidacy, and the appeal against the disqualification of the Balad list was granted by a majority, and it was held that the list could stand for election.

10.       Another amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law was adopted in 2008, adding sec. (a1) that established: “In connection with this article, a candidate who was illegally present in an enemy state in the seven years that preceded the deadline for submitted lists of candidates shall be considered someone whose actions constitute support for an armed conflict against the State of Israel, unless he has proven otherwise”. About a year after that amendment, prior to the elections for the 18th Knesset, the Court addressed an appeal of the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify the Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al list for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a) and (3) of the Basic Law. A majority of the Court granted the appeal, and            the participation of those lists was permitted. In 2012 and 2015, the Court was again called upon to address the disqualification of candidates. In the first Zoabi case, the Court unanimously overturned the Central Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset member Hanin Zoabi (hereinafter: Zoabi) from running in the elections for the 19th Knesset for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. In the second Zoabi case, two approval proceedings were addressed jointly after the Central Elections Committee disqualified Zoabi’s participation in the elections for the 20th Knesset for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law, and also disqualified Marzel from participating in those same elections for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (2). A majority of the Court decided not to approve the Elections Committee’s decisions in regard to both Zaobi and Marzel, and both stood as candidates in those elections.

11.       The judgment in the second Zoabi case was rendered in 2015. In 2017, section 7A of the Basic Law was amended again to add the words “including his expressions” after the words “the actions of the person”. It is important to emphasize that, as opposed to various arguments raised before us in these proceedings, this amendment – as stated in its Explanatory Notes – “was not intended to change the case law of the Court according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. In other words, the strict evidentiary threshold outlined in the case law over the years for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification remains as it was, given the purpose of the section and the balance between the values it is intended to protect.

            To complete the picture, we would note that in 2016, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Basic Law in regard to the termination of the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or support of armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, as stated in secs. 7A(a)(2) or 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. We would further note for the sake of completing the picture that two petitions filed against the constitutionality of the said amendment were denied (HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12]) (hereinafter: the Ben Meir case).

 

The Causes for Disqualification established in Section 7A

12.       Having surveyed the proceedings and legislative amendments relevant to the disqualification of lists and candidates seeking to stand for election to the Knesset and the development of the case law and the Basic Law in this regard, it would now be appropriate to address the interpretive principles and the criteria outlined and applied in all that regards the various causes for disqualification. I would preface by stating that the prevailing trend in this Court’s case law is that a cautious, restrained approach should be adopted in all that relates to the disqualification of lists and candidates participating in Knesset elections. Indeed, in view of the magnitude of the rights to vote and be elected, this Court has repeatedly held that the starting point is that the causes for disqualification should be interpreted narrowly and should be applied in the most extreme cases (see, for example, the second Neiman case, at p. 187; the Tibi case, at pp. 17-18). From this starting point, the case law derived the answer to the question of what must be proved in order to ground the presence of any of the causes for disqualification, as well as the criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold. We will first examine the case-law interpretation of what is required to prove each of the causes for disqualification, and then examine the criteria established in regard to the required evidentiary threshold.

(1) Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

13.       The first cause established under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of candidate lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions of the candidate, including his statements, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The “nuclear-minimal” characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and its “nuclear-minimal” characteristics as a democratic state were established in the Tibi case, which held that it is the infringement of these characteristics that may give rise to a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. In the matter of the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state, it was held that these include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; that Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; that the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and that the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state (the Tibi case, p. 22; and compare the view of Justice Y. Turkel in that case at p. 101; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 66, and the first Zoabi case, para. 20; the Balad case, para. 6; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66; the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and see: Amnon Rubinstein & Raanan Har-Zahav, Basic Law: The Knesset, 64 (1993) (Hebrew)).

            As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based […] upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary” (the Tibi case, p. 23; and see the second Zoabi case, para 29; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66). It was further noted in the Tibi case that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime (ibid., p. 24; and see the second Neiman case, p. 190, and the second Zoabi case, para. 30).

(2) Incitement to racism

14.       The second cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(2), is incitement to racism. We will address the grounds of this cause and its underlying rationales, particularly in a Jewish state, at greater length below. At this stage, we would note that already in the second Neiman case, in which, for the first time following the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Kach list was disqualified on the grounds of incitement to racism, the Court held, per President M. Shamgar,  that the “objectives and conduct [of the list] are also clearly racist: systematically fanning the flames of ethnic and national hate, which causes divisiveness and animosity; calling for the forceful deprivation of rights; systematic and intentional degradation directed towards a specific part of the population selected because of their national origin and ethnicity; [calling] for their humiliation in ways very similar to the terrible experiences of the Jewish nation” (ibid., p. 197).

(3) Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

15.       The third cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law, concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. This cause is premised upon the primary conceptual justification for the disqualification of candidates and lists – viz., defense against those who would seek to negate the very existence of the state or undermine the foundations of its existence and its democratic nature by means of armed struggle (the first Zoabi case, para. 29). In the Tibi case, President A. Barak noted in regard to this cause that: “Democracy is allowed to prevent the participation of candidate lists that employ violence or support violence as a tool for changing the nature of the regime” (ibid., p. 26; and also see the second Zoabi case, para. 69). Preventing participation by virtue of this cause will, of course, be possible where a candidate or a list personally takes active part in an armed struggle of a terrorist organization or an enemy state, as well as where they encourage such a struggle or provide material, political or other support (ibid., para. 69; and see the Tibi case, p. 27; the Balad case, para. 7; the first Zoabi case, para. 29). Disqualification of a list or candidate by virtue of this cause would be possible only if the support is of an armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization (the Tibi case, p. 27; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 69; for a detailed discussion of this cause, see: Gal & Kremnitzer, 16-19).

 

The Criteria in regard to the Required Evidentiary Threshold

16.       Alongside the narrow interpretation of the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, over the years, the case law further added a series of strict criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold for the crystallizing of any of the causes. These criteria limit the possibility of disqualifying a list or candidate from standing for election to the Knesset only to clear, extreme cases due to the intense caution that the Court adopts as the starting point in this regard (the Balad case, para. 3; and see the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; the Kach case, p. 2). Below, we will summarize the criteria outlined in the case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the existence of the disqualifying causes. These criteria were, for the most part, first applied in regard to the disqualification of lists, and after the amendment of the Basic Law in 2002, they were respectively adopted in regard to the disqualification of an individual candidate, as well (see the Tibi case, the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case). These are the criteria:

            (-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them (see the second Neiman case, p. 187; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18, the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para 14).

            (-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. It was held that objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and that there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression” (the second Neiman case, p. 196; the Tibi case, p. 18; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive” (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18; the second Zoabi case, para. 34; compare: the first Neiman case, p. 250), and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify the disqualification (the Tibi case, p. 43; the first Zoabi case, para. 14). The burden of proof in this regard rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and a doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification (the second Neiman case, pp. 248-249; the Kach case, p. 3).

17.       A complex question concerning the evidentiary threshold for proving the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law is that of whether to apply probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent. There is a difference of opinion in the case law, and the matter has been left for further consideration and has yet to be decided. The spectrum of opinions expressed on this matter range from an approach that rejects the application of the probability test (see the position of Justice M. Elon in the first Neiman case, p. 297; President M. Shamgar following the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset in the second Neiman case, p. 187; Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and Justices S. Levin. E. Mazza, and D. Dorner in the Tibi case, pp. 81, 96-97, and 99), to the opposite approach that is of the view that this test should be applied to each and every one of the disqualification causes in sec. 1A of the Basic Law (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 106, and see Barak Medina, Forty Years to the Yeredor  Decision: The Right to Political Participation, 22 Mekhkarei Mishpat 327, 376-381 (2006) (Hebrew)). As noted, the matter has been left for further consideration and has not yet been decided in the case law (see President A. Barak and Justices A. Procaccia and D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, pp. 21, 88, 90; President D. Beinisch in the Balad case; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 34; President M. Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 36).

            A middle position between these two opposing views on the application of the probability test has also been expressed, according to which a distinction can be drawn between the causes under sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) and the cause concerning incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a) (2). Thus, for example, in the Tibi case, Justice Procaccia noted that “condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the political election process are values unto themselves, independent and unqualified even when unaccompanied by any probability of the realization of the potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entry of inciters to racism into the political arena […] incitement to racism is condemned as a value of the universal and national heritage, and it stands beyond the test for the probability of its foreseeable danger under any particular criterion. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the state is so extreme that anyone who holds it as part of one’s political doctrine should be disqualified out of hand” (ibid., p. 90; Gal & Kremnitzer, 62-63). Another opinion that distinguishes the cause related to incitement to racism and the other causes in regard to the probability test, and which proposes applying a very low-level probability test to it, was expressed by Justice D. Beinisch in that matter, in stating: “If I were of the opinion that we should adopt the approach that applies ‘probability tests’ for the disqualification of lists or candidates, then in all that regards racism, I would hold that ‘racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility. Racism, by its very nature, may spread like a disease even when it appears that the scope of the political activity surrounding it is small, and the political prospects of the list or candidate are not serious. Racism is a type of disease for which isolation and removal from the political and social arena are conditions for preventing its spread” (p. 88). We will address this subject below, and examine whether there is, indeed, a place for a different approach to the cause of incitement to racism as opposed to the other causes in relation to probability tests.

            Another question that derives to some extent from the probability test and that concerns the necessary evidentiary threshold for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification is whether and to what extent there is a connection between the causes for disqualification and the criminal offenses intended to protect those values. In this regard, it would appear that the approach adopted in the case law holds that the Penal Law can assist in identifying the presence of the elements of causes for disqualification, while emphasizing that we are concerned with different methods for the prevention of the phenomena and that the tests applicable in each of the areas are not the same (see President M. Shamgar in the second Neiman case, p. 191; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and see Gavison, p. 166; and cf. the Ben Meir case, para. 28; and HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13]).

 

An Elections Appeal and Approval of an Elections Committee Decision – What is the Difference?

18.       Basic Law: The Knesset distinguishes two types of decisions by the Central Elections Committee. The first is Elections Committee decisions to prevent or not prevent a candidate list from standing for election. Such decisions can be challenged in an appeal to the Supreme Court, under secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of the Elections Law. The second is Election Committee decisions declaring that a particular candidate is barred from participating in the elections. Such a decision requires the approval of the Supreme Court, under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law, whereas an Elections Committee decision to deny a request to bar a candidate from standing for election is of the first type of decisions in the sense that it does not require approval but can be appealed to the Supreme Court, under sec. 63A(d) of the Elections Law.

            The procedure for approving an Elections Committee decision is not one of “regular” judicial review in the sense that decision is not consummated until approval is granted. In this, it differs from appeal proceedings in regard to Election Committee decisions, which come into force when given. The scope of the Court’s authority in an approval proceeding is not identical to that granted it in an appeal proceeding. It has been held in this regard that the Court must refrain from nullifying a decision under appeal even if it would have decided differently, as long as it is lawful and does not deviate from the margin of reasonableness. As opposed to this, in an approval proceeding, the Court is granted authority to examine whether it, itself, approves the disqualification of the candidate from standing for election (the Tibi case, pp. 28-31; the first Zoabi case, para 15; the second Zoabi case, paras. 12-13).  It is interesting to note that there are different approaches in the case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s intervention in the decisions of the Elections Committee due to the fact that it is primarily a political body that weighs political considerations. Thus, there are those who take the view that this fact justifies narrowing the scope of intervention in the Committee’s decisions (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 109, and Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). As opposed to this, there are those of the opinion that “this fact of the political composition of the Committee, with the exception of its chair, requires an examination of the merits of the Committee’s decision by the this Court in order to prevent political considerations from outweighing an objective legal examination” (Deputy President M. Elon in the Ben Shalom case, p. 279; for a similar view, see Justice D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, p. 86 and the Balad case, para. 16).

            This feature of the Central Elections Committee as a primarily political body that makes decisions influenced by political considerations, with no obligation to explain those decisions, indeed justifies examination and consideration by the legislature (see the comment of President Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 78, and Gal & Kremnitzer, 61-62). At present, the Court is responsible for both types of proceedings brought before it in accordance with the provisions of Basic Law; The Knesset and the Elections Law, and the distinctions between them as presented above. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to further note what we held in this regard in another context – that of the Ben Meir case – in which it was argued that there is constitutional significance to the distinction between the two proceedings. In rejecting that argument, we held: “There is, indeed, a difference in the scope of authority granted to the Court in the framework of an elections appeal as opposed to an approval of a decision […] however, at the end of the day, this Court has the authority [even in an appeals proceeding – E.H.] to review the decision on the merits, and to oversee its lawfulness and reasonableness, including all that relates to the factual foundation” (ibid., para. 34).

19.       Having presented the general normative framework for the proceedings before us, I will now turn to an examination of each of the four proceedings and decide upon them.

EA 1866/19 Freij v. Ben Ari

20.       Three requests for the disqualification of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir were submitted to the Central Elections Committee. Two of the requests – that submitted by the Israel Religious Action Center - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Tag Meir Forum, and that submitted by MK Stav Shaffir – relied upon two causes for disqualification: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. The third request – submitted by members of the Meretz faction – relied upon the single cause of incitement to racism. After considering those requests, the Elections Committee decided, as noted, to reject all three requests, and thus the appeal before us, which was filed jointly by all the parties requesting disqualification.

 

Arguments of the parties

21.       The Appellants argue that Ben Ari and Ben Gvir have consistently acted for years to realize the racist doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Kach list, which was disqualified from running for election, and act in an extreme manner to humiliate Israeli Arabs, including by calling for their expulsion from the country. According to the Appellants, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir support a racist ideology that seeks to undermine the principles of equality and human dignity in regard to anyone who is not Jewish. It was argued that the judgments that addressed the Kach list clearly established that its ideology is racist and infringes the fundamental principles of the democratic regime. The Appellants are of the opinion that the primary characteristic of the conduct of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is ongoing incitement to racism, and that this is also expressed in the platform of the Otzma Yehudit party, which opposes democratic values. It was argued that the declarations of the two were consistently and continuously translated into severe actions that were, in part, also carried out by other elements of the Otzma Yehudit party.

22.       Ben Ari and Ben Gvir relied upon the Election Committee’s decision and argued that the appeal should be denied. According to them, the evidence presented by the Appellants does not justify their disqualification. Their primary argument was that the platform and their public activity over the years apply to those who are “an enemy of Israel”, who are not loyal to the state, and does not apply generally to all “the Arabs” as such, and supports and encourages the emigration of anyone who is not loyal “and who is an enemy of the state”. According to them, the fact that this Court did not disqualify Marzel from participating in the elections shows that they, too, should not be disqualified.

23.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that Ben Ari should be barred from participating in the elections on the grounds of incitement to racism. He argues that the Appellants presented persuasive, clear, unequivocal, recent evidence, particularly since May 2018, in which Ben Ari is heard speaking in various films, some of which were uploaded to his Facebook page. According to the Attorney General, we are concerned with ongoing, consistent expressions over a significant period of time that are at the hard core of incitement to racism. It was argued that these statements show that Ben Ari refers to the Arab population in its entirety while calling for a violent denial of the rights of the Arab population of the State of Israel and for their systematic, targeted humiliation on the basis of their ethno-national identity.

            As for Ben Gvir, the Attorney General was of the opinion that despite the fact that the collection of evidence in his regard is very troubling, and that some of his statements come “dangerously close to the line that would bar a person from standing for election to the Knesset”, he should not be disqualified. According to the Attorney General, as opposed to the evidence presented against Ben Ari, the evidence in regard to Ben Gvir is insufficient to constitute the persuasive, clear, unequivocal evidentiary foundation required for disqualification. This, because most of the evidence is not from the recent past, and in view of Ben Gvir’s declarations and explanations in the current disqualification hearings.

24.       As stated in the judgment we issued without the reasoning on March 17, 2019, we decided by majority, against the dissenting view of Justice N. Sohlberg, to adopt the position of the Attorney General and grant the appeal in EA 1866/19 in all that regards Ben Ari, and to order his disqualification form standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, while we unanimously decided to deny the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir.

 

Disqualification of a Candidate on the grounds of Incitement to Racism

25.       Racism is a well-known societal disease from which the human race has suffered since time immemorial. Racism shows its ugly face in hatred and incitement to hatred of the other, simply by reason of inborn traits or communal, religious, ethnic, or national affiliation. It strips people of their humanity on the basis of those affiliations and violates the basic right to human dignity and equality granted to all who are created in God’s image (HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General [14], para. 26 of the opinion of Justice S. Joubran) (hereinafter: the Torat Hamelech case)). The democratic State of Israel was established as the state of the Jewish people, which has experienced unparalleled racial persecution and suffering throughout the ages. Racism stands in absolute contradiction to the fundamental values upon which the state was established, and we, as Jews, have a special obligation to fight it uncompromisingly. Justice Z. Berenson addressed this in 1973 in HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council [15], 771, stating:

When we were exiled from our land and removed far from our country, we became victims of the nations amongst whom we lived, and in every generation, we tasted the bitterness of persecution, malice and discrimination only for being Jews “whose laws are different from those of any other people” [Esther 3:8]. With this bitter, miserable experience that seeped deep into our national and human consciousness, it might be expected that we would not walk in the corrupt path of the nations, and that with the renaissance of our independence in the State of Israel, we would be cautious and be wary of any hint of discrimination and unequal treatment against any law-abiding non-Jewish person [..] Hatred of foreigners is a double curse: it corrupts the image of God of the hater and inflicts evil upon the blameless hated. We must show humanity and tolerance to everyone created in God’s image (HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, IsrSC 27(2) 764, 771 (1973); and see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 89; the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein in the Torat Hamelech case, para. 38 and in the second Zoabi case (dissenting in regard to the result), para. 116).

26.       The Israeli legislature took up this mission following the elections for the 11th Knesset, which took place in 1984, and in the course of which, as noted, the disqualification of the Kach party was requested due to incitement to racism (the first Neiman case). Thus, Amendment no. 9 to Basic Law: The Knesset added sec. 7A, which sets out the causes permitting the disqualification of a list from standing for election, among them that of incitement to racism. The Explanatory Notes the bill explain in this regard that this cause is premised upon the recognition of the severity and danger of the phenomenon of racism” (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no, 9) Bill), and in the plenary session for the second and third readings of the bill, the chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Eliezer Kulas stated:

Democracy is the “credo” of the people and their way of life. One must be educated to democracy and democracy must be defended. In a democracy, there is no place for incitement to racism, no place for racism, no place for harming any person on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or sex. Racism and discrimination are contrary to the character of a democratic regime and the character of the Jewish people, which experienced what racism is on its own flesh (Transcript of the 118th session of the 11th Knesset, p. 3898 (July 31, 1985) (hereinafter: Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset)).

            In regard to our special, historical duty as Jews to fight against racism, Prof. Gavison noted in her 1986 article (cited above):

The Israeli legislature added this cause for disqualification for various historical reasons. I view incitement to racism as a particular (severe) instance of value inconsistency. Incitement to racism is an extreme rejection of the obligation to the equal value of the person. On the basis of the lessons of history of the last century, in which Jews were innocent victims of such incitement, there is complete justification for designating incitement to racism as an express form of incompatibility with the fundamental values of the state (ibid., p. 161).

27.       In parallel to Amendment no. 9 of Basic Law: The Knesset, the Penal Law, 5737-1977 (hereinafter: the Penal Law) was also amended to add the offense of incitement to racism. “Racism” was defined in sec. 144A of the Law as “persecution, humiliation, degradation, a display of enmity, hostility or violence, or causing violence against a public or parts of the population, all because of their color, racial affiliation or national ethnic origin”. Then Minister of Justice Moshe Nissim addressed the relationship between these two amendments in stating: “We must view both of these bills as of a piece, […] for the fundamental, proper, considered, and balanced treatment […] of phenomena with which the State of Israel cannot be reconciled” (Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset, p. 3361), while it was noted in the Explanatory Notes of the amendment to the Penal Law that “the Hebrew heritage deems the dignity and value of the person, created in God’s image, and making peace among people as exalted values. […] Jewish heritage views the demeaning of human dignity as a serious offense” (Explanatory Notes to the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, p. 195).

            In the second Neiman case, President M. Shamgar addressed, inter alia, the definition of the term “racism” in the Penal Law and held that for the purpose of interpreting sec. 7A of the Law, there is no need to achieve a definitive definition of the term “incitement to racism”. President Shamgar also rejected the argument of counsel for the Kach list according to which “racism” refers only to biological distinctions, holding: “Different forms of persecution based on nationality are widely accepted today as a form of racism” (the second Neiman case, p. 192; for a discussion of the relationship between the offense of incitement to racism under sec. 144B of the Penal Law and sec. 7A, see: the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and compare Gavison, pp. 170-171).  Denunciation of incitement to racism, and the struggle against it in the legal field also found expression in other legislative acts (see, for example, sec. 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951; sec. 5 of the Political Parties Law, 5752-1992; sec. 42A of Basic Law: The Knesset; and sec. 39A(3) of the Municipal Authorities (Elections) Law, 5725-1965).

28.       Combatting incitement to racism and provisions banning political activity of various groups on that basis can also be found abroad. Thus, for example, the President of France is authorized to order the disbanding of political parties for various reasons, among them incitement to racism or other group discrimination. The President’s decision can be appealed to the French Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat) (Gal & Kreminitzer, 43-45; Gregory H. Fox & George Nolte, Intolerant Democracies, 36 Harv. Int. L. J. 1, 27-29 (1995); European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Guidelines on Prohibition and Dissolution of Political Parties and Analogous Measures, 16 (1999) (hereinafter: the Venice Commission Report)). Spanish law allows for declaring a political party unlawful if it systematically infringes fundamental freedoms and rights by encouraging or justifying the assault, exclusion or persecution of people on the basis of ideology, belief, faith, nationality, race, sex or sexual orientation (Knesset Research and Information Center, International Parallels to sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset and their Possible Consequences for the Termination of the Tenure of Members of Parliament, pp. 8-9 (2006) (hereinafter: the RIC Report); Erik Bleich, The Freedom to be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve and Combat Racism, p. 103 (2011); Gur Bligh, Defending Democracy: A New Understanding of the Party-Banning Phenomenon, 46 VNTJL 1321, 1338 (2013); Venice Commission Report, p. 16). The Czech Republic’s Political Party Law of 1991 prohibits the registration of parties whose activities endanger the rights and freedoms of citizens, and in 2010, the Czech Workers’ Party was banned, inter alia, because of incitement to racism (Miroslav Mareš, Czech Militant Democracy in Action: Dissolution of the Workers’ Party and the Wider Context of this Act, 26(1) East European Politics & Societies 33, 43-44 (2010); Mapping “Militant Democracy”: Variation in Party Ban Practices in European Democracies (1945–2015), 13(2) Euconst. 221, 238-239 (2017) (hereinafter: Mapping Militant Democracy); RIC Report, p. 17; Venice Commission Report, p. 16). There are similar restrictions in Poland, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania (Venice Commission Report, pp. 16-17; RIC Report, pp. 10-12). The Penal Code of the Netherlands allows for the disbanding of organizations that endanger public safety, and by virtue of this law, it was held that the Centre Party ’86 encouraged discriminatory propaganda against foreigners and was a danger to the public. It was, therefore, disbanded in 1998 (Defending Democracy, p. 1339; Paul Lucardie, Right-Wing Extremism in the Netherlands: Why it is Still a Marginal Phenomenon, presented at Symposium, Right-Wing Extremism in Europe, 4-5 (2000); Mapping Militant Democracy, p. 238; for a comprehensive survey of the existing arrangements in various countries in regard to the disqualification of political parties and candidates in general, see, e.g., the Tibi case, pp. 14-15; the first Zoabi case, paras. 10-11; Talia Einhorn, Proscription of Parties that have a Racist Platform under Art. 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset (1993)).

29.       The ban upon organizations that incite to racism is also grounded in international human rights law, which includes provisions treating of the prohibition of organized racist propaganda activities. For example, sec. 4(b) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979) establishes, inter alia, that the signatory states “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination […]”. Based, in part, on that convention, in 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution in regard to the growing violence by European political groups and parties with a neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist or xenophobic agenda, and called upon the EU member states to adopt a number of concrete measures for effectively combatting the activities of those groups (see: European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)).

30.       In Israel, in 2016, the State Comptroller, Judge (emer.) Yosef Haim Shapira, published a report that examined the activities of the Ministry of Education to promote education for living in common and for preventing racism, and found that not enough had been done in this area over the last years, given the differences among sections of the Israeli population that lead to discord and strife. The report further noted that “in this complex reality, we have experienced serious phenomena of hatred, racism, violence, divisiveness, sectarianism, and intolerance over the last few years” and “racist and violent statements, discrimination, persecution and even shocking hate crimes have become not so infrequent occurrences […] while the social networks serve as a fertile ground for disseminating hatred of the other” (State Comptroller, Education to Common Life and for the Prevention of Racism – Special Comptroller’s Report, p. 8 (2016)).

31.       Indeed, the fundamental values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state instruct us to act decisively and uncompromisingly to eradicate racism in our midst. This message also sheds light on the danger that must be determined in this regard for the purpose of the probability test, if it be found that it should be applied to the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. In my view, the inherent danger of racist discourse derives from the fact that such discourse feeds and sets the stage for actions intended to realize the racist ideology, which in turn motivate and reinforce continued racist discourse. As Justice D. Beinisch stated in the Tibi case: “‘Racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense, comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility” (ibid., p. 88). Indeed, racist discourse, particularly if it is systematic, significant, and prolonged, causes this societal disease to infiltrate, take root and spread. Therefore, it is necessary to send a clear, unambiguous message that inciteful racist discourse is illegitimate, particularly when expressed by a candidate for public office who shouts it from the rooftops. Such discourse must be left “outside the camp” in every civilized state, and all the more so in the Jewish state.

32.       The French-Jewish author and intellectual Albert Memmi, who was born in the Tunis ghetto in 1920, writes in the introduction to the Hebrew edition of his book Racism:

The Jewish people is always a minority, and therefore, like most of the world’s minorities, historically and socially exposed, and is therefore a very convenient target. (This is, incidentally, one of the justifications for Zionism: The need for Jews to cease to be a minority, at least in one place).

Perhaps today, things have already begun to change somewhat. The declarations of some statesmen and religious leaders […] have aroused the political conscience of the nations. All of these may cause us to believe that the hell that was the lot of the Jews in almost every place in the world will come to an end […] thanks to the existence of the State of Israel. However, we should not yet rejoice. Already at the end of the last World War, it was claimed that the horrors of the war made people allergic to racism; racist philosophies would completely perish. But our hope was too rash. Nowadays, there are people who once again dare to be racist, and yet again we see the writings on the wall that call for the expulsion of the Jews, whose citizenship again is put in question, and the stage is once more set for their humiliation. We must tirelessly return to the struggle and not stop, perhaps forever (Albert Memmi, Racism, 8 (1988) (hereinafter: Memmi).

            If, as Memmi states, we Jews are obligated to spearhead the ongoing, uncompromising struggle against racism – of which antisemitism is one of the oldest and most severe examples – we must be worthy of leading that fight, and we must expunge the dangerous disease of racism from our midst in the sovereign State of Israel.  This is a long fight that requires perseverance, and as Memmi warns: “We are all fertile ground for absorbing and germinating the seeds of racism if we let down our guard even for a moment” (ibid., p. 41).

            And now from the general to the specific.

 

The background for addressing the matters of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir

33.       The main claim against Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is, as noted, that they view themselves as the successors of Rabbi Meir Khane and of the ideology of the Kach list that he headed. As may be recalled, that list was disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset (see the second Neiman case), and other lists that presented themselves as its successors have also been barred from running for the Knesset in the past (see: the Kach case; the Movshovich case). It should also be noted that already in 1984, prior to the constitutional grounding of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Court noted in the first Neiman case that the Kach list “propounds racist and anti-democratic principles that contradict the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel”. It should also be noted that in 1994, the Israeli Government decided to declare the Kach movement, the Kahana Chai movement, and associates and derivatives of those movements, as terrorist organizations under the Prevention of Terror Ordinance, and proceedings instituted in that regard were dismissed (see: HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel [16]; and see: AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police [17]).

34.       The Tibi case examined, inter alia, the question of barring Marzel from standing for election on the Herut list after the Committee decided to reject a request for his disqualification. It was argued that he supported the ideology of the Kach movement, and the Court was willing to assume that the evidentiary foundation presented did, indeed, ground Marzel’s involvement in the activities of that movement prior to the elections. However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court majority saw fit to grant significant weight to the fact that Marzel had declared that he had changed his views, and in the words of the judgment: “Mr. Marzel himself declares that he has recanted his prior views, and that he now seeks to act only in accordance with the law. He accepts the principals of democracy. He disavows the path expressed in the broad statements of Kach. He does not support violent actions” (the Tibi case, p. 60). Against that background, the Court dismissed the appeal in the Tibi case in regard to the disqualification of Marzel, although it had reservations as to the sincerity of his declarations.

35.       Ben Ari served in the 18th Knesset as a member of the Ihud Leumi faction, and Ben Ari and Ben Gvir ran on the Otzma LeYisrael list in the elections for the 19th Knesset in 2013. A request to bar the list from the elections was denied by the Central Elections Committee, but the list did not meet the electoral threshold. In the list’s election campaign for the 19th Knesset, posters were used that displayed the word “loyalty” in Arabic, and beneath it the phrase: “There are no rights without obligations”. The campaign was barred by the chair of the Elections Committee Justice E. Rubinstein, who ruled that it bore a racist message that was intended to portray the Arab community as disloyal to Israel. Prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset in 2015, the list changed its name from to Otzma Yehudit, and ran as part of the Yahad list, led by MK Eli Yishai. Leading up to the elections, the question of Marzel’s participation in that list arose again, after the Elections Committee decided to disqualify him. In a majority decision, the Court ruled that the disqualification decision should not be approved. It was noted that while Marzel came very close to the point of disqualification from participation in the elections, nevertheless, the claims by those who requested his disqualification were largely based upon newspaper reports and information obtained from the internet of low probative value, which were met by Marzel’s denial. The Court noted that Marzel “explained a significant part of the evidence submitted in his regard, and special weight should be given to his declarations in this matter […] These explanations cast doubt upon incitement to racism being a primary objective of Marzel’s activity” (emphasis original; ibid., para. 34). Marzel, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir did not serve in the 20th Knesset, as the Yahad list did not pass the electoral threshold.

36.       Did the Appellants succeed in presenting evidence in the matter of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir that establishes a cause for disqualification against either of them from running as candidates for the 20th Knesset by reason of incitement to racism? Given our approach that particular care should be taken, and that ordering that a list or candidate be barred from participating in the elections should be reserved only for extreme cases, we found that the evidence presented in the matter of Ben Gvir is insufficient for establishing a cause for disqualification, as noted, even under sec. 7A(a)(1) as argued by the Appellants. As opposed to this, the majority of the Court was of the opinion that the evidence presented justifies the disqualification of Ben Ari on the grounds of incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Ben Ari

37.       In his arguments, the Attorney General referred to a very long list of evidence, focusing upon evidence from the period since the beginning of 2017, and emphasizing statements and actions by Ben Ari over the course of the year preceding the elections. This evidence includes statements by Ben Ari, in his own voice, in various film clips, that, as the Attorney General argues, present an unambiguous, clear and persuasive picture of incitement to racism against the Arab population in its entirety. We are concerned with a very detailed evidentiary foundation that comprises some 40 items in regard to statements and actions by Ben Ari. After reviewing that evidence and examining Ben Ari’s affidavit and statements before the Elections Committee, as well as his response to the appeal, his oral arguments before us, and the supplementary pleadings that he submitted, we are of the opinion that the arguments presented on Ben Ari’s behalf do not provide an explanation that would remove his actions and statements from the scope of incitement to racism that raises a cause of disqualification under sec. 7A(A)(2) of the Basic Law.

38.       Below, we will address the main elements of the evidentiary foundation presented:

            In November 2017, Ben Ari spoke at the annual memorial ceremony for Rabbi Kahane, while wearing a sticker on his jacket lapel that read: “Rabbi Kahane was right”. In the course of his speech, Ben Ari was heard saying the following:

There are enemies, there is a Jew, there is a knife, so they slaughter. Because they are given an opportunity, they slaughter […] We’ll give them another hundred thousand dunams, and affirmative action, perhaps they will love us. In the end, yes, they love us, slaughtered […] Rabbi Kahane taught us – there is no coexistence with them. There is no coexistence with them! (emphasis added).

            Further on, Ben Ari was heard referring to Bedouin citizens, stating:

We of Otzma Yehudit came out with a plan called Immigration and Building, Emigration and Peace […] After immigration and building, we will fulfil what God said […] Cast out that slave-woman, because whoever wants money will get money, whoever wants a bus will get a bus […] We will say and initiate here what has to be done so that we will wake up in the morning to a Jewish state […] The Bedouins have to be dealt with, but in the countries of origin. Return the land of the Negev to the Jewish people (emphasis added).

            Another piece of evidence presented by the Appellants is a video that Ben Ari posted on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari” (hereinafter: the Facebook page) on May 20, 2018. In the film, Ben Ari is seen giving a speech and saying the following:

The Arabs in Haifa are in no way different from the Arabs in Gaza […] In what are they different? In that here they are enemies from within […] here they carry out a war against us within the state […] it’s called a “fifth column” […] this dog should be called by its name, they are our enemies, they want to destroy us, there are, of course, loyal Arabs, but they can be counted as something like a percent or less than a percent, to our great despair, the overwhelming majority are full partners with their brothers in Gaza […] The Arab enemy has to be told that it’s one or the other, either you are loyal to the state or you should go to Syria […] There is no coexistence with them, they want to destroy us, that is their objective, that is their goal […] This is the fifth column here (emphasis added).

            According to Ben Ari, this was said following demonstrations in Haifa in support of the residents of Gaza “against the background of the balloon terror in the south of the country”. An examination of the Facebook page on April 17, 2019, shows that the video garnered 21,000 views, hundreds of “likes”, and additional hundreds of comments and shares.

39.       In July 2018, Ben Ari posted another video on his Facebook page, in which he is heard saying the following:

Do you know that the Bedouin marry Arab women from Gaza, from Hebron, who all come here. They get national insurance, they give birth in hospitals at our expense, their children later get every benefit at our expense […] they even serve in the army! These enemies the Bedouin serve in the army, let me repeat what I am saying – the enemy Bedouin serve in the army! They are seduced by money. I know from firsthand sources, from those who serve with them – they don’t trust them for a minute. There is an agenda that if they serve in the army, they will be loyal to us. No, they are not loyal to us! (emphasis added).

            This video received some 4,800 views and many comments.

            About a month later, Ben Ari posted another video on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, in which he appears saying, among other things:

First, we have to change the equation that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live! We don’t expel him, don’t take away his citizenship. He doesn’t live! A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language [] Tell me racism, racist? Whoever says that they are loyal underestimates them. “What? An Arab just wants to eat, just wants to make a living” – that’s not true, […] An Arab has nationalistic ambitions, he screams them, he shouts about them, he is ready to die for them (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said “against the background of the conduct in regard to Gaza and the solution that should be implemented against it”. This clip also received 9,300 views and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            In another video from the same month, Ben Ari is heard saying, among other things:

Over the last hours, in Tel Aviv, in the center of Tel Aviv […] our staunchest enemy has been arriving, and that is the internal enemy, the internal enemy, the enemy that we want to ignore, the enemy we want to hide our heads in the sand and not see, the enemy of Israeli Arabs (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said against the background of a demonstration by Arabs and Jews against what is called the “Nation-State Law” (Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People) (hereinafter: The Nation-State Law)) in which PLO flags were waved and in which there were calls for the liberation of Palestine. He further explained that he was referring to Arabs who are not loyal to the State of Israel and who want to eradicate its Jewish character.

40.       After about a month, on Sept. 16, 2018, immediately following the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in which the late Ari Fuld was murdered, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page, in which he states, among other things, the following:

[…] They murder because they have work. They murder because they want to inherit this land […] If there are infiltrators, it is the Arab enemy […] You need Shlomo Neeman [head of the Gush Etzion regional council] to ask all the business owners to fire today the terrorist of tomorrow. It is your responsibility, stop employing the murderers! Don’t employ these murderers! They get money from us and also come to murder us […] They murder us whenever they have the chance. The conclusion is that there is no coexistence. Look at the Arabs! Do they coexist amongst themselves? Every day in the news, murder in Rahat, murder in Reineh, murder in Umm al Fahm, attempted murder in Lod, murder in Jaffa. First of all, when speaking of coexistence, Rabbi Kahane would always say, let’s see the Arabs coexist amongst themselves (emphasis added).

            The clip received some 7,300 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            At the end of November 2018, Ben Ari referred to the Arabs of the city of Lod in another video, this time on his Twitter account, accompanied by the caption: “The Arab conqueror of Lod continues to rage even today: The State of Israel is being conquered from within, Israel needs Otzma Yehudit!” In another video clip published on his Facebook page shortly after, Ben Ari referred to the members of the Lod municipal council as the “Arab enemy”. At the end of December 2018, Ben Ari published a clip on his Facebook page titled “Now in Afula Illit, a meeting with Otzma Yehudit loyalists”. In the clip, Ben Ari is seen conversing with a group of residents and stating as follows:

They wanted to bring you a clan of enemies into your neighborhood […] The State of Israel is being conquered from within, they are determined to conquer us from within […] By means of the word equality, the enemy will destroy us […] What is happening here is happening in Dimona, is happening in Lod. Lod is already a completely conquered city. But Afula? This criminal who opened the center for the enemy in the name of equal rights […] If, with the help of God, we enter the coalition, the first thing that we will do is the complete revocation of this thing called affirmative action. Do you understand that you are second class citizens because you are not Arabs? […] Most of them are willing to give up everything as long as they slaughter us. And what I am saying is not racism because, to my regret, it is the reality (emphasis added).

            Further on in the clip, Ben Ari is heard referring to the murder of the late Sheli Dadon, which occurred in 2014, saying as follows:

Did anyone ever hold a discussion of their character? On their treasonous character? […] The moment you give here, you give him affirmative action, you give him more work, he will raise a family here. His children will also be here, his children, fewer of my children will be here, and so […] I need a work plan. I need a work plan now a work a plan. […] This is not racism, it is fact, Arabs are the most migrant people in the world, they aren’t tied to any land […] That’s why they came here. Because there is work. […] One of the first things, our first condition for any discussions about a coalition, with the help of God, that they will discuss with us, is – revoking affirmative action (emphasis added).

41.       Some two months prior to the elections for the 21st Knesset, on Feb. 8, 2019, shortly after the murder of the late Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian terrorist, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page in which he stated, among other things, the following:

There is a murderous people here, a murderous nation. We owe the revenge, and the revenge is Otzma Yehudit […] Only the revenge of Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset […] They want to destroy us, they are looking for our neck. […] They want to slaughter us […] The revenge will come when Otzma Yehudit will be in the Knesset with twenty mandates. When we will be there, they will see that we are not playing with them like Lieberman. They will find themselves in their countries of origin, and the village they came from will become an airport. To fly them to their countries of origin (emphasis added).

            An examination of the Facebook page shows that the clip received some 20,000 views. In another video clip that Ben Ari posted the same day, he is heard saying, among other things,: “They are looking for our neck, looking for our daughters […] anyone who talks to you about coexistence is inviting the next murder […] we have to send our enemies back to where they came from […] our enemies, these murderers, we will send them to murder in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iran in Turkey” (emphasis added). This clip, which was, as noted, published close to the elections, received some 32,000 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

42.       The evidence presented, the main part of which we described above, indeed paints a clear, unambiguous, persuasive picture in which Ben Ari systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public. We are concerned with significant evidence that comprises disparaging expressions of extreme severity that continued over a period of some two years until very close to the elections for the 21st Knesset, and Ben Ari is heard saying these things in his own voice. This fact is of high probative value (the second Zoabi case). Ben Ari attributes negative characteristics to practically all of the Israeli Arab public, and calls them “murderers”, a “fifth column”, “enemies”, and of “treasonous character”. We are not concerned with a “slip of the tongue” in a moment of anger, but rather with a continuous, consistent series of statements that express hatred and scorn for the Arab population in its entirety as one that appears to understand only violence, with which one cannot coexist, and which must, therefore, be expelled, and as one that receives various social benefits “at our expense”. As noted in the Appellants’ response to Ben Ari’s supplementary pleadings, these publications were not removed. Ben Ari surpassed himself in comparing the Israeli Arab citizens of Haifa to dogs, stating that “the dog should be called by its name”. The use of dehumanization and attributing animalistic traits to people is known to be one of the most degrading propaganda mechanisms employed by racist regimes in order to mark a population as “inferior” and “sub-human”, and it endangers and seriously harms the dignity of the individuals who are members of that group as human beings.

            Ben Ari’s statements, and the not insignificant exposure they receive on social media, reflect the racist political program he espouses and which he intends to realize as a member of the Knesset. Certain statements that expressly call for violence are of particular severity (see, in this regard, his statements in the video clip published in August 2018, according to which “anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live […] A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language”). It is important to note that publications on the social media platforms that Ben Ari chose to use by uploading recordings in which he is heard speaking in his own voice have great influential potential, as the social networks provide candidates for the Knesset quick channels of communication  to many communities without any journalistic mediation. In this manner, the social networks have, to a significant extent, replaced the historic “town square”, and serve as a platform for exchanging views, disseminating ideas, and garnering support among broad, diverse communities. The great accessibility of social networks, as well as the quick and effective dissemination of opinions and ideas by means of the digital platforms, can serve as a very effective means for spreading racist ideas and expedite the dissemination of those ideas (see, in this regard, in general: Yotam Rosner, The Role of Social Media in the Radicalization of Young People in the West, National Security in a “Liquid” World, 131, 135-137 (Institute for National Security Studies, 2019) (Hebrew)).

43.       In addition to the specific explanations that Ben Ari gave for the above publications, he further explained that he is not a racist, and that what he said was directed only at that defined segment of the population that is “enemy”, which includes anyone who is not loyal to the state, and in his own words: “The definition of the enemy is not made on a purely ethno-national basis, but on a political one. Anyone who identifies with the political objectives of the Arab national movement identifies himself as an enemy”. According to him, he does not refer to the Arab public as a whole, and any Arab who is “loyal to Israel” has a right to be a citizen. As opposed to that, whoever “is not loyal to the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people […] should find his place outside of the state”. Ben Ari further clarified that the distinguishing characteristic, according to his approach, is “the relationship to the Zionist enterprise and to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”. He further argued that the quotes attributed to him were fragmented and tendentious and explained that in saying that the Arab population of Israel is not loyal, he meant that he has not met “many loyal Arabs” (emphasis added). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney noted: “In my estimation, there is an absolute majority that is not loyal” (Transcript of the hearing, p. 22, line 14), and in this regard, Ben Ari clarified in his supplementary pleadings that his statement that there is an absolute identity between ethno-national origin and loyalty was made in opposition to a statement that he attributed to former minister Naftali Bennet according to which 99% of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state.

            Ben Ari apologized for his statements in regard to Bedouin soldiers. He pointed out that he “apologizes for them before those loyal soldiers who may have been hurt” and explained that his intention was “unequivocally only to those sons of women who came from the areas of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza”, and that he does not think that “all of the Bedouin population is disloyal” (paras. 32-33 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari even emphasized that “if it sounds as if I am against the Bedouin, God forbid. If there is loyalty, there is loyalty, and I respect and honor that (hearing transcript, p. 29, lines 16-17). Ben Ari asked to clarify that his statement of Sept. 16, 2018, following the murder of Ori Fuld, in which he called to “stop employing the murderers” as referring only to terrorists, the words do not, of course, refer to all Arabs […] [only] to the security measures that should be adopted in regard to employing Arabs from the Palestinian Authority”. In his response to the appeal, Ben Ari explained that his statements in the Afula meeting were made “against the background of the murder of a resident of my community Dadon”, and in his supplemental pleadings, Ben Ari added that even if what was said in that meeting “grate upon the ear, they do not rise to the level of a ‘critical mass’”. In his affidavit, Ben Ari emphasized that “I am not saying that all Arabs are like that [of a murderous, treasonous character], or that this character derives from ethno-national origins. But this murderous violence is characteristic of the national struggle of the Arab national movement since the beginning of the 20th century” (para. 47 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari added another reason for his statements, noting that his words in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula should not be understood as racial discrimination, and he referred in this regard to Amendment no. 8 of 2011 to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance in the matter of the considerations that may be taken into account by an admissions committee of a residential community (hereinafter: the Admissions Committee Law). Ben Ari explained what he said after the murder of Ori Ansbacher in a supplementary notice in which he explained that he “referred to the murder, and that was its only context”. In his affidavit, he added that his words might sound inclusive in regard to people on the basis of ethno-national origin, but that his intention was “to those who, from an Arab national position, seek to murder Jews against a nationalistic background, and as part of what they see as a national struggle, and who support and identify with those acts (para. 50 of the affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney added that “there is never any justification for harming individuals on the basis of the nationality” (Transcript, p. 15, line 6), and that Ben Ari’s statements about the Arab public were always made in the context of a specific event” (ibid., line 12).

            Lastly, Ben Ari sought to emphasize that presenting broad positions is not exclusive to him but is rather a common practice of candidates for the Knesset, and even of serving members of the Knesset.

44.       I examined Ben Ari’s arguments and explanations and I do not see them as sufficient to change my conclusion. While Ben Ari repeatedly states that he is not a racist, unfortunately, his actions and statements, which I have summarized above, are diametrically opposed to that declaration. The question I pondered was what positive weight should be afforded to the fact that Ben Ari already served as a member of the Knesset (in 2009 - 2013). This fact does, indeed, constitute a consideration in his favor, but it is of limited weight inasmuch as Ben Ari worked toward the advancement of his racist ideology even in that period, and tearing the New Testament to shreds and throwing it in the waste basket in the Knesset was just one example of that (for other actions and expressions, see paras. 79-91 of the notice of appeal). In any case, as the Attorney General emphasized in presenting his position, the evidentiary foundation from the recent past, and primarily from the year preceding the elections, shows that a “critical mass” of evidence has amassed that unambiguously, clearly, and persuasively testifies to systematic incitement to racism by Ben Ari. The summary of the case law presented above shows that the Court has attributed significance and weight to explanations and clarifications presented by the candidate, to which the decisions in the matter of Marzel testify (the opinion of President A. Barak in the Tibi case, p. 60, and that of Justice I. Englard at p. 66; the second Zoabi case, para. 34, and as opposed to that, see the dissenting opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein at para. 103). However, in the instant case, the explanations provided by Ben Ari are not persuasive and pale before the enormity of the racist statements that he repeated again and again in his own voice, and which he preached in public at rallies in which he participated and on social networks. Other than an apology, that was only partial, in the matter of Bedouin soldiers, Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. He tried to give his words a post facto interpretation, but that, as stated, was not persuasive because it is not consistent with the meaning and natural context of what was said. Thus, for example, Ben Ari tried to explain that he does not speak about the Israeli Arab public in general but only of those who are “enemies”, but the recordings repeatedly show that the reference is to the entire Arab public, or at the very least, to its overwhelming majority – 99% of that public – as disloyal to the state. Ben Ari himself notes in one of those recordings that he has not met Arabs who are loyal to the state (see, for example, the video clip of Ben Ari from Nov. 7, 2017, from 6:30). Another explanation proposed by Ben Ari in regard to some of his statements was that they were made immediately after terrorist incidents and attacks against Israelis. The pain, the anger, and even the will for revenge aroused at such times is understandable. However, it is important to bear in mind that fear and a sense of threat have always been the fuel that fires racist ideologies, and one must, therefore, take care not to harness understandably harsh feelings that arise at times of distress and pain and exploit them to advance such ideologies. The explanations that Ben Ari presented in an attempt to equate the Admissions Committee Law – with all the clear limitations it establishes – and the things he said in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula have no place here inasmuch as the two cannot be compared (and compare: LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet [18]) (hereinafter: the Moledet case)).

45.       In summation, this chapter states that the Court’s approach that the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset are to be narrowly construed and exercised in the most extreme cases, was and remains the starting point for every discussion of these causes. However, we are persuaded that the broad, up-to-date evidentiary foundation presented in the instant case gives rise to a cause that disqualifies Ben Ari from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. Given this conclusion, there is no need to examine the additional cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law.

            Indeed, it is not always easy to draw the line separating racial incitement from the expression of an opinion – as severe and harsh as it may be – that is entitled to protection under the fundamental right to freedom of expression in general, and to freedom of political speech in particular. This is particularly the case when the former also concerns the right to vote and to be elected. Nevertheless, in the instant case, and given the evidentiary foundation we presented, it is absolutely clear that Ben Ari’s statements crossed the line, and thus the conclusion reached. It would be appropriate to conclude this chapter with another quote from Memmi’s book Racism:

One cannot be indulgent toward racism; one must not even let the monster in the house, especially not in a mask […] To accept the racist universe to the slightest degree is to endorse fear, injustice, and violence. It is to accept the persistence of the dark history in which we still largely live. It is to agree that the outsider will always be a possible victim (and which man is not himself an outsider relative to someone else?) […] The anti-racist struggle, difficult though it is, and always in question, is nevertheless one of the prologues to the ultimate passage from animality to humanity (ibid., p. 116).

 

Ben Gvir

46.       In the matter of Ben Gvir, the Appellants presented a line of evidence, including evidence concerning criminal proceedings against him that, in part, concerned racist publications and support for the Kach movement that was declared a terrorist organization. However, the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented concerned acts and statements form many years ago, part from as long ago as the 1990s, and only a small part concerned the last few years. After examining the arguments raised by the Appellants and those of Ben Gvir, we concluded, as noted, that the evidence presented is not sufficient to ground a cause for disqualification from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, given the rule that we addressed above in regard to the strict evidentiary threshold required to substantiate disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

47.       The up-to-date evidence to which the Appellants and the Attorney General referred in regard to Ben Gvir should not be taken lightly. It includes statements he made in November 2017 at a memorial service for Rabbi Kahane, whose praises he also enumerated in an interview on Feb. 21, 2019. Ben Gvir made similar statements in a television interview in Nov. 2018 that he published on his Facebook page at that time. Those statements there were certainly very harsh and troubling, and there is substance to the Attorney General’s opinion that they come dangerously close to the line that would bar him from running in the Knesset elections. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to return to the words of Justice M. Elon in the second Neiman case, in 1989, in regard to the Kach list and Rabbi Kahane’s ideology:

The content of the Kach platform and the purpose of its promoters and leaders, as reflected in the material presented to us, stand in blatant contrast to the world of Judaism – its ways and perspectives, to the past of the Jewish nation and its future aspirations. They contradict absolutely the fundamental principles of human and national morality, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, and the very foundations of present-day enlightened democracies. They come to transplant in the Jewish State notions and deeds of the most decadent of nations. This phenomenon should cause grave concern among the people who dwell in Zion. This court is charged with the preservation of the law and its interpretation, and the duty of inculcating the values of Judaism and civilization, of the dignity of man and the equality of all who are created in the divine image, rests primarily upon those whom the legislature and the executive branch have chosen for the task. When, however, such a seriously dangerous phenomenon is brought to our attention, we may not refrain from sounding the alarm against the ruinous effects of its possible spread upon the character, image, and future of the Jewish State. The remedy lies, in the first place, in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society (ibid., p. 302).

            These trenchant remarks are applicable here, as well. However, Ben Gvir, who was admitted to the bar in 2012, took pains to emphasize and explain that while he is in favor of “fighting against the enemies and against any who seek to erase the state, harm its Jewish character, and destroy it (whether such actor is Jewish or whether Arab)”, he “opposes acting in any violent or unlawful manner” (para. 43 of Ben Gvir’s affidavit). He further noted that over the last years, he has changed his ways and he acts by legal means and initiates legal proceedings where he deems appropriate. These explanations bear weight and should be granted significance, and this, together with the current evidentiary foundation presented in his matter, which, as noted, does not rise to the level of a “critical mass” under the strict criteria established in this regard in the case law, led us to the conclusion that the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir, on both heads, should be dismissed.

 

EA 1876/19 Ra’am-Balad List v. Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

48.       The Ra’am-Balad list is composed of two parties – Ra’am and Balad – and two requests for its disqualification were filed by the Likud and MK David Biton, and by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir. The disqualification requests were based upon the cause in sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law – negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law – support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The requesting parties focused primarily on the activities of members of Balad, and it was argued that they oppose the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the State of Israel and act to negate the core characteristics of Israel as a Jewish state. It was further argued that members of the list support the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations and violent acts against the police and IDF soldiers. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 17 for and 10 against to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, and thus the current appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

49.       Ra’am-Balad argued that the Elections Committee’s decision should be annulled, and emphasized that most of the evidence presented in its regard was already adjudged and examined in prior proceedings against the Balad list or its members, including the evidence concerning their support for the idea of “a state of all its citizens”, and the Court held that the evidence did not substantiate a cause for disqualification. It was further argued that the Committee’s decision leads to a problematic result that also disqualifies the members of the Ra’am party on the list from standing for election even though no significant evidence was produced against them that would justify their disqualification. According to Ra’am-Balad, the Committee reached its decision without any material debate, and it ignored the decisions of this Court and the opinion of the Attorney General; the evidence against it does not relate to actions or activity that substantiate a cause for disqualification; and the evidentiary foundation rests upon articles form the internet of low probative weight and whose content was denied by the members of the list. Ra’am-Balad further argued that due to its political composition, the Elections Committee is not authorized to rule upon the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and that the legal arrangement that grants it that authority is disproportionate and infringes the principle of equality of the elections as established in sec. 4 of the Basic Law, and the right to vote and to be elected.

50.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the appeal of Ra’am-Balad should be granted and noted that the disqualification requests were indeed largely founded upon evidence from prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset, and part of it had already been examined in prior proceedings before this Court. Whereas, it is argued, the new evidence submitted relies largely upon articles form the internet that were denied by the members of the list and that are of low probative value. It was further emphasized that most of the evidence pertains to persons who are no longer on the list, among them: Basel Ghattas (hereinafter: Ghattas) and Said Naffaa, or who are in a unrealistic slot on the list, like Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka (hereinafter: Zahalka), and are not relevant to the members of the list and its new candidates who are in realistic slots. In all that relates to the cause of support for armed struggle of a terrorist organization, the Attorney General was of the opinion that significant weight should be accorded to the affidavits submitted by the representatives of the list which note that they reject violence and that they never called for its use. As for the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, the Attorney General noted that the consistent position of the case law of this Court in regard to Balad and its members is that there is no cause for disqualifying them from participating in the election for the claims have been raised once again in this proceeding. However, the Attorney General, without deciding the issue, explained that were the Balad party running independently for the 21st Knesset, there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification in view of the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill submitted to the 20th Knesset by members of Knesset from the Balad party, and due to the content of that bill. But the Attorney General added that since the requests refer to the disqualification of the Ra’am-Balad list, and because the law does not allow for disqualifying half of a list, there is some difficulty in disqualifying the entire list due to the actions of members of the Balad list, who for the most part are not, as noted, candidates in realistic slots on the list, while no significant arguments were raised in regard to the Ra’am party and its members. On the constitutional level, in regard to the matter of the Elections Committee’s authority to address the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Attorney General argued, inter alia, that given the time constraints established in the Elections Law for deciding upon an appeal, the issues should not be taken up in the framework of the current proceedings.

51.       Respondents 2-3, who submitted the requests for disqualification, relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued for dismissal of the appeal. In their view, the fact that the Ra’am-Balad list includes new candidates does not alter the fact that the ideology of the members of the Balad list negates the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the fact that members of the party support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. The Knesset, which was joined as a Respondent to the appeal due to the constitutional arguments, was of the opinion that these arguments should be dismissed. It emphasized that the claim of lack of authority was not raised before the Elections Committee, that it is being raised long after the said authority was bestowed upon the Committee by law, and like the Attorney General, the Knesset added that the elections proceedings are not appropriate for examining this issue.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

52.       The starting point for examining the evidentiary foundations presented by the Plaintiffs in regard to the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is grounded in the criteria established in the case law, which we surveyed at length above. These criteria were addressed and even applied in the past in regard to the Balad list and its platform (see the Tibi case and the Balad case), and those cases addressed, inter alia, the question whether a party that calls for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens” is disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset. In the Tibi case, the Court answered in the negative, and held that calling for the realization of that principle does not necessarily imply the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court held that as long as that call is intended to guarantee equality among citizens, it should not be interpreted to be a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As opposed to that, “if the purpose of Israel being a ‘state of all its citizens’ is intended to mean more than that, and it seeks to undermine the rationale for the creation of the state and its character as the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then that undercuts the nuclear, minimal characteristics that characterize the State of Israel as a Jewish State” (the Tibi case, pp. 22-23, 41).

53.       In the Tibi case, the Court concluded that, despite the fact that Balad’s platform expressly called for realizing the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and despite the additional evidence presented in open court and in camera, taken in its entirety, what was presented did not ground a “critical mass” of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that would justify the disqualification of Balad for the cause argued, nor the disqualification of Bishara – then head of the list – whose disqualification was requested in that same proceeding. It would not be superfluous to note that most of the evidence presented in that matter in regard to Balad concerned actions and statements by Bishara. It was argued in regard to Bishara that, inter alia, in various events and party conferences he expressed himself in a manner that reflected a view according to which Jews do not have a right to self-determination. It was further argued that Bishara supported the approach that recognized the right of return of Arabs to Israel and a struggle against Zionism, and that he even tabled a bill for the abolition of the status of various Zionist institutions.

54.       After examining all of that evidence, the Court concluded in the Tibi case that even though Bishara’s objectives are a dominant objective of his activity and not merely a theoretical concept but rather an objective with political potential that he had put into practice, his actions did not negate the minimal, nuclear definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It was held that the Court was not presented with persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and consequently, not against the Balad list. That was so inasmuch as Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and did not argue that the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) should be revoked, did not deny the centrality of Hebrew as the language of the state, along with Arabic as an official language, and did not oppose Israel’s holidays and symbols, as long as the cultural and religious rights of the Arab minority are recognized.

55.       As noted, the Tibi case concerned the elections for the 16th Knesset, and some eight years later, in the Balad case, the Court addressed disqualification proceedings filed against the Balad party in anticipation of the elections for the 18th Knesset. That matter concerned the decisions of the Elections Committee to disqualify the Balad list, as well as the Ra’am-Ta’al list that also sought to contend in those elections. The causes for which the Elections Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list were, as in the present case, the causes under secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. At that point, Bishara no longer headed the list. He had fled the country, and it was claimed that the reason was that a criminal investigation was being conducted against him for suspected involvement in security offenses (the Balad case, para. 9). Inter alia, the evidence presented in that matter to ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state included Balad’s platform, which was published on its internet site, and an article by Zahalka, who was then the party leader, which described the party’s vision as striving for a State of Israel as “a state of all its citizens”. In addition, public statements of party members made in various situations, as well as articles from which, it was argued, one could discern an expression of support of the Balad members for its founder Bishara even after his flight from Israel, were presented. The Court granted Balad’s appeal and held that there was no cause for disqualification from contending in the elections for the 18th Knesset. The Court’s decision rested, inter alia, upon the opinion of the Attorney General at the time, who noted that the evidence presented against Balad, taken in its entirety, was inferior to the entirety of the evidence presented against that party in the Tibi case. The Court held:

After examining all of the evidence presented to us, and bearing in mind the criteria and principles outlined in the matter of Balad [the Tibi case], the entirety of the evidence presented to this Court in that matter and its concrete findings there in regard to them, we did not find that the disqualification requests that are the subject of this appeal in regard to Balad rest upon a sufficient evidentiary foundation to give rise to a cause for disqualifying the list from contending in the elections for the Israeli Knesset (ibid., para. 22).

            This conclusion reached by the Court in the Balad case concerns the two causes for disqualification advanced there. We will further address the additional cause under sec. 7A(a)(3) below.

56.       Another disqualification proceeding concerning the members of the Balad party was addressed in 2012 in the first Zoabi case, which examined the issue of the disqualification of Zoabi from standing for election for the 19th Knesset on the Balad list. In that proceeding, the Court examined the evidence regarding Zoabi’s support for the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and was of the opinion that the evidence presented no materially new or different grounds from what had been presented in the Tibi case and the Balad case that would justify a different conclusion. The Court arrived at a similar result some three years later in the second Zoabi case. In that matter, the Court examined, inter alia, whether statements in which Zoabi was heard saying “there was no justification for the establishing of the State of Israel from the start. Now that there are generations of Jews who were born in it, I want to live with them but not in a Jewish and racist state”. The Court also examined an article that reported on a demonstration in which Zoabi participate, entitled “Demonstration against the Crimes of the Occupation”, and a recording in which Zoabi is heard shouting insults at the police. The Court held that there were no grounds for disqualifying Zoabi’s candidacy in the elections. That was so because the desire for the establishment of a state of all its citizens and “striving for an end to the occupation does not necessarily mean a negation of the Jewish foundations of the State of Israel.”

57.       The current proceeding, in which the Ra’am-Balad list is appealing its disqualification by the Elections Committee from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, is another link in the chain of similar proceedings on the same matter. In all that concerns the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, the evidence presented by the petitioners for disqualification includes various statement by members of Balad form the past and present, among them a quote from an interview conducted by Dr. Mtanes Shehadeh, chair of the Balad list, and number two on the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Shehadeh), in which he says, among other things, that Bishara was “an important activist in Balad’s leadership at the time, and contributed greatly to political discourse […] in Israel”, and is later quoted in that interview as saying that “the flag and national anthem do not represent us”. A report from the YNET website was also presented according to which MK Talab Abu Arar, who is a member of the list, and others met with the president of Turkey. Additional evidence presented concerns an interview with the former general secretary of Balad in which he called upon Israeli Arabs not to vote in the Knesset elections and to act for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, as well as evidence concerning past activities of members of Balad, including statements by Zoabi from 2009 and past activities of Bishara.

            This evidence is not materially different from the evidence presented in the previous proceedings that we surveyed, which concerned proceedings for the disqualification of Balad and members of its list, as far as the cause of negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is concerned. Moreover, not only has most of the evidence presented in this proceeding been examined in previous proceedings and found insufficient in accordance with the criteria outlined for the said cause, but as noted, a not insignificant part of that evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections for the 21st Knesset, or are not candidates in realistic slots on that list. That being the case, we cannot accept the argument that the Ra’am-Balad list should be disqualified from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to actions and statements attributed to Zoabi when she herself was not disqualified at the time in the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case for the same actions and statements, especially when she is located in the 118th slot on the current list. The argument in regard to ongoing connections of some kind or another between members of the list and Bishara was argued in a general manner and does not suffice for changing the conclusion as to the insufficiency of the evidence presented. As for the majority of the candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset who hold realistic slots, with the exception of Shehadeh, no evidence at all was presented to ground the cause for disqualification, and as explained above, the evidence presented in regard to Shehadeh is based upon quotes from media interviews and reports on various internet websites whose probatory weight has already been held to be low (the second Zoabi case, para. 34), and Shehadeh has declared that his words were presented in a “distorted, misleading manner, and was accompanied by incorrect analysis” (para. 9 of the affidavit submitted by Shehadeh to the Elections Committee).

58.       The primary up-to-date evidence presented to us in this proceeding in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill, which members of Knesset from the Balad party sought to lay on the table in the 20th Knesset. At the end of the day, that bill was not presented due to a decision by the Knesset presidium of June 4, 2018 not to approve its introduction, based upon the opinion of the Knesset’s legal advisor. A petition filed in this regard was rendered moot and dismissed in limine when it was decided to dissolve the 20th Knesset (HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset [19]). The purpose clause of the bill established that it was intended to ground “the principle of the equal citizenship of every citizen, while recognizing the existence and the rights of the two national groups, Jewish and Arab, living within the borders of the state that are recognized by international law” in a Basic Law. The bill also redrafted the conditions for obtaining Israeli citizenship, such that obtaining citizenship by virtue of the principle of return would be annulled (see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset of June 3, 2018). In addition, new state symbols and a new anthem should be established in accordance with the principles set forth in the bill (on the significance of this provision as negating the principle according to which the “primary symbols” of the state should reflect the national rebirth of the Jewish people, see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, and see what was stated in this regard in sec. 6 of the bill in regard to the status of the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state). If that were not enough, the petition filed by the members of Bald in the 20th Knesset against the decision of the presidium to prevent laying the bill on the Knesset table explicitly stated that the said bill accorded with Balad’s party platform.

            It would seem undeniable that the said bill, in all its parts, expresses a negation of the most minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state as the Court explained in the Tibi case. The fact that the step taken by the members of Balad in this regard was democratic – tabling a bill – does not lead to a different conclusion. This was indeed a significant action by the members of Knesset representing Balad in the 20th Knesset attempting to realize – by means of a legislative bill – a political program and worldview that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It would appear that Ra’am-Balad was aware of the significance of this evidence, but argued that it should not be given decisive weight in the current proceeding, inter alia, given the fact that it is only one piece of evidence (or at most two, if the petition constitutes a separate piece of evidence in this regard), and given the background for submitting the bill and that it was submitted in response to the legislative proceedings on the Nation State Law. These arguments attempt to minimize the significant weight of this evidence, and I agree with the position  of the Attorney General that had Balad run as an independent list comprising members of Knesset who had served in the 20th Knesset and who presented the bill, and who now sought to stand for re-election to the 21st Knesset, there would be grounds for seriously considering whether these two pieces of evidence show that Balad had crossed the divide delineated in the Tibi case that separates between espousing the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in order to achieve equality and seeking to negate the minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. If we were standing at that junction, we would also likely be required to consider the issue of the applicability of the probability test in applying the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, which was left for further consideration in the Tibi case and in the ensuing decisions. However, the list whose disqualification was requested is a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and we agree with the opinion of the Attorney General that his fact is significant for examining the causes for disqualification. In addition, it must be borne in mind in regard to the representatives of Balad on the list that none of those placed in realistic slots were among those who submitted the bill on Balad’s behalf. Moreover, in the affidavit he submitted to the Elections Committee, Shehadeh declared that he himself and all of Balad’s candidates for Knesset are committed to the principle of “a state of all its citizens” that is presented in the party’s platform as examined and approved in the Tibi case, the Balad case, and in the first and second Zoabi case (para. 2 of the affidavit). Given all of the above, and given the strict criteria outlined in the case law for the disqualification of a list from standing for election to the Knesset, we have concluded that there are no grounds for disqualifying the Ra’am-Balad list on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

59.       The Election Committee’s decision that “the Ra’am-Balad list is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset” does not state whether the list’s disqualification is based upon both of the two causes in secs. 1A(a)1 and (3) of the Basic Law or only upon one of them. In the future, even if the Committee does not state the reasons for its decision, it may be appropriate that it at least note what cause grounded its decision on disqualification. In any event, for the purposes of this appeal, I will assume, as did the parties, that the disqualification rested upon both causes.

            The prevailing rule established that in order to prove that a list or a candidate seeking to stand for election supports armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist group, it must be shown that it is the primary objective of the list and that it actually works toward realizing it. In all of the past proceedings in the matter of both Balad and Ra’am, it was held that the evidence presented in this regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that would justify disqualifying either of the lists or any of candidates on those lists on the basis of the cause grounded in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic law (EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [20] (hereinafter: the Erlich case); the Tibi case; the first Zoabi case; the second Zoabi case). Those holdings bear consequences for the matter before us inasmuch as the evidence presented to ground the cause of support for armed struggle is immeasurably less than that presented in the above cases. The Petitioners for disqualification primarily based their arguments upon pictures of Shehadeh visiting a former security prisoner and upon quotes from an interview in which it is alleged that he refused to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization and added that “any struggle against the occupation is a legitimate struggle”, and that he “is for a struggle against the occupation. People have a right to fight against the occupation. If there are people who are oppressed, they have a right to fight”. In addition, an interview with MK Abd Al Hakeem Haj Yahya, who holds the second slot in the Ra’am party, was presented in which he referred to an attack on the Temple Mount in July 2017 in which Israeli police were murdered. According to the petitioners for disqualification, other statements by members of the list in 2009 and 2011 demonstrate a support for terrorism. The petitioners for disqualification further added the fact that former Knesset members of Balad met with the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks; Zoabi’s participation in the “Mavi Marmara” flotilla; the meeting held by former Balad Knesset members with Bishara in 2014; and the conviction of former Balad Knesset member Ghattas for security offenses.

60.       We reviewed the above evidence, and we are not of the opinion that it constitutes a body of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that shows that support for an armed struggle by a terrorist organization is a central, dominant purpose of the Ra’am-Balad list or of any of the parties that compose it. In addition, we do not think that evidence was presented that meets the evidentiary threshold for proving that this list acts for the realization of such an armed struggle in a real and consistent manner. This is an a fortiori conclusion given that the evidence presented in the prior proceedings addressed by this Court was far more significant than that presented before us, and it was nevertheless held that it was insufficient to ground a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. Moreover, a significant part of the evidence presented to us refers to persons who do not appear on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset, and some of it was already examined in the previously noted cases. The petitioners for disqualification presented various statements by Shehadeh from which one might infer support for violent activity, but that is not the only possible interpretation and the doubt acts to the benefit of the conclusion that would permit the list to participate in the elections (the second Zoabi case, para. 73). In addition, weight should be given in this regard to the fact that Shehadeh made it explicitly clear in his affidavit that he does not support violent activity and that Balad’s approach is “democratic and employs legal means. We have never called for the use of violence, and none of the candidates on our current list have ever been convicted of any criminal offence”. It was further noted that statements expressing opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria were examined by this Court in the past, and it was held that they do not, in and of themselves, give rise to a cause for disqualification (the second Zoabi case, para. 67).

61.       In conclusion, for the reasons stated above, I was of the opinion that we should grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, that the disqualification decision by the Elections Committee should be overturned, and we should order that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset. I did not find reason to address the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to rule upon the causes for disqualification. The conclusion that we reached in this appeal renders those arguments moot, but in my view, the fact that those arguments were never raised before the Elections Committee suffices to dismiss them in limine.

 

EDA 1806/19 Lieberman v. Cassif

62.       At the request of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction and Knesset members Avigdor Lieberman and Oded Forer, the Elections Committee decided to disqualify Cassif from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset as a candidate on the Ra’am-Balad list. The Committee presented that decision for the Court’s approval in accordance with sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Arguments of the Parties

63.       The request for Cassif’s disqualification rests upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The evidence adduced in support of the request consisted primarily of four publications and newspaper articles – mostly from the internet – that show, according to those requesting disqualification, that in his statements, Cassif rejects the Jewish character of the State of Israel and calls for the changing of the state’s symbols and anthem, and for revoking the Law of Return. It is also argued that the evidence presented shows that Cassif supports the armed struggle of the Hamas terrorist organization against the state. This, inter alia, because he compared senior government leaders to Nazi war criminals, and because other statements testify, in their opinion, that Cassif believes that attacking soldiers does not constitute terrorism and that Israel should be fought because of its serious crimes against the Palestinian population.

64.       Cassif argued on his behalf that the evidence presented by those requesting the disqualification does not justify his disqualification from running in the Knesset elections. That is particularly so given that the request for disqualification is based, so he argues, upon distorted and tendentious quotes and relies primarily upon one interview with him in which he primarily presented academic ideas and not his political philosophy. As for the arguments that portray him as rejecting the Jewish character of the State of Israel, Cassif emphasized that he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to self-determination alongside an independent Palestinian state, while ensuring full equal rights to all residents of Israel. As for the arguments portraying him as supporting the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel, Cassif claimed that the various comparisons that he made between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany are not relevant to grounding a cause for disqualification, and that he opposes all forms of violence against any person. Similar to the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list, Cassif also raised constitutional arguments in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to examine and rule upon the disqualification of lists and candidates under the causes grounded in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and I will already state that for the reasons mentioned in the previous chapter concerning the appeal of Ra’am-Balad, I have not found it necessary to address these arguments in the approval proceedings in regard to Cassif.

65.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that there is no cause for barring Cassif from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset because no “critical evidentiary mass” was presented that would justify it, noting that the evidentiary grounds adduced in support of disqualification was meager in both amount and quality.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

66.       The evidence in the matter of Cassif on this cause relies upon two newspaper publications. The first is an article on the internet site of Makor Rishon from Feb. 7, 2019, according to which Cassif stated in an interview some two years earlier on the subject of the evacuation of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria that he viewed this as a first step towards a Palestinian state, and that the State of Israel cannot be and must not be a Jewish state. Cassif expressly refutes these words attributed to him (para. 10 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee). As already noted, the probative weight that can be ascribed to such articles, and all the more so to “second hand” articles is low.

67.       The second and more significant piece of evidence presented by those requesting Cassif’s disqualification is an interview with Cassif in the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. According to the petitioners for disqualification, certain statements by Cassif in that interview can be understood as a call for the negation of some of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, for example, in response to the interviewer’s question about the character of the Israeli public space, Cassif said: “The public space has to change, to belong to all the residents of the state. I disagree with the concept of a Jewish public space”, adding that this would be expressed “for example, by changing the symbols, changing the anthem […]”. Cassif was also asked in that interview whether he supported the revocation of the Law of Return and answered “Yes. Absolutely”. As for the question of the Palestinian right of return to Israel, he replied: “There is no comparison. There is no symmetry here at all […]”. These worrying statements, which Cassif did not deny, certainly bear significant weight in examining the cause for disqualification in his regard under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. However, we are concerned with a newspaper interview and a single statement made in it, and I therefore agree with the Attorney General’s view that this piece of evidence alone is not sufficient to meet the strict criteria established by the case law for disqualifying a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset. Indeed, as presented in detail above, in order to ground a cause for disqualification, it is necessary to present statements that unambiguously, clearly and persuasively testify to the negation of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. One must also show that this is the dominant purpose motivating the candidate’s activity and that he vigorously and consistently acts for its realization as part of a concrete political program. To this we should add that in his statements before the Elections Committee and before this Court, Cassif noted that he sees himself as obligated to the platform of the Hadash party, whose representatives have served in the Knesset for many years, and stated in the hearing before the Elections Committee: “The party of which I am a member and which I represent, […] made it its motto and has always said that we view the State of Israel as a state in which the Jewish people in the land is entitled to define itself. I do not deny that, I have never denied that, and I have no intention of denying that” (Transcript 10/21, p. 37).

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

68.       Has it been shown, as the petitioners for disqualification claim, that Cassif supports armed struggle by the Hamas terror organization against the State of Israel? A large part of the disqualification request in this regard rests upon statements attributed to Cassif that imply a comparison between the State of Israel and senior members of the government of Nazi Germany and Nazi war criminals. Thus, for example, in the article on the Makor Rishon website mentioned above, it was claimed that “Cassif called Lieberman ‘a descendant of Adolph’, and explained: ‘A conceptual descendent, not an actual one”, and called former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum”. In another article on the website of Channel 20 from March 2016, a Facebook post by Cassif was quoted in which he wrote about the Israeli government, among other things, that “this is a fascist government par excellence, with real Nazi motives […] and at its head, above all others: an incompetent scoundrel who has destroyed every good thing there ever was here […] an outstanding student of Göring’s doctrine”. In another article published on the Channel 20 website in April 2018, there was a recording of Cassif from a class that he gave in which he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse created by the current government, it is legitimate to kill Arabs. This is how one slides into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago”.

69.       Those statements, which Cassif did not deny, are very harsh, and the evident comparison between the State of Israel and government ministers to Nazi Germany is outrageous and were better never said, and having been said, I reject them in the most severe terms. The weak explanations provided by Cassif, according to which the statements were only made as metaphors in order to arouse critical public debate and to warn against dangerous deterioration, do not blunt their severity. Cassif also took the trouble to explain that in his publicist writings he emphasized that “any comparison between the Nazi annihilation and Israeli policy in the territories would make a mockery of the Holocaust”, of which it may be said that he did not practice as he preached. However, we must admit that as outrageous and enraging as these statements may be, they do not ground a cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, and they cannot, in and of themselves, lead to the disqualification of his candidacy in the elections (and compare: the Kach case, p. 3). In any case, Cassif made it clear that he does not intend to repeat such things as an elected representative (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee), and it is to be hoped that he will act accordingly.

70.       The additional evidence presented in support of Cassif’s disqualification on the cause of support for the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel also does ground a cause for his disqualification. In this regard, the plaintiffs directed our attention, inter alia, to a post by Cassif that was mentioned earlier, which, they argue, shows that he supports a violent struggle against the fascism and racism that have, in his opinion, spread in Israeli society. They also referred to an article on the website of Channel 20, also mentioned above, that includes a recording of Cassif from 2018 in which he is heard saying that “Hamas is a political party”. Lastly, the plaintiffs refer to Cassif’s statements in the interview in Ha’aretz in which he stated:

Cassif: “Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable […] Wherever there was a struggle for liberation from oppression there are national heroes who, in 90% of the cases, did things that were, in part, terrible. Nelson Mandela, who is now regarded as a hero, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was a terrorist according to the accepted definition […]”.

Interviewer: “In other words, the Hamas commanders today, who initiate actions against soldiers will be heroes of the Palestinian state that will be established?”

Cassif: “Certainly”.

Cassif asked to explain what he said, and told the Elections Committee and the Court that he opposes the use of violence against any person. He did not deny his opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria and said that in his vision for the future he sees an end of the military regime there and that his activity is intended, among other things, to change the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in general. However, as already noted, expressing this opinion alone does not give rise to a cause for disqualification (see para. 56), and Cassif declared unambiguously that he does not support opposition by means of armed struggle, but rather political, non-violent opposition (compare: the Tibi case, p. 50; the second Zoabi case, para. 71), and in his words: “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence, this was also expressly stated in the interviews with me and in every other framework […] I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all” (Transcript 10/21, p. 34). Cassif also expressed a similar position in that interview in Ha’aretz that was presented by the plaintiffs, a part of which was quoted above, in stating: “We have always opposed harming innocent civilians. Always. In all of our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live. With all of my criticism of the settlers, going into a house to slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family, is something that is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject this”.

As for Cassif’s statement in regard to harming soldiers, we are concerned with a severe, enraging statement that could be interpreted as legitimizing the harming of IDF soldiers by the Hamas terror organization. While Cassif tried to create a distinction in this regard between his theoretical, academic views and his political views, in my view, it is an artificial and unpersuasive distinction that is hard to accept. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the evidentiary foundation presented by the plaintiffs relies upon those aforementioned publications, and I agree with the position of the Attorney General that this evidentiary foundation is meager and insufficient to ground the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law in accordance with the criteria set out in the case law, which I discussed above.

 

EA 1867/19 Ben Ari v. Hadash-Ta’al List

71.       The request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list from standing for election to the 21st Knesset was filed by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 15 for and 12 against to dismiss the request, and thus the present appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

72.       The appellants who seek the disqualification, and a few members of the Elections Committee who joined them as appellants, argued that the statements and actions of members of the list are intended to negate the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and that its members support the Hezbollah and Hamas terror organizations while legitimizing harming Israeli citizens residing in the Judea and Samaria area and IDF soldiers.

73.       For its part, the Hadash-Ta’al list relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued that the requesters of disqualification did not present an appropriate evidentiary foundation that could ground the claimed causes for disqualification. It was explained that the request was partly based upon old evidence that had been examined by the Elections Committee in previous elections, and that many of the statements attributed to members of the list were distorted and presented in a tendentious manner. It was further noted that most of the evidence was based upon reports taken from internet sites and newspaper clippings of low probative value, and that part are not even relevant to grounding the causes for disqualification.

74.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the entirety of the evidence presented in regard to that request does not justify its acceptance inasmuch as it did not amount to the “critical evidentiary mass” required for disqualifying a list from participating in the elections for the Knesset. This is particularly so given that the evidentiary material presented in the matter of Hadash-Ta’al is significantly more limited than that presented in previous proceedings in which the said causes for disqualification were addressed. The Attorney General also added that the request was based largely on newspaper reports and parts of speeches that are of low probative value, and in particular, given the fact that we are not concerned with up-to-date evidence, and that part relates to the period preceding the elections for the 20th Knesset.

75.       The appellants based their argument in regard to the cause of disqualification concerning the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state on a few statements by members of the list that are insufficient– both quantitatively and qualitatively – for meeting the necessary evidentiary threshold to ground the argument that Hadash-Ta’al negates the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The primary piece of evidence presented by the appellants in this regard was an interview with Knesset member Tibi in the Ha’aretz newspaper in March 2017, in which he was asked to provide a hypothetical description of the situation in which the vision of two states was abandoned and instead, a single state was established in which the Arab minority became the majority. In that interview, Tibi is quoted as saying that such a state would be substantially different from the State of Israel today, and that the Declaration of Independence would be replaced by a civil declaration in which equality would be a supreme value, the Law of Return would be revoked, and the state’s symbols would be changed. However, Tibi expressly stated in that interview that his vision is a vision of two states – a fact that the appellants refrained from mentioning in their arguments. The appellants further referred to a short segment of a television interview with Tibi in 2011 in which he said that he cannot recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state. These two pieces of evidence, which are not from the recent past, are not sufficient to show clearly, persuasively and unambiguously that Tibi acts for the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It should be borne in mind that we are concerned with a member of Knesset who has served for some two decades, and that no argument was presented in regard to his parliamentary activity that would support the claimed cause for disqualification (compare the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). The additional evidence presented consists of quotes regarding which there is doubt as to whether they could ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and in any case, they are attributed to Raja Zaatra, who is not a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list for the 21st Knesset and who claimed that the quotes were untrue. The appellants further referred to statements by Cassif, who is a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list, but as noted above, we did not find them sufficient to lead to disqualifying Cassif himself, and thus they cannot lead to the disqualification of the entire list (see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 44; the Balad case, para. 20).

76.       The evidence adduced by the appellants in all that regards the cause for disqualification concerning support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel comprises, inter alia: a public address by Tibi in 2011 in Arabic in which, it is argued, he expressed praise for martyrs, and a report from 2007 on his participation in a march marking five years since Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, among a crowd in which people dressed up as suicide bombers were present. In addition, the appellants referred to statements by a member of the Hadash party, Aida Touma Suleiman (hereinafter: Suleiman) in which she called the conduct of IDF forces in violent events on the Gaza border “premeditated murder”, refused to call the Hamas a terrorist organization, and argued that “an intifada by the people against the occupation is legitimate”. The appellants further referred to Suleiman’s participation in a demonstration in support of those who refuse to serve in the IDF, and to her refusal to hold a debate on women soldiers in the IDF when she served as chair of the Knesset committee for the advancement of the status of women. In addition, statements by a member of the Ta’al party, Osama Saadi, were presented expressing support for a popular struggle and who, it is claimed, refused to denounce harming Israeli citizens who reside in Judea and Samaria. The appellants also referred to statements by the chair of the Hadash faction, Ayman Odeh (hereinafter: Odeh), who refused to denounce harming IDF soldiers and thanked a Palestinian television station that praised the parliamentary activity of the Joint List in the 20th Knesset. The appellants further referred to a report that Odeh had clashed with police in a conference of the Popular Front and Democratic Front organizations, reports on meetings of members of the list with security prisoners in prison, reports of discussions held with Palestinian leaders, and to the Hadash party’s condemnation of the decision of the Persian Gulf states and the Arab League to declare the Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

77.       I examined the said assembled evidence and arrived at the conclusion that it is insufficient under the strict criteria outlined in the case law for establishing a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. As the Attorney General noted, part of the evidence presented in this matter does not show – even prima facie – direct or indirect support for terrorist activity. To that one should add that some of the evidence adduced is old and even precedes the elections for the 20th Knesset, and the Elections Committee to which that evidence was presented in the past did not find that it grounds the cause for disqualification. Indeed, some of the material attributed to the representatives of Hadash-Ta’al as detailed above can be interpreted as supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization, but given the fact that in those very same publications to which the appellants refer there are also statements by members of the list according to which they do not support violence as a political approach, the resulting doubt weighs against that interpretation. Moreover, those requesting disqualification did not present the official platform of the list, which is a primary source depicting its purposes (the second Neiman case, p. 186; the Moledet case, p. 362), and for this reason, as well, it is difficult to conclude that the list supports armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization and that this is the central, dominant purpose of Hadash-Ta’al for the realization of which it acts in a real and consistent manner.

 

Conclusion

78.       For the reasons detailed above, I have, as stated, arrived at the conclusion that the appeal in EA 1866/19 should be granted in part, and to hold that Ben Ari is banned from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which does not apply to Ben Gvir; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 and hold that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in those elections; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1806/19 and hold that Cassif may participate in the elections for the 21st Knesset; and to deny the appeal in EA 1867/19 and hold that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset.

 

Justice I. Amit:

            I concur in the decision of President E. Hayut, and I will add a few words of my own.

1.         Every election season, as a kind of ritual, the Supreme Court is called upon to address the disqualification of lists or candidates on the basis of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset like a mini-Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was originally enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment. In view of the fundamental right to vote and to be elected, the Supreme Court established strict criteria for the disqualification of a list or a candidate, which were reviewed in para. 16 of the President’s opinion: dominant purpose; express declarations or unambiguous conclusions; non-sporadic conduct; and persuasive evidence.

            In putting those principles into practice, we examine each disqualification independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”. As I had the opportunity to say: “the voting in the Elections Committee is political, and thus the great caution that this Court must exercise as a party to the decision so as not to be infected by the political game” (EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 1 of my opinion) (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case)).

            And now to the matter on the merits.

2.         Sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Incitement to Racism”:

            The legislature stated its opinion loudly and clearly. Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Incitement to racism – not in this house and not in the Knesset. For this reason, the Kach movement was denounced and expelled from the community and placed beyond the bounds of law. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, I am of the opinion that it should not be subject to the probability test.

3.         In the “last round”, Baruch Marzel’s candidacy was confirmed, but in his dissent, Justice Rubinstein expressed his opinion that we were concerned with “the sheerest of sheer costumes” (the second Zoabi case, para. 118 of his opinion). As the President so aptly demonstrated, the candidate Ben Ari did not even bother to put on a disguise. According to him, the logic is as follows: Whoever is not a Zionist is an enemy, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are not Zionists, therefore the conclusion is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are to be viewed as enemies. The Attorney General was rightly of the opinion that Ben Ari should be disqualified, and we agree.

4.         Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”.

            In the second Zoabi case, I noted that “the Jewish public must be sensitive to the dilemma of the Arab minority, but similarly, elected Arab representatives must conduct themselves with wisdom and sensitivity in regard to the state of which they are citizens and understand the sensitivities of the majority”. In the fascinating hearing before us, it could be inferred from the statements of those requesting the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad that a party that is not Zionist should be deemed as one that entirely rejects the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and must, therefore, be disqualified. In my opinion, this argument insensitively pigeonholes a considerable part of the Arab population that, while not Zionist, identifies with the State of Israel and sees itself as an integral part of it. It is hard to accept that the State of Israel would make an outcast of anyone who is not a Zionist, or anyone who ideologically rejects the Zionist idea. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for “incitement to racism” reinforces both characteristics of the State of Israel as “Jewish and democratic”. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for discourse and speech that is not Zionist in accordance with the approach of those seeking disqualification in the present case constitutes somewhat of a lessening of the democratic element. Therefore, and for the purposes of the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, the two components of “Jewish and democratic” must be balanced wisely and sensitively so that accusers will not say that our state is “democratic” for the Jewish majority and “Jewish” for the Arab minority.

            And note: we sing [in the National Anthem – trans.] “the soul of a Jew still yearns” with misty eyes, and the Law of Return, 5710-1950 is, indeed, the “Foundation Stone” of the State of Israel and a Jewish state. The Law of Return is the alpha and omega for the very existence of the State of Israel, and it is what ensures the existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. But not every passing thought, notion, or expression that casts doubt about the Law of Return will inherently lead to disqualification given the strict tests for disqualification noted above (such as dominance), and perhaps the probability test as well. However, a bill to rescind the Law of Return, or a party platform that openly calls for the rescission of the Law of Return might move a list across the boundary of disqualification, and it would seem that Balad, almost as a habit, not infrequently walks on the boundary. It would not be superfluous to note that in the Tibi case (Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 40), President Barak was ready to accept the statement of MK Bishara that he did not demand the revocation of the Law of Return. From this we can infer the result had it been otherwise claimed. This brings us to the central piece of evidence presented to us in regard to Balad, which is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that it presented to the Knesset, and which in effect, expresses a desire to undermine the Jewish character of the state.

5.         A number of reasons led me to the conclusion that the Balad list should not be disqualified for that bill, even without addressing the question of the probability test.

            First, most of the Balad Knesset members in the prior Knesset are not on the current list, which changes its character. Second, that bill should be seen as a sporadic act of protest following the enactment of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. The bill is not included in Balad’s platform, it is not claimed that it was part of its platform in the past, and no systematic, consistent activity in that direction was proven. The bill should, therefore, be viewed as a one-time act that does not, in and of itself, give rise to a cause for disqualification.

6.         These are the main reasons why I am of the opinion that that the Balad party walked on the margin but did not cross it, even though the bill brought it but a step away. For my part, I will leave the grounds for the Attorney General’s opinion – that Balad did not stand alone but rather as part of a joint list of Ra’am-Balad – for further consideration. One could, on the other hand, argue that the very fact of that partnership with another party placed Balad under a higher duty of care lest crossing the boundaries might harm the other party. The other side of the coin is that the unification of parties does not grant immunity from disqualification, such that parties that may join with Balad in the future will have to take that into account. I will, therefore, leave the matter for further consideration.

 

Justice U. Vogelman:

1.         I concur in the conclusions and the comprehensive opinion of my colleague the President, and with the main points of her reasoning.

2.         The principles applicable to appeal and approval proceedings with which we are concerned are grounded in a broad range of case law, which is appropriately detailed in the opinion of my colleague the President.

3.         My colleague the President addresses the difference between an elections appeal and an elections approval, and on the various approaches in our case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s review in the different proceedings. My colleague Justice I. Amit, for his part, addresses the caution that the Court must adopt, in his view, in proceedings such as these due to the fact that the vote in the Elections Committee if political.

4.         I see no need to set in stone the proper approach among those enumerated by my colleagues (inasmuch as each of them leads to the same result in the instant case). However, I would like to emphasize that, in my view, given the nature of the rights and balances involved, the “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and that the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

5.         On the matter of disqualification for incitement to racism.

            The first matter I wish to address in this regard concerns the application of probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent (a question that has not yet been resolved in our case law). In the context of the said cause, I would like to point out that, in my view, there is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 88) (hereinafter: the Tibi case)).

            The words of Justice Procaccia in the same matter are apt:

The phenomenon of racism in the chronicles of history and the annals of the Jewish people is special and unique. Nothing compares to its rejection and the defense against it even among the many protections of the fundamental human rights that the constitutions of western states diligently labor to ground. The moral, ethical taint of incitement to racism, against the background of its deep opposition to the universal concept of human rights, and in view of the atrocities of the Holocaust of European Jewry that was annihilated due to racial theory, does not tolerate its inclusion on the podium of ideas and opinions of political discourse. That is so, even if there is no foreseeable danger whatsoever of the realization of the inciter’s dogma, and even if his words are like “a voice crying out in the wilderness” without echo and without being heard.

Racism is condemned, and it must be eliminated by virtue of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966, of which Israel is a signatory. The parties to it pledged not to sponsor racial discrimination and to adopt immediate measures in order to uproot every phenomenon of racism (arts. 2, 4, and 5 of the Convention).

The condemnation of racism takes on a special dimension in Jewish tradition in view of the blood-soaked history of a nation that was a victim of the manifestations of this phenomenon over generations. Racism stands in contradiction to the fundamental values of the State of Israel as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, according to which full social and political equality must be ensured for all citizens regardless of religion, race, and sex. The depth and force of the condemnation of racism as a social phenomenon do not accord with granting of an opportunity to a candidate to run for office on the basis of racist ideas among the range of opinions and perspectives expressed in political discourse. Standing for election on the basis of racist ideas flies in the face of the educational, moral purpose of inculcating the principles of equality and tolerance in Israeli society. These ideas cross the bounds of the red line that guarantees tolerance even for expressing deviant ideas and views. Casting them out beyond the pale is necessary so that expressing them will not be interpreted, even by inference, as granting approval and legitimacy to those who hold them to participate in the life of the state (and compare: R. Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, p. 173).

                        […]

In this spirit, the condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the framework of political contest is a value unto itself, unconditional and unrestricted even where there is no attendant probability whatsoever of the realization of its potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entrance of inciters to racism into the political arena (compare the words of Justice E. Goldberg in the meeting of the Knesset Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the Kach party, Oct. 5, 1988, p. 47ff.). Incitement to racism is condemned as a value of universal and national heritage, and it stands above and beyond the probability test of its foreseeable danger on the basis of some criterion or another. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the stare is so deep that anyone who embraces it in his political thought should be disqualified from the outset (the Tibi case, pp. 89-90).

            I agree with every jot and tittle of these true words.

6.         Moving from the general to the specific – my colleague well described the factual grounds upon which we decided that the cause of incitement to racism is met in the case of Ben Ari, and it would be superfluous to reiterate the well-grounded presentation of the evidentiary foundations. Ben Ari’s incitement extends to a broad range of subjects, among them a call for excluding Arab citizens from residing within the limits of an Israeli city, recall dark periods in the history of nations. The addition of the cause for disqualification with which we are concerned to the Basic Law by the constituent authority of the State of Israel was intended for a war against such phenomena, and it is our role to interpret the Constitution and maintain its boundaries.

7.         The matter of Ben Gvir is different. I concur with my colleague’s conclusion – which ascribed weight to his declarations concerning changing his manner – that the foundation amassed in his regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that grounds a cause for disqualification.

8.         As for the Ra’am-Balad list – as my colleague notes, the entirety of the evidence adduced is not qualitatively different from what was presented to this Court in previous proceedings that concerned the question of the disqualification of Balad and members of the list in which it was held that it did not constitute a sufficient foundation for disqualification. I see no need to address the Basic Law bill that Balad presented, to which my colleagues referred, given that the Balad Knesset members who served in the last Knesset are not included in the current list, and given the clarification by the list’s attorney that the bill is not part of Balad’s platform.

9.         In the matters of Ofer Cassif and the Hadash-Ta’al list, as well, I concur with the conclusion that the evidentiary foundation is insufficient to ground the claimed causes for disqualification.

 

Justice M. Mazuz:

            I concur in the main points of the reasons and conclusions of President E. Hayut, and I wish to add two comments. Because they are not necessary for the decision, I will state then in brief:

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”:

            As we know, the cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state” (secs. 7A(1)-(2)). The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992 (“and this because the two sections are interrelated”), and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

            In practice, the unification of the causes, which involved a certain change in the wording of the cause, was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

            In my opinion, the proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state. This position has consequences, inter alia, in regard to how to view the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill introduced at the time by Knesset members of Balad, however, in view of the President’s conclusions in this regard (para. 58), I see no need to expand upon my approach to the bill and I will only note that I agree in principle with the comments of Justice I. Amit in paras. 4-5 of his opinion.

 

2.         A Probability Test and Incitement to Racism:

            This issue has been addressed on several occasions in previous case law, beginning with the first Neiman case, and various opinions – mostly rejecting it in general, or at least in regard to the cause of incitement to racism – but it has been left for further consideration and remains undecided.

            I am of the opinion that there is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application. I will not presume to exhaust all the reasons for this position, but will suffice with a few words: first, in terms of the interpretation of the law. As we know, the interpretation of a statute begins with its language and is limited by it. There are no grounds for requiring a probability test in the language of sec. 7A. Section 7A refers to objectives and actions, including statements, by a list or candidate. We are concerned with causes of “conduct” not “results”. Second, the Court, called upon to approve or review a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify a candidate or list, lacks the tools for applying a probability test for the purpose of approving or rejecting the probability evaluation of the Elections Committee. A probability estimate in the public-political context is inherently speculative, and the Court would do well to refrain from it. Third, and this is the main point, sec. 7A treats of the lack of legitimacy of a list or candidate who meets the disqualification criteria to participate in the “democratic game”. The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates, as stated, does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections.

            It would appear that the cause of “incitement to racism” under sec. 7A(a)(2) well demonstrates this. Incitement to racism and racist acts are unacceptable per se, as they are contrary to the most basic values of a democratic society, which is founded upon the idea of the equality of human beings. We are concerned with universal values accepted in the law of nations. Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, known as the CERD Convention – signed by the State of Israel on March 7, 1966, ratified on Jan. 3, 1979, and entering into effect on Feb. 2, 1979 – the State of Israel assumed, like the other signatory nations, inter alia, the obligation to prohibit racial and other discrimination and to adopt all means, including legislation, to bring about its end (art. 2(1)(d) of the Convention). In 1985, together with the amendment of Basic Law: The Knesset and the addition of sec. 7A, the Penal Code was also amended with the addition of Article 1A: Incitement to Racism, which established various offences of incitement to racism (both amendments were included in the same pamphlet of bills – H.H. 5745 193). The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability (“it does not matter whether the publication did cause racism” – sec. 144B(b)).

            Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests. The value of freedom of expression, which is the life breath of democracy, was intended to protect non-violent public debate and to permit a conceptual contest among legitimate values in a democratic society. Racist discourse “pollutes” the democratic discourse and undermines the purpose of conceptual inquiry among the members of society and the free establishment of views on the basis of democratic values. Therefore, the reason for preventing the participation of a list or candidate that incites racism in the elections is not restricted to a fear of the realization of the objectives of the incitement, but is primarily concerned with the public value of not granting legitimacy to racist speech as part of the democratic discourse. In this sense, the cause for disqualification for incitement to racism is a special case of the cause relating to the negation of the democratic character of the state.

            Lastly, I would emphasize that I do not believe that the probability test is necessary for mitigating the causes for disqualification or for granting flexible tools for their application. To that end, the case law established a strict, narrow interpretive approach to the causes of disqualification. Strict criteria were also established that are implemented in judicial review of this matter, among them the demand that the objectives attributed to a list or candidate constitute a central, dominant objective and not a secondary, marginal issue, and the requirement of active, consistent, and systematic action for the realization of those objectives. It was further held that the evidence for disqualification must be persuasive, clear and unambiguous. All of these provide the Court with effective tools to ensure that the disqualification authority, which is an exceptional and intrusive authority, be exercised only in extreme, clear cases, without the need for the problematic means of a probability test.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

1.         If we were to interpret and implement the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset as written, as they would be understood by the average person, then not only would Dr. Michael Cassif be barred from candidacy for the Knesset elections. A plain reading of the section would, in all probability, lead us to conclude that additional lists and candidates whose matters have been examined by this Court over the years would also be granted this dubious honor.

2.         However, that is not the case. From the very outset, this Court adopted a strict approach to the legal interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt: “The essence of such a matter, the limitation of a basic constitutional right, inherently carries a standard of interpretation that must be strict and narrow, and section 7A should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. This interpretive approach does not conflict with the statute but is rather a result of a proper understanding of the purpose of the statute, which does not seek to limit freedoms, but to protect them against actual danger” (the second Neiman case, p. 187; emphasis here and below added – N.S.). This approach has become firmly rooted in the case law of this Court: “Preventing the participation of a party in the elections is a most extreme step. The right to vote and to be elected is a right of the highest constitutional level” (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], p. 802, per Deputy President A. Barak); “Preventing a party from participating in the elections is an extreme and exceptional step that in many ways directly contradicts the fundamental principles upon which democracy rests” (the Balad case, para. 3 of the opinion of President Beinisch); “Preventing participation in Knesset elections is an extreme step that is reserved for the most exceptional cases for which the normal democratic tools are insufficient” (the second Zoabi case, para. 75 of the opinion of President M. Naor).

            I will briefly summarize the guiding criteria as expressed in the case law: Barring participation in Knesset elections will only be done as when all else has failed.

3.         Recently, in the Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 47) (Prevention of Participation in Elections due to a Candidate’s Statements) Bill, the constituent authority expressed the view that it accepts the narrow path taken by the Court in applying sec. 7A. The bill expressly established that a person’s actions also include his statements. The Explanatory Notes clarify as follows: “The proposed amendment expressly anchors the approach accepted in the case law in this matter, according to which “actions” under sec. 7A of the Basic Law also include statements. Thus, the amendment is not intended to alter the Court’s case law according to which the application of sec. 7A of the Basic law will performed narrowly and strictly in order to protect the state’s most vital interests” (H.H. 675, p. 52). However, there was also some criticism of the direction of the case law, on the need to take care not to adopt an overly restrictive interpretation of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A, while unduly expanding the boundaries (see, e.g., the second Zoabi case, para. 8 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein).

4.         The criteria developed in the case law for the application of sec. 7A, which reflect the narrow interpretive approach, were set out in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President. Primarily, in brief, one must show that the cause for disqualification can be found in the objectives or the actions of the list or candidate; those objectives or actions must form part of the dominant characteristics of the actions of the party or candidate; they can be learned from express declarations or from unambiguously probable conclusions; theoretical objectives are insufficient, but rather one must show systematic “activity in the field” that must constitute severe, extreme expression in terms of its intensity; and lastly, the evidence based upon the above must be “persuasive, clear, and unambiguous”.

5.         On the basis of those criteria, my colleague the President found, and my colleagues concur, that the evidentiary foundation in the matter before us paints an unambiguous and persuasive picture according to which Ben Ari “systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public” (para. 42 of the President’s opinion). Therefore, she held that he must be disqualified.

6.         I considered and reconsidered the matter. I carefully read the various statements, watched and listened. I considered the various clarifications and explanations over and over again, and the dilemma was difficult and weighed heavily. I did not easily decide to disagree with my colleague’s conclusion. The source of my dilemma was the substantial gap between the image of Ben Ari as reflected in the virtual arena – in the social networks – and that shown us in the Elections Committee’s hearings and in the Court. Thus, in his affidavit in the instant proceeding, Ben Ari rejected the claims about his racist views, and declared, inter alia, as follows:

I do not think that people are of different value due to their ethnic, national or religious origin. All human beings were created in the Divine image, and all human beings were granted free choice. Your own deeds will cause you to be near, and your own deeds will cause you to be far[1] […] In my view, the Arab National Movement, whose purpose is to destroy Jewish sovereignty through the use of violence and terror is the enemy of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people and of Zionism. I would like to emphasize that what makes it an enemy of the state, the people and of Zionism is not the ethno-national origin of its members and supporters, and not their religious belief.  What turns the members and supporters of the Arab National Movement into enemies are the political objectives that this movement established and the ways in which it acts for the realization of those objectives since the beginning of the 20th century and to this day […] Anyone who accepts that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people and agrees that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state is a desirable citizen who is worthy of all the civil, social and political rights without regard for religions, race, sex, ethnic origin or skin color. In addition, I am of the opinion that basic human rights are granted to every person as such, and that the state must act justly and fairly toward every person without regard for religion, race, sex, ethnic origin, or skin color (paras. 9, 16-17 of the affidavit).

7.         Further on in the affidavit, Ben Ari addresses all the statements quoted in his regard (as opposed to in the hearing before the Elections Committee, in which he addressed only a part of them) and explained that “all of my arrows are directed against those who are not loyal to the State of Israel and hostile to the Zionist enterprise. Even if, at times, my words may sound or be apprehended as general, that absolutely does not reflect an intention to generalize, and in no way reflects my true, consistent opinion” (para. 22 of the affidavit). Like the cases adjudicated by this Court in the past, real doubt arises in regard to the sincerity of Ben Ari’s declarations.

8.         Three examples from the past: (a) Baruch Marzel declared, at the time, that he had recanted his prior views, that he sought to act only in accordance with the law, accepts the principles of democracy, and had withdrawn from the path of generalized statements of the Kach movement. A long line of evidence led the Court to a conclusion in regard to “a real doubt as to the sincerity of Mr. Marzel’s declarations, according to which he had disavowed his approach and his former racist, undemocratic ideology” (the Tibi case, para. 81 of the opinion of President A. Barak). Later, prior to another election, President M. Naor stated: “I, too, do not believe that Marzel has changed his views and thoughts” (the second Zoabi case, para. 33). (b) Hanin Zoabi declared, at the time, her opposition to violence, and nevertheless “it was difficult for me to be persuaded that MK Zoabi does not support armed struggle” (ibid., para. 7 of the opinion of my colleague Justice I. Amit). (c) MK Azmi Bishara argued, at the time, that he opposed violence and armed struggle, and he, too, did not earn much trust: “There is doubt in our hearts. But the doubt must act – in a democratic state that believes in freedom and liberty – in favor of the freedom to vote and to be elected” (the Tibi case, para. 46 of the opinion of President A. Barak).

            As may be recalled, Hanin Zoabi and Azmi Bishara served honorably as members of the Israeli Knesset. Marzel’s candidacy was also approved, twice, although he was not elected. And what of the case of Ben Ari? In the end, his statements “in real time” speak for themselves, and clearly to his detriment. I will not belabor the point and repeat what has already been presented at length in the opinion of my colleague the President. I will suffice by referring there, and the reader will not be pleased. The statements are not at all consistent with the tolerant, placating tone that arises from the above affidavit presented in these proceedings. Which Ben Ari should we therefore believe?

9.         Ultimately, I inclined to the view that there is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. I have not arrived at this conclusion because I take incitement to racism lightly, but because I am strict in regard to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases (both in the Tibi case and the second Zoabi case). While Israeli democracy requires protection, it is still strong enough to comprise even Ben Ari as a member of Knesset (as we may recall, Ben Ari already served in the position in the recent past, in the years 2009-2013).

10.       This result is required for two additional considerations that are of a practical nature: First, the procedural framework in which we act. As we know, sec. 7A was presented to the Knesset together with the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, which established an express criminal prohibition upon incitement to racism. “We are determined to combat the phenomenon of incitement to racism with full force. To that end, we decided to act on two planes – on the constitutional plane, by including incitement to racism as a cause for the disqualification of a list of candidates from participating in Knesset elections, and on the penal plane – establishing an offense of incitement to racism in the Penal Law” (from the statement of the Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, in presenting the bills for a first reading; Knesset Record (5745), p. 2381). As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires us to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before us. Second, lest we forget: Even after a candidate has cleared the hurdle of sec. 7A, Israel is not bereft:[2] “The very fact that a candidate is permitted to contend in the Knesset elections does not mean that from the moment he is elected he may do whatever he pleases. There is still the possibility of rescinding the immunity of a member of Knesset in certain situations, placing him on trial if it be found that he committed a criminal offense, and terminating his tenure in the Knesset if he is found guilty of an offense of moral turpitude” (the first Zoabi case, para. 35 of the opinion of President A. Grunis).

11.       It cannot be denied that Ben Ari’s statements – at least in large part – are hard to digest. I was, indeed, very annoyed by his callous style, the racist tone, and the coarse generalities. It does not do honor to him or to those who listen to his teachings. We can and should protest against evil, and against those who seek our harm and our lives – foreign and domestic. But we are obliged – particularly as public servants – to do so responsibly and carefully. Nevertheless, even when common sense protests and the soul recoils from Ben Ari’s statements, there is still no justification for placing him beyond the pale. The strength of freedom of expression, the strength of democracy “is not the recognition of the right to speak pleasantries that are soothing to my ears. Its strength is in the recognition of the right of the other to say things that are grating upon my ear and that pierce my heart” (HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board [22], p. 441). That is true of freedom of expression in general, and of political speech in particular, when what is at stake – we will not refrain from repeating – is a mortal blow to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected.

12.       I wholeheartedly concur with my colleague the President on our obligation to combat racism uncompromisingly. As a son of my people and a descendant of my family, I am well aware of where the terrifying harm of hate of the stranger and the different leads. But make no mistake, the two are not comparable, and not even close. And note: the struggle against racism is not only on the legal plane, but also – and primarily – on the educational plane, “in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society” (the first Neiman case, p. 302). In this regard, it would be proper to quote what Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook wrote in the month of Nissan 1947 in a letter to the principals and teachers of a Jerusalem school. The Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, quoted part of the letter, titled “Embarrassing and Sad Conduct of Children”, in presenting the bill in regard to sec. 7A to the Knesset plenum for a first reading, as follows:

To the Principal and Teachers of a school here in our Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished!

I must bring the following matter to your honorable attention, as follows: This morning, while passing by the school on the way to Yaffo-Ben Yehuda Street, I saw some from among a group of children from the school repeatedly hitting and coarsely taunting Arab peddlers who passed there. Twice together – at the two Arabs, one young and one old, who were apparently partners, beginning with the younger one and continuing with the older one with particular coarseness. This occurred a short distance from the gate to the schoolyard. Then again at a youngster on the sidewalk of Jaffa Road, at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street.

I was saddened and very ashamed by what I saw. Due to their running and mischief, I was unable to catch them and rebuke them for this. I do not know who these children are, or who are their parents and teachers. I know only that they were from the school. Not all of them, not all of the group of children from the school, took part in that despicable harm and taunting, but some of them. And I believe that some of them protested.

Nevertheless, the very existence of this fact, which pained and insulted me, as noted, requires that I bring to your awareness the need for greater and special educational attention to bringing an end to such possibilities, both in and of itself as a matter of Jewish law and morality, and in terms of the practical community and political value of preserving peace and good neighborliness.

With all due respect and in the hope of the glorification of God and the salvation of his people and heritage.

            Here we see plain, clear, resolute, human Jewish morality. We must walk in its light.

13.       For the same reasons for which I was of the opinion that we should not order the disqualification of Ben Ari, I arrived at the conclusion that the Election Committee’s decisions in the matters of the Ra’am-Balad list and of Dr. Ofer Cassif should be overturned and that the appeal in regard to the Hadash-Ta’al list should be denied, and that we should hold that they are not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. As in regard to the decision is the matter of Ben Ari, this decision, as well, was not at all easy. Some of the statements presented to us – both those attributed to Cassif and those attributed to other members of the Hadash-Ta’al list – are not pleasant to the ear, to put it very mildly. But just as we are enjoined and stand ready to defend against those who would incite to racism and thereby undermine the democratic character of the State of Israel, so we must defend against those who would undermine its Jewish character and who express support – express or implied, publicly or privately – terrorist attacks and murder. In the course of the debate on sec. 7A, prior to its first reading, MK Michael Eitan rightly stated in this regard:

The State of Israel has a political need to provide an answer to a long list of families of Jewish victims who were harmed solely because they are Jews here in the State of Israel on the question of whether the purpose of defensive democracy, that has been and is employed, is to protect them, as well. Can Jews in the State of Israel who are harmed by the agents of the PLO also find an answer in such legislation that is intended to defend democracy to the fact that there are people in the State of Israel who identify with the PLO and see themselves as its agents? And there is also a Knesset faction that once sent a telegram expressing solidarity to the Palestine National Council in Amman, which identifies with the PLO. Where is defensive democracy in their regard? Where is the symmetry? Should democracy defend itself only against insane Jewish fanaticism?

                        […]

When we discuss the issue of defensive democracy, we have to provide an answer to the Bromberg family, the Tamam family, the Ohana family, and a long list of families that daily ask the simple question: Is the purpose of defensive democracy to defend us as well, or is the only answer that marginal group to which we all take exception? And when I ask that question, I understand that we are treading a delicate, sensitive line because we are concerned with a democratic regime, we are not interested in silencing debate, we are not interested in outlawing lists. But in any event, we must ask ourselves the question what is the boundary line?

14.       Indeed, the question of where the boundary lies is difficult. It would seem that thirty years after the constituting of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, there is no clear, unambiguous answer to this. In any case, as presented above, the special importance of the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected obligates us to strict criteria whose bottom line is that when there is doubt, there is no doubt. Therefore, and for the reasons stated in the opinion of my colleague the President, I am of the opinion that what has been adduced before us is insufficient for ordering the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif, the Hadash-Ta’al list, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

15.       One parenthetical objection: In the matter of the Balad party, the Attorney General noted that “were the Balad party running independently … there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification”. However, “in view of the fact that under the prevailing legal situation, there is no possibility of disqualifying only half of a list (as opposed to disqualifying an entire list or disqualifying specific candidates on the basis of evidence relating to them personally), and in view of the fact that there are almost no arguments against the Ra’am list, it is necessary to examine whether the existing evidence suffices to justify disqualifying the joint list, in view of the case law of the honorable Court in regard to the need to severely limit such a disqualification”. My colleague the President did not expand upon that matter, having found other reasons for not ordering the disqualification of Balad (although she attributed weight to the fact that we are concerned with a joint list). For my part, I find the present legal situation very problematic, when a party that prima facie meets the requirements of one of the causes for disqualification can join with another party such that the joint list provides it with a “city of refuge”. This should be given consideration when and if the need to address this question arises in the future.

16.       In conclusion, where my opinion accepted, we would overturn the Election Committee’s decision in EDA 1806/19; deny the appeals in EA 1866/19 and EA 1867/19, and grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, and hold that Dr. Ofer Cassif, Dr. Michael Ben Ari, Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir, the Hadash-Ta’al list and the Ra’am-Balad list are not barred from standing for election to the Knesset.

 

Justice A. Baron:

            I concur in the comprehensive opinion of President E. Hayut, both in the conclusion she reached in each of the proceedings before us and in her reasoning. I will briefly add my view of the disqualification of the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari (hereinafter: Ben Ari) for election to the 21st Knesset, in which we are concerned with an exceptionally extreme step, akin to a “doomsday weapon”.

            The racist statements in the warp and weave of all of the recorded statements of Ben Ari cry out from the page and scorch the ears. Words are not “just” words. There are times when words are also acts, and in the case of Ben Ari’s statements they constitute a clear act of incitement to racism. Ben Ari makes improper use of words to arouse hatred against the Arab public, while portraying all Arabs as murderers and bitter enemies. His statements delegitimize an entire community, instigate conflict and strife, and even call for actual violence against Israeli Arabs. Moreover, we were presented with a solid evidentiary foundation that clearly shows that we are concerned with a severe, extreme case of incitement to racism. The racist statements are explicit, systematic (some 40 instances since 2017 alone), constitute a dominant characteristic of Ben Ari’s statements, and gain wide exposure in the media and on the social networks.

            The principle of freedom of expression, and particularly freedom of political expression, is a cornerstone of a democratic regime. According to this principle, “freedom of expression is not just the right to say or hear what is generally acceptable. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to express dangerous, irritating, deviant ideas that the public reviles and despises” (HCJ 399/85 Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority [23], p. 280). Words and statements can thus find refuge under the aegis of freedom of expression even when they express marginal ideas, and even when they arouse disgust, but given their “critical mass”, as noted above, Ben Ari’s words constitute incitement to racism and therefore undermine fundamental principles of democracy. As the case law of this Court has already made clear, “one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14). In this regard, I would note that in my opinion, as well, incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

            Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. And if that were not enough, even his explanations continue to reflect a racist attitude toward the Arab public. According to Ben Ari, his recorded statements are not directed against the entire Arab public, but only toward those among it who are not “loyal” to the State of Israel. However, the recordings deliver a clear message that any Arab is disloyal, a traitor, and enemy, and dangerous by definition. We are, therefore, concerned with an extreme case that requires Ben Ari’s disqualification from participating in the elections for the Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz:

            I concur in the opinion of my colleague the President in regard to the partial granting of the appeal in EA 1866/99 and with the holding that Ben Ari is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which is not the case in regard to Ben Gvir. I also agree that the appeal in EA 1867/19 should be denied, and that it should be held that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset. However, I cannot agree with the position in the matter of overturning the Election Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and in EDA 1806/19 in the matter of MK Ofer Cassif. In my view, those decisions should be left standing, and we should hold that the Ra’am-Ta’al list and MK Cassif are barred from participating in the elections for the Knesset, as I shall explain.

Foreword

1.         The starting point for this discussion is that the restrictions upon the constitutional right to vote and to be elected to the Knesset must be minimal, and they must protect the most vital interests of the state (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], pp. 802-803). This Court has recognized the justification for limiting those rights even before an express provision was enacted to permit the disqualification of a candidate or list from participating in the elections for the Knesset when it was long ago held that the right to vote and to be elected can be limited in order to protect the very existence of the state (EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset [8], p. 387) (hereinafter: the Yeredor case); EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [4]) (hereinafter: the first Neiman case)). And as Justice J. Sussman stated: “Just as one need not consent to be killed, so a state need not agree to be annihilated and wiped off the map.” (the Yeredor case, p. 390). The restriction of rights is justified in the name of the right of a democracy to defend itself against those who would seek to employ democratic tools for the purpose of negating the very existence of the state, harm its fundamental principles or advance anti-democratic objectives (EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 8 of the opinion of President A. Grunis); EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 7 of the opinion of President M. Naor) (hereinafter: the Zoabi case).

2.         The desire to prevent the use of democratic tools to advance anti-democratic objectives that undermine the existence of the state stood at the basis of the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter also: the Basic Law), to which various amendments were made over the years. The last, in 2017 (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 46), 5777-2017 (hereinafter: Amendment no. 46)) clarified that a candidate could be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, included the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism or support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The legislature had its say and defined the boundaries of the right to vote and to be elected in light of the basic and most vital principles for the existence of the state.

3.         It should be noted that sec. 7A of the Basic Law is not the only legal provision that restricts the use of a right granted by democracy in order to prevent harm to the basic, most vital principles for the existence of the state in general, and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state in particular. This purpose is also expressed in the framework of sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, which denies the possibility of registering a party, inter alia, for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Section 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 defines the limits of the material immunity granted to an elected official by virtue of his office in a manner similar to that in sec. 7A (HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13], pp. 306-307). As the President also noted, the Basic Law was amended in 2016 to include a provision authorizing the Knesset to end the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or for supporting armed struggle against the State of Israel (the cause of negating the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic was not included in the framework of that provision in view of its being general and more ambiguous, and upon the presumption that the Knesset plenum would have difficulty applying it (see: HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12], para. 29 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

4.         These supplementary provisions define a clear boundary beyond which actions, objectives and expressions are not legitimate for elected representatives and for a party or list of elected representatives. The gates of the house of representatives are not open to those who seek to harm the character of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic (including the cause of “incitement to racism”, which constitutes a special case of harm to the democratic foundations of the state) or to support an armed struggle against it and thus to support a threat to its very existence. What is concerned are actions that do not afford material immunity for those who succeeded in being elected to the house of representatives. Some of those causes also permit the termination of the tenure of those who seek the state’s harm. The underlying premise is that a person who seeks to take an active part in Israeli democracy and its institutions must accept the principles of its existence and the democratic “rules of the game” (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], p. 23 (hereinafter: the Tibi case)). This, even though such actions or expressions may sometimes fall within the bounds of freedom of expression granted to every person in the state. In other words, what is permitted to every person is not necessarily granted to a person who seeks to be elected to the legislature. The reason for this is clear: the principle of freedom of expression grants every person the freedom to express himself even in a manner that contradicts the principles of the Jewish and democratic regime of the State of Israel (within the bounds of the law). However, permitting a person who voices such ideas to be elected to the legislature may lead to a situation where he will “import” his ideas into the legislature and thus undermine the foundations of the regime upon which the state rests by implementing or realizing his ideas. In this regard, Justice T. Strasburg-Cohen nicely distinguished the two (in the Tibi case, p. 70):

It would be appropriate to note that Israeli democracy does not prevent Knesset Member Bishara from expressing his views, which he terms “theoretical”, “philosophical”, or “historical”, from any platform, in accordance with the law. However, as far as membership in the Knesset is concerned, those views that are part of his political views, and he seeks to implement and realize them, inter alia, by means of his membership in the Knesset. Therefore, those views greatly deviate from theory, philosophy, and history and cross into the area of political activity.

 

The Causes for Disqualification and Amendment no. 40 of the Basic Law

5.         The criteria established in the case law in regard to the implementation of the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law were clarified at length by the President, and I do not intend to dwell upon the matter. I will only say a few words about the distinction in the framework of this provision between disqualifying a candidate and disqualifying a list from participating in the Knesset elections. Thus, while the section establishes that “a list of candidates shall not participate in elections to the Knesset … should there be explicitly or implicitly in the goals or actions of the list …” (emphasis added – D.M.) one of the causes enumerated therein. The wording in regard to the disqualification of a candidate is somewhat different. As it reads at present, after Amendment no. 46, the disqualification of a candidate shall be possible “should there be in the actions of the person, including his expressions” one of the causes enumerated in the section. This difference is no trifling matter.

6.         As we know, a law is interpreted in accordance with its language and purpose. First, the starting point of interpretation is the language of the law, where the written text should be given the meaning that its language can carry (Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Interpretation of Statutes 81 (1993) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Interpretation in Law); HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner [24], para 9). The language is the framework for the work of the interpreter, and he may not breach it (HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset [5], p. 702). When the text tolerates different meanings, the interpretation that realizes its purpose should be chosen (Interpretation in Law, 85). In the present matter, as noted, Amendment no. 46 added the words “including his expressions” to sec. 7A of the Basic Law in regard to a candidate. According to the plain meaning, statements that can undermine the existence and fundamental principles of the state are sufficient to lead to the disqualification of a candidate from being elected to the Knesset, and there is no need for acts. That is also the interpretation that is consistent with the purpose of the section, which is intended to contend with those who seek to employ democratic tools in order to further anti-democratic objectives.

7.         Indeed, as the President noted, the Explanatory Notes to the bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state” (H.H. Knesset, 675). It is also important to explore the legislative history of legislation, through which it is possible to ascertain the legislative intent and purpose (Interpretation in Law, 161; CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach v. Assessment Officer [26], para. 20). However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear” (Interpretation in Law, 353). Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past (see, e.g., EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2], para. 3 (hereinafter: the Balad case)). Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past.

8.         First, one cannot ignore that in the past, the view was expressed in the case law of this Court that “expressions”, as opposed to “actions” do not fully fall within the compass of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, for example, in the Zoabi case, Justice H. Melcer noted: “An action in Israel’s sub-constitutional law does not generally include expression, and therefore, when the legislature sought to treat of expressing an opinion orally or in writing, it did so separately, alongside the action, or defined: “an action including an expression” (para. 2b of his opinion; and compare para. 121 of the opinion of Deputy President Rubinstein in the same matter). If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. As was said: “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), “Does the tongue have a hand? This comes to teach us that just as the hand can kill, so the tongue can kill…” (Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 15b).

9.         Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions. Thus, for example, “actions” that must be given severe, extreme expression was spoken of (the Tibi case, p. 17). As for the third cause, which concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it was held that such “support” can be “material” or “political” (the Tibi case, p. 26; the Balad case, para. 7). Thus, Amendment no. 46 has the potential to change the criteria that were developed for the disqualification of a candidate, which have, until now, been based upon those established for the disqualification of lists.

 

The Probability Test

10.       Another matter that requires examination, and which should be addressed prior to diving into the appeals before us, is the question of the applicability of “the probability test” noted by the President, that is, whether the participation of a party or a candidate can be prevented from participating in the elections where it has not been proven that there is a probability that they may actually realize one of the causes established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. This question already arose in the first Neiman case, which was adjudicated prior to the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, in regard to the disqualification of a list. In that matter, Justice A. Barak expressed his view that although the matter was not expressed in either the majority or minority opinions in the Yeredor case, the disqualification of a list is possible only when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the party’s platform will be realized in practice. However, after the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, it was clearly established in EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset [5], 188 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case) that:

In setting forth the principles of sec. 7A, the legislature did not require the existence of a clear and present danger, the probability of danger arising from the objectives and conduct of the party in question, or any similar test that looks to the connection between the condemned action and the possible results. Through this, the legislature changed the legal status until the enactment of Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 9).

            Thus, in enacting sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, the legislature abandoned the possibility of “the probability test”. In this regard, I join in the comments of my colleague Justice M. Mazuz. The provisions of the Basic Law contain no requirement for a reasonable possibility of the actual realization of the threat arising from the actions or platform of the list or its objectives (or from the actions of a candidate or his objectives, under the current wording of the section). There is firm support for the view that the matter was decided long ago in the second Neiman case, despite the questions that later arose in the Tibi case. In brief, I would note that I also find great substance in the view of Justice E. Mazza in the Tibi case (pp. 98-99) that making disqualification contingent upon the probability test could render sec. 7A devoid of all content, inasmuch as the more extreme, severe and outrageous the message, the less the probability of its actually being realized.

 

Critical Mass

11.       The case law of this Court has established that in order to approve a disqualification decision, the Court must have before it evidence that is “persuasive, clear and unambiguous” (the first Neiman case, pp. 250-251; the second Neiman case, p. 197). When the Court is convinced that such evidence has been laid before it, then the material thus constitutes the critical evidentiary “mass” required in this regard (see: the Tibi case, p. 42). This evidence can satisfy the Court as long as it is convinced of its truth, as the Court does in every matter given to its decision.

            This is not a quantitative but a qualitative test. If, for example, the Court is convinced by a single piece of evidence (and unlike this case in which there is a compendium of evidence) that can decide the matter in a certain direction, then it can base its decision thereupon. Only then will that single piece of evidence constitute a “critical mass”. As opposed to this, sometimes there is an accrual of many pieces of evidence whose force does not tip the scales and it will not constitute a “critical mass”. There is nothing actually new in this (see, for example, in the various proceedings: CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel [27], para. 22; CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron [28], para. 44; Yaakov Kedmi, On Evidence, Part IV, 1761ff. (2009) (Hebrew)). Indeed, the force of the evidence required for a decision changes in accordance with the category of the matter given to the Court’s decision. Sometimes, evidence that banishes all reasonable doubt is required. Sometimes, evidence that tips the scale of probability is required. Sometimes, “administrative” evidence of varying degrees is required. This, too, is not new (see, for example: CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel [28], para. 15; AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing [30], para. 20). The present matter requires highly persuasive administrative evidence, and not necessarily a large amount of evidence. It is not the quantity that is decisive, but the quality.

            And now to the matter before us in the proceedings in which I disagree with my colleagues.

 

EA 1806/19 In the Matter of Cassif

12.       As noted, my colleagues decided not to disqualify Cassif’s candidacy for the Knesset elections, and I cannot concur. In my view, an examination of the material presented to us reveals that there is no room for doubting that Cassif’s statements clearly cross the legitimate boundaries defined in the framework of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, inter alia, Cassif published the following:

Uniting the democratic forces for a struggle against the Judeo-Nazism that is taking over our society is not enough, although it is certainly needed, there is a necessity for changing the methods, you don’t sing songs against fascism, you fight (report on Channel 20, May 22, 2016, quoting Cassif).

            In another report, he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse that the current Israeli government has created, killing Arabs is legitimate. This is how one descends into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago” (report of Channel 20 of April 12, 2018). Similarly, in regard to the Hamas, which is known to be a terrorist organization that is waging a murderous war of terror against Israel (and see: HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior [31], para. 10 of the opinion of Deputy President M. Cheshin), Cassif is quoted as saying that the organization is a “political party” (report on Channel 20 of April 11, 2018). In addition, in an article on the Makor Rishon website from Feb. 7, 2019, it is reported that in the course of an interview with him, he stated that the State of Israel must not be a Jewish state. In addition to those statements, his clear, unambiguous statements expressed in a personal interview in the Ha’aretz supplement of Feb. 8, 2019, entirely fall within the scope of two of the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. Thus, Cassif presented an unadorned statement of his worldview, which includes the revocation of the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) (p. 28 of the interview) and changing the symbols and anthem of the state (p. 26 of the interview).

            One cannot ignore that it is his position that The Law of Return should be revoked, as if it were a stumbling block rather than a law that expresses a supra-constitutional principle grounded in the Declaration of Independence, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and its connection to its homeland (see, for example: HCJ 7625/06 Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior [31], para. 28 of the opinion of President M. Naor; Ariel Bendor & Elichai Shilo, Israel as a Jewish State: Constitutional Significance, in Strasburg-Cohen Volume 160 (2017) (Hebrew)). Cassif’s clear statements fall completely within the bounds of statements that express the negation of the most nuclear foundations of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, as defined long ago in the Tibi case.

13.       However, these statements are dwarfed in their intensity in view of what Cassif stated about harming IDF soldiers. This is what he said:

Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable (p. 26 of his interview with Ha’aretz).

            We are concerned with matters that are most explicitly included in the cause for disqualification for support for armed struggle against the State of Israel. The fact that harming soldiers, in certain circumstances, is viewed differently from harming civilians under international law, or that it can be defined, according to Cassif, as “guerilla warfare”, does not change the fact that his statements explicitly express granting legitimacy and support for armed struggle against the State of Israel in accordance with the cause of disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. We are concerned with clear, unambiguous statements that cannot otherwise be interpreted or explained. There is “cold comfort” in that Cassif does not see such harm as “something wonderful, delighting, or desirable”.

14.       I do not find any real repudiation of these strong statements in Cassif’s statements before the Central Elections Committee or in the affidavit he submitted to the Committee, other than a denial of things attributed to him in the Makor Rishon newspaper (sec. 10 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), which, in any case, can be given only minimal weight in view of their being “second hand”. Cassif tried to place his extreme statements in a “political” context (pp. 29-30 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019), but this does not constitute a retraction of his harsh statements. In view of the severity and clarity of the statements, a general declaration alone, as Cassif expressed in para. 9 of his affidavit to the Elections Committee, is insufficient: “The request to disqualify my candidacy is a factual distortion and misleading interpretation of my words, and I therefore completely deny what is cited there”. It might have been expected that Cassif would clarify what that “factual distortion” was, and what misleading interpretation was given to the words. But other than this general, vague statement, what Cassif declared is insufficient to refute the existence of the solid evidence grounding the causes for disqualification.

            Cassif indeed notes, in a general way, in his affidavit that he “opposes all forms of violence against any person” (Cassif’s affidavit of March 3, 2019, para. 11). However, he in no way retracted the things he said in that interview – and not what he said in regard to harming IDF soldiers, in particular. On the contrary, in his affidavit, Cassif emphasized that in that interview in the Ha’aretz supplement he noted that he opposes harm to innocent civilians (ibid.). And as for harming IDF soldiers? Cassif’s silence is deafening.

15.       In his affidavit, Cassif reiterates his explanation that the statements attributed to him are, at most, “isolated” statements that “were made in order to sharpen a particular idea”, that the style of expression that included the term “Nazi” is not “characteristic” of him in general, that the statements were made in the heat of political debate, and that we are merely concerned with metaphor (para. 13 of the affidavit to the Elections Committee of March 3, 2019). However, it cannot be said that Cassif denies those expressions, retracts or denounces them, but at most, he explains them with various excuses. In the hearing before the Elections Committee, as well, Cassif did not express a clear, concrete disclaimer as to what he said, and in particular, I did not find any clear disclaimer of the statement that there is legitimate and moral justification for harming IDF soldiers. In the end, Cassif was kind enough to tell the Committee that he opposes violence (p. 34 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). But that, as noted, is not enough. General statements according to which he rejects and opposes violence are insufficient in view of his sharp, clear statements in regard to harming IDF soldiers. According to Cassif’s approach, harming soldiers is not a form of “violence”. Moreover, when he was expressly asked in the Elections Committee hearing: “When you justify terrorist attacks upon IDF soldiers, is that not violence?” (ibid.), he did not provide a pertinent answer. In response to the question, he diverted to the causes for disqualification: “We are speaking here the language of the law, and we are talking about whether there are causes for my disqualification in light of Basic Law: The Knesset…”, while he repeated his general position that “I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all. That is one cause that I do not meet”.

16.       Even Cassif’s repeated excuse that he made the statements as a “regular citizen” and not as a public representative, and that he would “not necessarily” use those expressions if he were elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), do not work to his benefit. Cassif is currently being examined in regard to what he has already said, and upon opinions he has already expressed as a citizen. I would note in this regard that it is clear that the provisions of the law look to the future and do not seek to “punish” a candidate for his conduct in the past, but rather to contend with the fear of an elected official exploiting his status to perform improper acts (see: the Tibi case, p. 64). However, in order to answer the question whether the actions of the list or a candidate meet one of the causes for disqualification listed in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the evidence that has accumulated in regard to that list or candidate must be examined, and this, naturally, often means before they were elected to the legislature. How can one accept the argument that Cassif should not be held accountable merely because we are concerned with statements that he made as a private individual? Every statement and action of a candidate (who has not served as a member of the Knesset in the past) is examined with consideration for the fact that the person concerned is a private individual seeking that the gates of the legislature be opened before him. Every such candidate is examined with consideration for things that he said before being elected as a public representative, while the accumulated material will always be from the period prior to his candidacy.

17.       Moreover, the argument by Cassif’s attorney that only “ideas on an intellectual basis” were concerned, cannot be of help. Statements supporting armed struggle against Israel and the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state cannot be explained away by saying that they concerned an “intellectual” debate (see, for example, the Tibi case, p. 70, which was quoted above in para. 4). This is all the more so in view of Amendment no. 40 to Basic Law: The Knesset of 2017, which made it clear, as noted, in accordance with the interpretive rules set out, that a candidate will be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, incitement to racism or support for armed struggle by a hostile state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

18.       As noted (in para. 4, above), the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law create a distinction between the legitimate right of every person to express “ideas on an intellectual basis”, whatever they may be, from every platform (subject to very limited constitutional restrictions) and the statements of a candidate for election to the Knesset, where such a person seeks to move to the area of political activity. In accordance with the dictate of the legislature, theoretical ideas are examined from a different perspective when a person seeks to realize them by means of membership in the Knesset. Were Cassif’s statements examined as of an ordinary citizen, one might say that they are infuriating and enraging or that one should forcefully take exception to them, but they are protected as free speech. However, once Cassif sought to be elected to the Knesset, we must examine whether we are concerned with statements that express support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the state of Israel or whether they negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, in the sense of denying its core foundations as established in the Tibi case. If the answer is positive – and as noted, I find it difficult to think otherwise – the candidate cannot rely upon the argument that the statements were made by him as “a private person” and that he is, therefore, exempt from answering for them. That is so in view of the purpose of sec. 7A, which, as noted, limits the use of the right granted by democracy, and in the present matter, the right to vote and to be elected, in order to prevent harm to the most basic, essential principles of its existence.

            In any case, once Cassif chose to clarify in his affidavit that he would “not necessarily” use the same expressions once elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of his affidavit), the excuse that the statements were made by him as a private individual cannot be maintained. Cassif is even unwilling to declare that those severe statements will no longer leave his lips as a public representative. Cassif himself made it clear that even after being elected, it is not necessarily the case that he will not repeat those things. In so doing, Cassif also declares that he refuses to accept the rules of the game – even if ultimately elected to the legislature (which actually occurred while these lines were being written).

19.       Indeed, not infrequently, a candidate will seek to “fix up” the positions that he publicly flaunted after he is threatened with disqualification, and in the framework of disqualification proceedings he will seek to explain that things are not what they seem. However, as a rule, a candidate’s request to deny his public statements – statements that often are those that paved his way to election to the Knesset and upon which the public trust in him was based – should be taken with a grain of salt. Dissociating from such statements in the disqualification proceedings may show those “corrected” positions to be stated solely to evade the verdict, as lip service, and not reflecting an authentic position (see: the opinion of Justice E. Rubinstein in the Zoabi case, para. 48). Cassif’s statements should be measured by the same criterion by which Ben Ari’s statements were measured. The two should not be distinguished. In a certain sense, Amendment n. 46 closed the gap between the evidentiary requirement for proving the causes for disqualification in regard to negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic and support for armed conflict against the State of Israel and that of the cause of incitement to racism. Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements (as also noted in para. 47 of the position of the Attorney general in EDA 1866/19), so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

20.       However, in certain circumstances, the gates can be opened to a candidate who retracts his statements. This, for example, if the candidate convinces that the evidence presented refers to old events, while declaring that he has changed his ways (that is the situation in the matter of Ben Gvir). A candidate who changes his ways is like a “penitent”, of whom the sages said: “In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand, as it is stated: Peace, peace upon him who is far and him who is near” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b). Such a person is unlike one who “confesses but does not repent” who is likened to one who “immerses himself with a reptile in his hand”:

R. Adda b. Ahava said: To what can one compare a person who has sinned and confesses his sin but does not repent? To a man holding a reptile in his hand, for even if he immerses himself in all the waters of the world his immersion is useless for him. But if he throws it away, then as soon as he immerses himself in forty se'ahs of water, his immersion is immediately effective, as it is said: “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit, 16a).

            A fortiori in the case of Cassif, who does not even confess his expressions. Even before the Elections Committee, and in his affidavit as well, there is no retraction of his words, nor a declaration that he has changed his path. The paltry statements that Cassif uttered do not come close to the vitriolic statements that he uttered from a public platform. On this it has been said: “He who covers up his faults will not succeed,” as opposed to “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

21.       The State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is obligated to defend itself and to act against those who oppose it. My colleagues defend Cassif, and it has, indeed, been said, “Judge your neighbor justly” (Leviticus 19:15). Relying upon the Gemara in tractate Sanhedrin, Rashi explains: “Judge your neighbor favorably”. However, the Siftei Chachamim [Shabbethai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718)] adds: “That is to say, specifically when he is your neighbor judge him favorably”. In other words, when he behaves like your neighbor. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the terrible things said by Cassif do not allow us to judge him favorably, and they clearly and unambiguously meet the causes for disqualification that seek to protect the state against its destroyers and block their path to being counted among its legislators.

22.       To summarize this section, as noted, Cassif presented the core of his social and political approach in the interview with him and before the Committee, and his extreme, severe and unambiguous statements express dominant, central, core characteristics of his approach. We are concerned with persuasive, clear evidence that constitutes a “critical mass” that indicates support for armed conflict and terror against Israel, and negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The force of the evidence is bolstered by the absence of clear, concrete repudiation of his statements by Cassif.

            In my opinion, all of the above unequivocally suffices to ground the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A in accordance with the criteria and proper interpretation as delineated above and that are long established by this Court.

 

EA 1876/19 In the matter of Balad

23.       Here too, as opposed to the view of my colleagues, I am of the opinion that that there is no room for doubt that the Balad list openly undermines the State of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and openly supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

24.       The evidence presented includes various statements and actions by members of Balad, some from the immediate past. Additionally, the petitioners requesting Balad’s disqualification referred to Balad’s activity in the past, and to the statements and actions of it former head – MK Azmi Bishara – and to the relationship between its activity and its current Knesset members to Balad’s former leader. In addition to all of that, it was argued that the “State of all its Citizens” bill (hereinafter: the bill) that the Balad Knesset members sought to present before the 20th Knesset last June makes it unequivocally clear that Balad expressly denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

            In this regard, and even were I of the opinion that no significant weight should be accorded to the other evidence to which I will refer later, I am of the opinion – like position taken by the President in para. 58 of her opinion, with which I fully concur – that no one can deny that the bill expresses a negation of “nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Presenting the bill crossed the line sharpened in the Tibi case, which distinguished between one who supports a “state of all its citizens” in the sense of achieving civil equality and one who seeks to negate the minimal, core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, after reviewing the opinion of my colleague Justice Mazuz, I would add that, in my opinion, not only does the bill express a negation of “the nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel, as noted, but even denies the existence of the State of Israel as “the State of the Jewish people in the national sense”. This, in reference to the identity of the state as a place where the Jewish people realizes its right to self-determination, as my colleague so well expressed in his opinion.

            In order to understand the consequences of presenting this bill in regard to examining the disqualification of the list, I will expand somewhat on the prior proceedings in the matter of Balad.

25.       The matter of Balad was addressed in the elections for the 15th Knesset (EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [33] (hereinafter: the Ehrlich case)), and in the elections for the 16th Knesset (the Tibi case), as well as in the elections for the 18th Knesset (the Balad case). Already in the Ehrlich case in 1999 – which addressed the matter of MK Azmi Bishara, who led Balad, along with the matter of the list (when the provisions of the law permitted only the disqualification of a list and not a candidate) – it was made clear that, on their face, Bishara’s statements at the time, declaring that the Jewish people does not have a “right to self-determination”, constituted a denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Indeed, it was ultimately found that Balad’s candidacy should not be disqualified despite coming “dangerously close” to the line that cannot be crossed that is defined in sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

26.       In the Tibi case (in the framework of which the matter of the party was examined in a manner identical to that of Bishara, given the “powerful” connection between them), it was found that the actions attributed to Bishara in regard to the negation of existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and in regard to support for armed struggle were at the heart of its purposes and constitute a dominant objective of its activity that constituted a political potential that was realized in repeated activity and with great force. However, persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara was not found, and thus not against the Balad list, when it was held that Bishara’s approach as to the State of Israel as a “state of all its citizens” “comes dangerously close to the possibility of negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”, but it was not found that the “border had been crossed” (the Tibi case, p. 42). In addition. It was not found that there was sufficient evidence in regard to support of armed struggle, although there was some “doubt” in that regard (ibid.).

27.       Some clarification is required in this regard. In the Tibi case there was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the phrase “a state of all its citizens” that appears in Balad’s platform. It was held that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” can take various forms, and that a purpose that sees Israel as “a state of all its citizens” does not inherently negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, a person who acts to achieve the purpose of “a state of all its citizens” in the sense of guaranteeing equality among citizens is not the same as a person who employs that principle in order to infringe the rationale grounding the establishment of the state and thereby negates the character of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (the Tibi case, p. 22).

28.       The minority was of the opinion that the evidence, taken in its entirety, showed that the expression “a state of all its citizens” served as a codeword for “abolishing Zionism, abolishing the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and abolishing the state as a Jewish state and replacing it with another state, if not more than that” (para. 2(b) of the opinion of Deputy President (emer.) S. Levin), and that striving for “a state of all its citizens” was intended to strip the State of Israel of Zionism and of its Jewish national character (para. D of the opinion of Justice E.E. Levi).

29.       As opposed to that, the majority, as noted, did not find that the meaning of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara “crosses the line” in regard to the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This, after finding that Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, did not argue for the repeal of the Law of Return, did not deny the centrality of the Hebrew language as the language of the state, and did not oppose the holidays and symbols of Israel (also see: para. 54 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

            In other words, in the Tibi case, as well, where it was found that striving for the objective of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara and Balad was close to the disqualifying boundary, a remedy was found in the form of non-negation of the core principles of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court reiterated this position that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in Balad’s platform does not ground a cause for disqualification in the Balad case. There, too, Justice E.E. Levy, dissenting, noted that in his opinion, the vision of Balad in regard to “a state of all its citizens” was nothing but a guise for the establishment of an Arab national state in all the territory of the Land of Israel.

30.       Thus, when examining the expression “a state of all its citizens” in the framework of Balad’s platform in the past, this Court was forced to cast about in order to discover what inhered in the concept and what meaning to give it. Where a doubt was found, the doubt worked in favor of approving the list, in view of the criteria established in regard to disqualifying a list. However, now that Balad has clarified – in the framework of dominant, significant, public and clear political activity – the significance of the expression “a state of all its citizens” for it, and the steps that it is willing to take in order to realize that vision, it can no longer be said that we are concerned with an ambiguous term. Now, following the presentation of the bill, it has been made absolutely, unambiguously clear that for this list “a state of all its citizens” means annulling the principle of return, denying the principle by which the state’s primary symbols reflect the national revival of the Jewish people, and denying the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state. It cannot now be said, by any criterion, that we are not concerned with the negation of minimal, nuclear elements of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as held in the Tibi case.

31.       The fact that the bill was ultimately not brought before the plenum – only because on June 4, 2018 the Knesset presidium decided upon the drastic step of not approving its presentation to the Knesset – cannot be accounted to the list’s benefit, which argues that it is being retaliated against merely because it raised a theoretical “idea”. We are not concerned with just an “idea”, but rather with a concrete act – submitting a bill that sought to ground principles that undermine the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (and also see in regard to expression by means of submitting a bill: the second Neiman case, p. 196). In view of this bill, I also find problematic the claim by the Balad list in its appeal that the requests for disqualification were not based upon a clear, direct statement, its publications, or official notices. What is a bill if not a “clear, direct statement” that expresses the values of the list and the principles that it pursues in the most simple, “clean” manner? What need do I have in looking for publications, official notices and so forth given the submission of a bill that seeks to undermine the most nuclear foundations of the state as a Jewish state? MK Mtanes Shehadeh’s “excuse” in his affidavit (affidavit of March 3, 2019 that was presented to the Elections Committee) that the bill was submitted only to “challenge the Nation State Basic Law and to hold a public debate on the issue” changes nothing in this regard or “kosher” this clear public step. On the contrary, even if the bill was submitted out of a sense of anger and grievance, I do not see how that could act in the list’s favor. Even if the members of the list presented the bill in a moment of rage, the saying goes: “By three things may a person's character be determined: By his cup, by his purse, and by his anger” (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 68b). Rashi explains there: “In his anger – that he is not too hot tempered”. It is precisely when one is roiled and angry that a person is judged, and not when he is calm and at ease.

32.       Under these circumstances, no weight can even be given to what is stated in the affidavit that Shehadeh submitted to the Elections Committee that he and the members of Balad are committed to the principle of “as state of all its citizens” as reflected in the in Balad’s platform that was examined and approved long ago by this Court.  Balad itself clarified – in its own voice and not in the framework of quotes from newspaper articles that may be given to different interpretations – in the petition that it submitted to the Court (HCJ 4552/18) that the bill was consistent with its platform. In this sense, the claim that Balad now adheres to the platform that was examined and approved long ago – before the true nature of its vision of “a state of all its citizens”, which was recently publicly clarified and expressed as noted by Balad – cannot be accepted.

33.       That being the case, and in view of the background detailed above, I am of the view that there is no alternative but to say that by presenting the bill, and certainly in filing the petition (HCJ 4552/18) by members of Balad in which it was made clear that the bill was consistent with Balad’s platform, the Balad party crossed the line to which it had come “dangerously close” more than once in the past. In this context I would note that presenting the bill was an expression of real, substantial, clear parliamentary activity that, in my view, cannot be dismissed as a one-time or sporadic matter, as is the opinion of my colleague Justice Amit.

            The argument presented by Balad’s attorney that the matter of the bill was not raised before the Elections Committee but first and unexpectedly in the position of the Attorney General submitted to this Court, and that he is therefore unprepared to address it, cannot be accepted. Not only was this matter expressly raised in the framework of the disqualification request presented to the Elections Committee (paras. 17-24 of the Likud faction’s request to disqualify Ra’am-Balad), and not only was it raised in the hearing before the Elections Committee (p. 4 of the transcript of the hearing of the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019), but it was also addressed on the merits by Balad’s attorney, who raised the same claim made in that hearing that he raised before us that this is retribution merely for raising an “idea” (p. 35 of the transcript off the hearing before the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019). Moreover, the Ra’am-Balad list also expressly referred to the matter of the bill in the appeal that it submitted to this Court (paras. 23-25 of the appeal in EA 1876/19).

34.       In any case, beyond the fact that submitting the bill (together with what was stated in the petition) significantly and unambiguously grounds the said cause for disqualification, this bill does not exist in a vacuum. The bill is not the only evidence under consideration, although it would appear to be decisive evidence in and of itself. Additional evidence was presented that when added together points to a collection of evidence and a “critical mass” that demonstrates that we are concerned with a list that has raised the banner of open struggle against the foundations of the State of Israel.

35.       In this framework I would note that I do not believe that the fact that Balad’s activity and members were examined in the past renders addressing them now superfluous. Are we not required to examine the matter of Balad in accordance with the up-to-date material presented to us, which also casts light upon what was presented in the past? When the matter of Balad was examined in the past, the Court had before it the material that had accrued up to that date. Given that additional evidence has accrued in the interim, which might have led the Court to a different conclusion at that time, we cannot continue to rely upon conclusions drawn in the past from the material presented then while ignoring the updated material.

36.       Given the above, an examination of the entirety of the evidence in the matter of Balad and its members shows that this time it has gone too far. Even if in the past, the material presented in regard to it and its members came close to the bounds defined in the Basic Law but did not cross them, today the situation is different. Indeed, this Court found that MK Zoabi’s participation in the Marmara flotilla did not disqualify her from standing for election to the Knesset (the Zoabi case). However, I believe that weight should be accorded to her actions in examining the disqualification of the list of which she is a member (even if not in a “realistic” place), and in view of the additional evidence that has accrued in regard to that list since the Zoabi case. This is also true in regard to the Bishara matter, which was addressed in the past in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case. Only later, as was also noted in the matter of Balad (in which the matter of Bishara was not addressed as he had left the country), it became clear that Bishara was suspected of serious security offenses pursuant to which he was forced to flee the country. Therefore, in examining the current evidentiary foundation in regard to the list in its entirety, weight should also be given to this matter (even though Bishara no longer stands at the head of the party). In view of the above, can one imagine that if the matter of Bishara were examined after new material came to light that pointed to serious suspicions of committing offenses, this Court would rely upon its findings in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case without examining whether the new evidence added to the material that was examined and remained in “doubt”?

            The actions of those has since been compounded by the criminal-security related activity of MK Basel Ghattas, a member of the party who was convicted in 2017 of smuggling cellphones and other items into a prison in which security prisoners were held, as well as the conviction of another MK who was a member of the party, Said Naffaa, for the offense of contact with a foreign agent in 2014, after meeting with the deputy secretary general of the Popular Front (see the denial of his appeal in CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel [34]), which was not considered in the past in the matter of the entire party.

37.       Added to all of that was the connection affirmed by Balad to its erstwhile leader Azmi Bishara in the course of the annual convention of the Ra’am-Balad party in Nazereth, when it deemed it appropriate to send him a “blessing”. And note that it was made clear to the Elections Committee that this matter was not denied (pp. 29-32 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). By that, the present Balad list also declared that it is the successor of the person who led it in the past. It should be emphasized that we are not concerned only with a relationship with Bishara that justifies disqualifying the list (compare: the Balad case, para. 20), and I am not unaware that of the list’s argument that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of MK Naffaa, who has not been a member of the Balad party since 2010, or the actions of Zoabi, who is in an “unrealistic” place on the list. We are concerned with an aggregation of additional, compounded evidence over the course of years that indicates a significant, persuasive, and unambiguous tapestry in regard to meeting the causes of disqualification. An additional connection to Bishara was also presented in the article in the Ha’aretz newspaper of Aug. 18, 2014, according to which then members of the list – Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas – met with Bishara in Qatar, which was not denied by Shehadeh (pare. 8 of Shehadeh’s affidavit to the Elections Committee). To all of this is added the current conduct of the members of the list in the form of giving unambiguous, blunt support for terrorist actors who were convicted and incarcerated, whom the current head of the list, MK Shehadeh, refers to as “political prisoners” (article in the Makor Rishon newspaper of Jan. 13, 2019). This is compounded by unambiguous statements in a recorded interview (on Galei Yisrael radio) in the course of which Shehadeh stated in his own words that “every struggle against the occupation is legitimate” and that “we support every popular struggle”.

            Thus, the entirety of the clear, unambiguous evidence – together with the most significant piece of evidence concerning the submission of the bill – shows that the dominant characteristics at the center of the list’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action are directed at infringing protected values. The list vigorously acts to realize its objectives through actions and verbal statements.

38.       Under these circumstances, the list’s argument that part of the evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates of the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections to the 21st Knesset can be of no assistance. The candidates of the 21st Knesset sought, of their own initiative, to join a list that has a “rich” past as detailed above. We are concerned with people who seek to join an existing list based upon the “reputation” that it has acquired, the ideology that is its banner, its purposes and actions that were expressed on various public platforms, and of course, its supporters. The candidates’ distancing themselves from the action of that list – at least in regard to the matter of the bill that was submitted during the term of the 20th Knesset – cannot be accepted. Beyond the fact that evidence was presented that indicates a real connection to its erstwhile leader Bishara, we cannot countenance the argument that the current members of Balad do not stand behind Balad’s platform that Balad itself declared in the 20th Knesset was consistent with what was stated in the bill that was submitted. The claim that we are concerned with “a new generation” cannot be accepted when it concerns the disqualification of a list regarding which clear, unambiguous evidence was presented regarding the meeting of a cause for disqualification.

39.       According to the position of the Attorney General as expressed before us (in sec. 44 of his written position as well as in the oral arguments – despite the fact that he said absolutely nothing on this matter in the written position presented to the Elections Committee), there is nothing in the bill that would lead to the disqualification of the entire list because we are concerned with a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and not of Balad alone. In my opinion, the Ra’am-Balad list cannot be approved for this reason alone. It is difficult to accept the argument that the existence of a cause for disqualification can be “healed” by joining one list to another in a joint list. In view of the purposes of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the combining of lists cannot confer “immunity” or a defense to a party that has deviated from the path. This, while undermining the fundamental principles defined in the framework of the Basic Law, is not repaired by adding a party. The Sages taught us the principle: “Woe to the wicked person and woe to his neighbor,” and “Blessed is the righteous person and blessed are his neighbors,” which is derived from the arrangement of the Israelite encampment in the desert. Thus, the tribe of Reuben, which encamped beside the members of Kehat, was punished with them in the dispute with Korach and his followers, while the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, which encamped beside Moses, Aaron and his sons, became great Torah scholars (Numbers 3:29 and Rashi ad. loc.). If that is so for the arrangement of an encampment and the placement of neighbors, all the more so when we are concerned with a party joining with another. Joining together is premised upon a shared ideological, political, and conceptual platform. As the prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We cannot accept the argument that if there is a cause for the disqualification of the Balad party, the very joining of Ra’am suffices to remedy it. The joining of the Balad party with the Ra’am party does not purify it, but rather it contaminates the Ra’am party that tied its fate with it in a joint list. The “pure” does not purify the “impure”, but rather the “impure” corrupts the “pure”. It would be better were parties to act cautiously when choosing to join parties whose extremist course is on the boundary (and certainly when it crosses the boundary) defined in the Basic Law.

            To summarize, in my opinion, both in the matter of Cassif and in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list, “all else has failed” even according to the strict criterion of my colleague Justice Sohlberg.

40.       In conclusion, my colleagues’ interpretation in regard to the disqualification of a single candidate and in regard to the disqualification of a list on the cause of support for armed struggle against the State of Israel and the cause of denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state render the words of the legislature merely theoretical. The Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 71a) addresses the elements of the offense of an individual – the stubborn and rebellious son, and of a group – the idolatrous city, which have committed certain offenses. However, the Tannaim interpreted the elements of the offenses so rigidly that that the Talmud concludes: “There never was and never will be a stubborn and rebellious son. And why was it written? So that you may expound upon it an receive reward”, and: “There never has been an idolatrous city and there never will be one. And why was it written? So that you may expound and receive reward” (a similar expression also appears in regard to Job, of whom it was said: “Job never existed and was never created, but was a parable” (BT Bava Batra 15a). However, alongside this view we find the view of Rabbi Yochanan, who was of the opinion that these were not merely theoretical matters, and who states in regard to the stubborn and rebellious son, “I saw him”, and in regard to the idolatrous city, “I saw it”. We are concerned with practical matters that were and will be in the future. By analogy, the above is applicable to the matters before us, as well.

            And so I say loudly and clearly: “I saw him,” “I saw it,” and we cannot turn our eyes away from seeing.

 

Justice G. Karra:

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2). I would add that the accumulated critical mass of statements and actions detailed at length in the President’s opinion thoroughly ground the conclusion that incitement to racism is a dominant, firmly rooted, and central purpose of Ben Ari’s doctrine. The escalation of racist statements over the last years leaves no possibility for accepting his artificial explanations, not even to the extent of raising doubt as to the intention and purpose of the statements.

            From among Ben Ari’s racist statements and actions, I would like to spotlight a dark, severe act mentioned in para. 44 of the President’s opinion, that is lost in the large catalogue of his inciteful publications. I refer to the act of tearing up the New Testament and throwing it into the waste basket when Ben Ari was serving as a member of the Knesset in the years 2009 to 2013. It is an act that has nothing to do with incitement against Arabs, but it serves to show us that Ben Ari’s racist worldview, which he has espoused over the course of years, is much broader and deeper than incitement against Arabs, whom he sees as enemies. It would appear that this racism is deeply rooted in hatred of the “other” and the different, per se.

            Approving the candidacy of a person who incites to racism and hatred of the other would taint Israeli democracy, and therefore, a normative statement is required saying that such an inciter must be relegated from the Israeli Knesset.

 

Justice N. Hendel:

  1. I concur in the clear, comprehensive opinion of my colleague President E. Hayut. I would briefly sharpen what I see as the main points in regard to each of the actors – candidates and lists – examined in the present proceedings, regarding which there are disagreements among the members of this panel. I will also present my position on a number of general issues regarding which questions or doubts were raised – the probability test, the consequences of two parties running jointly in regard to the existence of a cause for the disqualification of one of them, and the interpretation of the cause “denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state”.

The relationship between law and elections can be likened to two pillars. One pillar says: “This is democracy’s holiday. An equal vote for every citizen. The people must have its say. The Court does not – and must not – take a stand as to the desired results”. The other pillar says: “Elections without law may distort democracy. Not a day of celebration but of mourning. Bribery, bullying, or a regime takeover of the elections. The answer is the open eyes of the law as written, expressed, and intended. There must be rules even for the smallest details: the timeframe must be strictly observed; the ballot box must be accessible; who can vote and who can be elected. Maintaining the laws is also vital to democracy”. While the first pillar maintains a distance between the law and the elections, the second requires involvement and supervision. Is there a contradiction between the two? I believe that the answer is in the negative, and it is unsurprising. The two pillars sing the praises of democracy together. In other words: there is no contradiction between democracy and the Court’s supervision over the rules. On the contrary, the Court acts to advance democratic principles by virtue of the authority conferred upon it by the legislature.

            Democratic elections are not self-evident. History gives context. In the past, and for a very long period, change of regime was achieved by military coup or the death of the autocratic ruler. Democracy changed the rules. Not power but election. Decisions are made not by the powerful but rather every citizen has equal power. That is the aspiration, and it must strictly be put into practice. It is not a simple task. After all, the voice of the single voter is not, of itself, strong in comparison to the regime. Democracy strives to preserve its character and not lose it in the course of elections. This gives rise to the role of the Court and the proximity of the pillars.

  1. Israeli law establishes when a candidate or a list should be prevented from participating in the elections due to their objectives, actions, and expressions. Section 7 of Basic Law: The Knesset presents the substantive test and the procedures for preventing a list or candidate from participating in elections for the Knesset. This section, and section 63A of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969, establish the procedures for this. The substance is defined by three causes for disqualification:

 

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

The procedures are that when the Central Elections Committee for the Knesset Elections prevents the participation of a candidate, the approval of a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court is required. It is not an appeal but an approval proceeding. The law chose to introduce the Court into the proceedings. It is not post facto judicial review but an ex ante decision. For the prevention of the participation of a list or the approval of a candidate of a list – there is an appeals process.

We addressed the tension between the two pillars presented. Each holds great power in our legal system, and thus the sensitivity required in the course of moving between them in practice and in real time. The path chosen by this Court is one of caution and self-restraint before it prevents the participation of a candidate or a list. Doubt acts in favor of the candidate. This is the consistent approach of the case law in election matters, as explained by my colleague the President. It is interesting to turn to another area of law in which doubts wields great power. In criminal law, a person can be convicted if the charge is proved beyond reasonable doubt. The reason for this is the recognition of the regime’s power to taint and punish the individual. As opposed to this, in Knesset elections, the power of doubt lay in a different consideration – the role of the voter in choosing the candidate and the list it prefers. This Court does not eagerly intervene in election matters. On the other hand, the law requires it to do so in the appropriate circumstances. Just as the will of the electorate must be honored, so too the will of the legislature in such matters. The compromise – or more precisely, the proper balance – is to employ the law only to prevent candidacy in exceptional cases in which, for example, the doubt is not of substance and is not rooted in reality. This rule is intended to permit the voter to express its position on the matter within the four cubits of the ballot box. As opposed to criminal law, in which the court establishes facts in regard to the defendant’s acts and intentions – in the present matter, we look not only backward but forward as well: is the candidate or the list, at the time of the elections, expected to act contrary to the causes enumerated in the law if elected – but in the present and not necessarily in the past. We are thus concerned with a certain evaluation in regard to the future.

However, in the exceptional case in which the candidacy of a candidate or a list meets the following criteria: the cause is a dominant characteristic of the list or the candidate; there is clear, unambiguous evidence of the cause; there is active conduct, including expression in the case of a candidate, for realizing the wrongful objectives; there is a critical mass of highly credible evidence (see the detailed description in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President). Only if these conditions are met is there the necessary certainty to justify the result of disqualification. In the background stands the right to vote and to be elected. That underlies the democratic foundation of elections. And note that the right to be elected has direct consequences for the right to vote.

Another aspect of the matter is remorse or a candidate’s recanting an objective or activity related to one of the constitutional causes. The reason is self-evident. The decision is not personal or punitive but rather institutional and preventative. In other words, its purpose is to prevent an inappropriate actor from becoming a member of the next Knesset. Of course, we are not concerned merely with a declarative test. There must be an examination of whether there are grounds to conclude that the declaration is sincere. Or more precisely – that the declaration is not sincere. Of course, there is a possibility that a candidate may not live up to his declarations. This is not a danger that would justify expanding the list of disqualified actors. If a candidate or list does not live up to its expectations, there are “sanctions” and other means for contending with the matter, whether in the course of the Knesset’s term or in the elections for the next Knesset.

3.         Two points to conclude the general sections. The first concerns the dissenting opinions of my colleagues. I have read the opinions of my colleagues Justice N. Sohlberg and Justice D. Mintz. My colleague Justice Sohlberg is of the opinion that no one should be prevented from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesst, while my colleague Justice Mintz is of the opinion that along with Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif and the Ra’am-Balad list should be prevented from participating in the elections for the Knesset. In my opinion, and pursuant to the above, Justice Sohlberg’s approach might lead to the non-disqualification even of candidates who clearly meet the causes for disqualification. This, while making even the strict case-law tests weighed prior to preventing the participation of a candidate or list in the elections more strict. As for the approach of my colleague Justice Mintz, in my view, his approach might lead to over-disqualification of candidates and lists from both sides. It would appear to me that the path taken by the case law in the past and in the present embraces both of the pillars presented above. Disqualification is imposed cautiously and only exceptionally.

            The second point is that of the symmetry test. My colleague Justice Sohlberg presented a statement by MK Michael Eitan in which he asks: “Where is the symmetry?” I agree with this question and would only like to sharpen the point. Symmetry does not have to be expressed in the final result, but rather in the application of equal criteria. Aspiring to symmetry in order to balance the results is a quasi-political consideration that the Court cannot adopt. I will allow myself to say that reading the opinions of my colleagues – of the majority and the minority – shows that the conclusions were based upon a legal approach and the examination of the evidence, and not upon any desire to maintain equally balanced results.

            Armed with these tools, I will conduct an individual examination of the relevant actors – Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

4.         Michael Ben Ari: The relevant cause in the matter of Ben Ari is “incitement to racism”. We are concerned with some forty different statements, most of which were uploaded to the Facebook page of “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, such that the matters cannot be denied. Indeed, Ben Ari does not deny them. Most of the material dates from the year preceding the elections. My colleague the President presented the relevant statements (paras. 38-41 of fer opinion). It makes for difficult reading. What was presented suffices, and there is no need to present it again, Comparing the statements with the language of the law raises the question of what is the test for “incitement to racism”?

            I will begin with the term “incitement”. Not racism but incitement to racism. The hand or mouth of one and the hearing ear of the other. In other words, we are not concerned with personal views that the candidate keeps to himself. The opinions must be expressed in order to incite to racism. In addition, my colleague Justice M. Mazuz referred to the probability test. In his opinion, that test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. I agree with his conclusion and reasoning. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. Such a test would be too speculative and very difficult to apply at the time of the elections. Additionally, the basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes. In summary, I accept his conclusion that “we are concerned with causes of ‘conduct’ not ‘results’” (para. 2 of his opinion).

            Now to the question of what constitutes “racism”. My colleague the President addressed, inter alia, the aspects of hatred, hostility, persecution, degradation, and humiliation (paras. 25-32 of her opinion). In regard to Ben Ari’s candidacy, I will say: there is no need to establish the minimal threshold for disqualifying a candidate on the basis on incitement to racism. It suffices to find that in this case, the candidate exceeded the threshold by a wide margin. His statements seek to influence conduct. And note that the lack of a need to prove the elements of the probability test does not contradict the fact that the aspiration to influence conduct in practice reinforces the ground for disqualification. In his statements, Ben Ari espouses the denial of civil rights to the Arab public. So in regard to participating in public tenders and so in regard to their ability to live in cities. He supports their collective deportation in certain circumstances, and employs violent imagery in regard to that community, including shooting. The evidence is very substantial, unambiguous, and dominant in his doctrine.

            In his affidavit to the Elections Committee, Ben Ari argues that he is not a racist, in that he accepts that every person – including the Arabs – are created in God’s image. Only then does Ben Ari proceed to the loyalty test. He is not against Arabs because of how they were born, but because they failed the loyalty test. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Arabs are not loyal. That “overwhelming majority” was defined in various statements: from 99% to a few who can be counted on the fingers, and Ben Ari never met a loyal Arab. Thus, they have all become enemies. This is the fallacy at the base of incitement to racism. As President Shamgar held, racism is not just a matter that derives from the biology of the other (EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [5], 191-192). Racist views can also be examined in accordance with theories, conclusions, and factors that arose after a person’s birth and not upon the DNA that characterizes a group of the population. Not just genetics but epigenetics. Ben Ari did not explain the meaning of the “loyalty test” – what are the criteria of this test, when does one fail it, and how is it that with the exceptions of a very small number of individuals, all Arabs belong to the disloyal group. We are concerned with very severe matters that are not based upon facts but upon a circular conclusion. The results are harsh. An Arab is presumed to be an enemy who must be dealt with. This, by means of denial of rights, deportation, or the possibility of violent treatment. For example, it was stated that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live, but rather “a firing squad kills him, he is done away with”; that the “murderers” should not be employed, also in reference to the Arab residents of Israeli cities; that affirmative action should be rescinded in view of the “treasonous” and “murderous” character of Arabs; that Arabs are a “murderous people, a murderous nation”; and that the village from which a terrorist went to an “airport” should be uprooted and its residents “flown” to other countries.

5.         I will clarify the matter from another perspective. One may ask why these particular causes established in the law were chosen. The cause of support for armed struggle against the state is clear and requires no explanation. The cause of denial of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State was intended to defend the existing foundations of the state. As for incitement to racism, we are concerned with a desire to deny the legitimacy of a group. In a varied, multi-group society like that of the State of Israel, this harms the nature of the society. This is striking when we are concerned with some twenty percent of the population. It saddens me to say that reading Ben Ari’s positions – and the reader can read paras. 38-41 of the opinion of my colleague the President – leads not only to racism in the form of humiliation and hatred, but also to severe acts that might undermine social order or create discriminatory law in regard to the foundations of civil rights, including the right to remain a citizen of the state. This is not due to the actions of the group, not due to criminal offenses perpetrated or plans to do harm, but because they do not meet the conception of a proper minority as Ben Ari understands it. By that, I am not finding that he has committed a crime, but there are special requirements in regard to lists and candidates for the Knesset. Particularly in a system in which a representative often represents a specific group, we must make certain that even if he does not fight for the rights of the group, he cannot fundamentally deny the legitimacy of the other group and its right to elementary rights. And all the more so, harm and violence lacks any legitimacy.

6.         The conclusion from all of the above is that this is an unambiguously extreme case. And note well, Ben Ari did not express remorse, but rather embraced his position while explaining that he is not a racist and does not reject Arabs on the basis of their birth. To clarify the picture, let us compare him to Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir and to former candidate Baruch Marzel. It can be assumed that the three share a similar ideology, in that they ran together on the same list. However, this Court refrained from disqualifying Marzel and Ben Gvir. The decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir in these proceedings was unanimous. What difference is there between him and Ben Ari, who was disqualified by an eight-judge majority? It would appear that the tests of the strength of the evidence, its extent, quality, and unambiguity led to that result. But we would note one additional criterion: expressing remorse. Both Marzel and Ben Gvir informed the Court that they intended to act in accordance with the requirements of the law, including the causes for disqualification that it establishes. Even if they behaved differently in the past, they declared that that is how they would conduct themselves. They understood and internalized the qualifying conditions for Knesset candidacy. Ben Ari was not a partner to that choice. He continues to support the views that he expressed. We are not concerned with some technical defect or lack of comprehension. Just as we must respect the manner in which Ben Gvir and Marzel presented their arguments at the moment of truth, so we must respect Ben Ari’s position that justifies his disqualification. My colleagues spoke of how, due to its history, the Jewish people in particular must be sensitive to statements like those expressed by Ben Ari. In my view, we should add that it is not just the history of the Jewish people, but also its faith.  But truth be told, there is no need for that. In these circumstances, there is not even a need to demonstrate the matter by a thought experiment in which Ben Ari would express his views in another country against Jews.

7.         Ofer Cassif: The disqualification request points to two causes that can bar his participation in the Knesset elections. The first is “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and the second is “support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel”. The evidence presented against him relies upon four publications, the central of which is an interview he gave to the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. It would appear that my colleague Justice Mintz addressed both causes together, but there is a difference in the scope of the evidence and in Cassif’s explanations in regard to each cause, which requires that they be addressed separately. My colleague presented Cassif’s case as so clear as to leave no doubt, and according to his approach, there is no possibility of arriving at a different result.

            Below, I will sketch the general outline of why I hold a different view. The question in regard to Cassif, as for every candidate, is whether there is justification for preventing him from being elected as a member of Knesset in view of the causes established in the Basic Law. As I explained above, the matters are examined in a particular period of time, with a view to the future, and in regard to the candidates functioning in the legislature if he be elected. Past statements and actions may serve as the evidentiary foundation in regard to a position in the present and in the future. The purpose is not to punish improper actions and statements, but to ascertain whether the candidate constitutes an exception that justifies barring his participation in the elections. Cassif said things in the past, although not with great frequency and consistency, that would require him to explain why he should not be prevented from participating in the elections. Cassif’s answer to this is clear, consistent, and divided into three parts: one, in regard to the possibility that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, is that he does not support violence, not in the past and certainly not at present. I believe that an examination of the matter, as I will explain, supports that conclusion. Even if Cassif spoke harshly, there is a lack of a foundation proving that he supports violence – certainly the foundation needed to prove that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

            The second part of his answer concerns the possibility of negating the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, he does not deny that he has made statements in the past against various symbols of the state and against the Law of Return, but he declared that he accepts the platform of his list – Hadash-Ta’al – and does not, in that or any other frameworks, act or call for the annulment of the symbols or the Law of Return. He accepts the parliamentary rules. In other words, not only is this not a case of a dominant purpose, but rather there is no such purpose at all. As I explained above, the Court has consistently granted weight to a change of position and a declaration in regard to an absence of intent to act or express oneself contrary to the causes enumerated in Basic Law: The Knesset. As noted, this consideration, applied mutatis mutandis to other causes, is what allowed the candidacy of Baruch Marzel in the past, as well as that of Itamar Ben Gvir at present. It his unwillingness to follow that path that stands in Ben Ari’s way.

            The third part concerns various statements by Cassif that compare the State of Israel and the members of its government to Nazi Germany. My colleague Justice Mintz gave weight to those statements. We are concerned with shameful statements that do no honor to one who makes them, and certainly not to one who seeks election a member of Knesset. It were better had they never been said, and one hopes that if Cassif is elected to the next Knesset, he will refrain from acting in this manner. However, as my colleague the President noted in her opinion – and this is the third part of Cassif’s response – those statements do not fall within the scope of any of the causes enumerated in sec. 7A, and to my understanding, the Court cannot take them into account in examining the disqualification of a candidate. In this regard, I would note that the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz also referred to Cassif’s statement in his affidavit (para. 13) that he would “not necessarily use those expressions if elected to the Knesset” (emphasis added). According to his approach, the absence of an undertaking by Cassif in regard to his future conduct does not work in his favor. However, and see paras. 12 and 13 of the affidavit, it appears that this statement referred to the shameful statements mentioned above, and not to statements related to the causes enumerated in the law, such that I do not think that this can be held against him in this proceeding.

            In view of the severity of the cause of supporting armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it would be proper to present Cassif’s own words as stated in his affidavit to the Elections Committee. He affied that “I have never called for violence, and I am opposed to violence as such against any person”. As my colleague the President noted, Cassif explained to the Elections Committee that “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence […]” and stated further on that “I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all”. In regard to the definition of the term “terror” as opposed to “guerilla warfare” in all that concerns harm to soldiers, Cassif’s attorney emphasized in the hearing before us that the statements were made in the course of an academic debate on the subject and that one should not infer that he expressed support for harming soldiers from the presentation of his position in the matter:

He said that he has a dispute with the term “terror” even in the UN there is a dispute about this word. He wrote this and teaches his students. The dispute about the Prevention of Terror Ordinance then was a debate. Therefore, what he says about this matter of who is or isn’t a terrorist from an intellectual and academic perspective is debated […] these terms that he employs are not foreign to the Supreme Court and not to the international humanitarian court. Not one word here is a call [to terror] (p. 9 of the transcript).

            Even if one does not agree with the definitions adopted by Cassif, and even if they cause indignation, in the context presented to us they cannot be taken to imply, of themselves and certainly not given the entire collection of statements and explanations, support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. It is sad that his words show, in my opinion, a certain sense of contempt for the lives of IDF soldiers and complacency in regard to many citizens who have lost what was most dear to them in the name of defending the homeland. In such matters, a member of Knesset and a candidate for election as a member of Knesset is expected to act with sensitivity. But there is a gap between such a failing and the existence of a cause to prevent participation in the elections.

            In summation, I would say as follows. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif statements that support armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel or the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. As noted above, there are four conditions that must be met in order to bar a candidate from participating in the Knesset elections: the cause for disqualification constitutes a dominant feature; the existence of clear, unambiguous evidence of the existence of the cause; activity, including expression, for the realization of the wrongful purposes; a critical mass of highly credible evidence. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif expressions of support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. He made it clear that he always was and always will be against violence. As for his positions on the symbols of the state and the Law of Return, he declared that he abides his party’s platform. In regard to both causes, the evidentiary foundation is sparse, certainly not unambiguous, and lacks the requirement of dominance or activity for the realization of the purpose. In other words, both independently and cumulatively, the evidentiary foundation against him does not meet the four tests.

8.         Ra’am-Balad: The proceeding in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list focused upon the Balad party. It is argued that the central piece of evidence for disqualifying the list in these elections is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that Balad sought to propose to the 20th Knesset. The bill was submitted to the Knesset presidium, but that body did not approve its presentation before the Knesset.

            The bill was of a general character. For example: “The state is a state of all its citizens, in which the regime is democratic; the state’s regime is based upon the values of the dignity of the person, his liberty and his being an equal among equals”. There is also reference to the language, the symbols and the anthem, which will be in the same spirit. It is argued that the positive implies the negative, that is, that the practical significance of this bill is the revocation of the Law of Return and changing the symbols of the state and its anthem such that they would not express its being Jewish but only democratic. Taking this step carries some weight. It is more forceful than a newspaper interview, for example. It is parliamentary activity that can bear fruit. The list’s attorney argued that the bill was a sort of “gimmick” in response to Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. This argument, in itself, is insufficient. The bill refers to the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish (and democratic) state, and even if some party or other is frustrated as a result of the activity of the government and the Knesset, it is not exempt from the requirements of the Basic Law. However, the submission of the bill must be examined not just on the legal level but on the factual level. To be more precise, the factual level constitutes a central part of the legal examination. Thus, the party’s conduct in regard to the causes under the law must be examined in accordance with the strict rules. From that perspective, the bill, by itself, does not cross the necessary threshold. First, as already stated, one of the conditions is that of dominance in the purposes and active conduct. It was not argued that the bill also appears in the party’s platform. Second, the bill is signed by the Knesset members who served at the time, some of whom are no longer candidates in the current list, and others are place only symbolically. Thus, for example, MK Hanin Zoabi was placed in the 118th spot on the list. In regard to the candidates who appeared before us and who are placed at the top of the list, it turns out that they do not support that position. Their attorney even referred to the bill as a kind of mistake. And again, the matter must be examined according to the relevant tests. It would not appear that the desire to annul the anthem, the law and the symbols is dominant, or that they are actively working in such a manner, in particular in regard to the figures who currently represent the list. On the contrary, those positions are not part of the party’s planned parliamentary activity. Not just remorse, but a lack of devotion to the purpose, and conduct at a very specific time. Were the list continuing in that conduct – since the Law of Return remains in force – the situation might be different. But that is not the situation before us.

            From reading the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz, it appears that he does not agree with the reasoning of the majority. He expanded upon the subject of the party’s conduct that was addressed in the case law in the past, in regard to previous Knesset elections. Of course, one can be of this or that opinion in regard to decisions rendered in regard to previous Knesset elections, but it does not appear that at present, significant weight should be attributed to conduct that this Court already decided was insufficient to prevent the party’s participation in the elections. Thus, the focus is upon the new material, and that is what I addressed.

            My colleague Justice Mazuz is of the opinion that the term “Jewish state” in the context of Basic Law: The Knesset should be understood as referring to the identity of the state in the national sense. In other words, it does not necessarily refer to a change of the internal content, like the state’s symbols. In my view, it would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. So it is in regard to other states as well. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past (see, e.g., EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [35], 21-22, according to which “the ‘nuclear’ characteristics that shape the minimal definition of the state being a Jewish state…the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel in which Jews will be the majority; Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; Jewish heritage is a central component of its religious and cultural heritage”). Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. The primary practical problem concerns proposals to annul the Law of Return, and not merely the changing of the symbols. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise, and thus I would take exception to my colleague Justice Mazuz’s distinction. Of course, when I say “internal”, I refer to the most basic matters, but there is no need for elaboration or for a precise delineation.

            A final point. According to the position of the Attorney General, there is significance to the fact that the Ra’am and Balad parties are running together on one list. As opposed to this, I am of the opinion that as a rule, a party that has been tainted by a cause that disqualifies it from participating in the elections cannot cross the hurdle by joining with another party. Such an approach would afford too easy an exemption for a party that should be disqualified simply because it joins with another. In my view, the Attorney General’s approach, according to which weight should be given to the combining of parties – even if this does not grant an “exemption” – is problematic. The reason for this is that it is not clear how to calculate such a factor. There is also the fear that parties might join together so that one will “clean” the other of the cause that has tainted it. It is one thing to recognize remorse, and another to grant a seal of approval due to joining another party. I am of the opinion that if there is a cause for disqualification, then the law requires that the list be barred from running, subject, of course, to restricting disqualification to exceptional cases. Therefore, I did not grant weight to the arguments concerning the relationship between Balad and Ra’am in examining the matters.

9.         The right to vote and the right to be elected are twins, but not identical. In practice, “to vote and be elected” is presented as a single right, when each actually has an independent dimension. This is so, despite the strong connection between them, regarding which it suffices to mention that the right to be elected influences the right to vote. I will demonstrate what the two rights share and what distinguishes them in regard to the issue addressed in these proceedings – the application of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset.  

            The right to vote focuses upon the identity of the decider and the right to be elected on the question of who is qualified to represent the people, or in our case – who is not qualified to represent them. It would appear that the right to vote places its emphasis upon the individual. The vote of every voter is worth no less that the vote of any other voter, regardless of his status, position, conduct, or statements. Therefore, the criteria for identifying who is entitled to vote are formal. As opposed to this, the question as to who can be elected is not merely formal, but value based. This is how we are to understand the causes that prevent participation in the elections that concern not only support for armed struggle, but also negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and incitement to racism. Its purpose is to define the society and its boundaries. The purpose of the right to vote is to protect the individual, whereas the purpose of the right to be elected is to protect the unity of the nation. Both rights are precious.

***

It was therefore decided, on March 17, 2019, by a majority, in accordance with the opinion of President E. Hayut, not to approve the decision of the Central Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif; to grant the appeal in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and rule that it is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset; to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and rule that he is barred from participating in these elections. In addition, the Court unanimously decided to deny the appeal in all that regards the Election Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list, and to deny the appeal in the matter of the non-disqualification of Ben Gvir.

Given this day, 15 Tammuz 5779 (July 18, 2019).

 

 

[1] Mishna Eduyot 5:7 – ed.

[2] Jeremiah 51:5 – ed.

                                                                                                                                    EDA 1806/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1866/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1867/19

                                                                                                                                  EA 1876/19

 

In re:                                      Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

 

Plaintiffs in EDA 1806/19:               1.         MK Avigdor Lieberman

                                                            2.         MK Oded Forer

                                                            3.         Yisrael Beiteinu Faction

Appellants in EA 1866/19:               1.         Issawi Frej

                                                            2.         Ofer Kornfeld

                                                            3.         Atara Litvak

                                                            4.         Debbie Ben Ami

                                                            5.         Sonia Cohen

                                                            6.         Richard Peres

                                                            7.         Eran Yarak

                                                            8.         Gil Segal

                                                            9.         Shifrit Cohen Hayou Shavit

                                                            10.       Osama Saadi

                                                            11.       Wiam Shabita

                                                            12.       Yousouf Fadila

                                                            13.       Meretz Faction

                                                            14.       MK Stav Shaffir

15.       Reform Movement for Religion and State – Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism  

16.       Tag Meir Forum

Appellants in EA 1867/19:               1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Hoshaya Harari

                                                            4.         Yochai Revivo

                                                            5.         MK David Bitan

                                                            6.         Elidor Cohen

                                                            7.         Yaakov (Kobi) Matza

                                                            8.         Yigal Harari

                                                            9.         Yaakov Dekel

                                                            10.       Shimon Boker

                                                            11.       Yossi Shalom Haim Rozenboim

Appellant in EA 1876/19:                             Ra’am List

 

                                                                        v.

 

Respondents in EDA 1806/19:         1.         Dr. Ofer Cassif

                                                            2.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1866/19:            1.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari

                                                            2.         Itamar Ben Gvir, Adv.

                                                            3.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            4.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1867/19:            1.         Hadash-Ta’al List

                                                            2.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            3.         Attorney General

Respondents in EA 1876/19:            1.         Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

                                                            2.         Likud Faction et al.

                                                            3.         Dr. Michael Ben Ari et al.

                                                            4.         Attorney General

                                                            5.         The Knesset

 

EDA 1806/19: Approval procedure under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1866/19: Appeal under sec. 63A(d) and sec. 65(A1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1867/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a1) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

EA 1876/19: Appeal under sec. 64(a) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969

 

The Supreme Court

Before: President E. Hayut, Justice N. Hendel, Justice U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice N. Sohlberg, Justice M. Mazuz, Justice A. Baron, Justice G. Karra, Justice D. Mintz

 

Supreme Court cases cited:

1.         EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. MK Ahmad Tibi, IsrSC 57 (4) 1 (2003)

 

2.         EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset (Jan. 21, 2009)

3.         EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee for the 19th Knesset v. MK Hanin Zoabi (Feb. 18, 2015)

4.         EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset, IsrSC 39(2) 225 (1985) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/neiman-v-chairman-elections-committee]

5.         EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 42(4), 177 (1988) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/kach-v-central-election-committee-twelfth-knesset]

6.         EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi, (Dec. 10, 2015)

7.         LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties, IsrSC 50(2) 45 (1996)

8.         EA 1/65 Yaakov Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset, IsrSC 19(3) 365 (1964) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/yeredor-v-chairman-central-elections-committee-sixth-knesset]

9.         EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 43(4) 221 (1989)

10.       EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset (unpublished)

11.       EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 13th Knesset, IsrSC 46(3) 541 (1992)

12.       HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset, (May 27, 2018)

13.       HCJ 11225/03 Azmi Bishara v. Attorney General, IsrSC 60(4) 287 (2006)

14.       HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General, (Dec. 9, 2015)

15.       HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, Haifa District, IsrSC 27(2) 764 (1973)

16.       HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 53(5) 520 (1999)

17.       AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police, IsrSC 57(1) 61 (2002)

18.       LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet Gesher-Tzomet List for the Nazereth Illit Local Council Elections, IsrSC 53(1) 351

19.       HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset, (Dec. 30, 2018)

20.       EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

21.       HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party, IsrSC 49(1) 758 (1995)

22.       HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board, IsrSC 41(1) 421 (1987)

23.       HCJ 399/85 MK Rabbi Meir Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority Directorate, IsrSC 41(3) 255 (1987)

24.       HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner, (Dec/ 28, 2016)

25.       HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685 (2004)

26.       CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach Advocates v. Assessment Officer – Akko, (May 25, 2019)

27.       CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel, (Sept. 5, 2018)

28.       CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron, (Dec. 3, 2017)

29.       CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel, (Nov. 25, 2018)

30.       AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing, Southern District – Ministry of Public Security, (Feb. 26, 2019)

31.       HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 61(2) 202 (2006) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-minister-interior]

32.       HCJ 7625/06 Martina Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior, (March 31, 2016) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/rogachova-v-ministry-interior]

33.       EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee, IsrSC 53(3) 38 (1999)

34.       CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel, (Aug. 31, 2015)

35.       EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset v. Tibi, IsrSC 57(4) 1 (2003)

 

 

Judgment (Reasoning)

(July 18, 2019)

 

President E. Hayut:

Introduction

1.         On March 6, 2019, the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset (hereinafter: the Elections Committee or the Committee) approved a request for the disqualification of Dr. Ofer Cassif (hereinafter: Cassif) from running as a candidate for the Knesset on the list of “Hadash – headed by Ayman Odeh, Ta’al – headed by Ahmed Tibi” (hereinafter: Hadash-Ta’al) but rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list in its entirety. The Committee further accepted two requests to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Ra’am-Balad) and to bar Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir from standing for election.

            These decisions were the focus of the appeal and approval proceedings before us.

            The three appeals – EA 1866/19, EA 1867/19 and EA 1876/19 – which will be presented below, were filed on March 12, 2019, in accordance with sec. 63A(d) of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969 (hereinafter: the Elections Law) (in regard to the disqualification of a candidate) and secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of that Law (in regard to the disqualification of lists). The approval proceeding – EDA 1806/19 – was filed on March 10, 2019 by the Elections Committee, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter: Basic Law: The Knesset or the Basic Law).

2.         Sections 63A(e) and 64(b) of the Elections Law require that the Court issue a judgment in appeal and approval proceedings “no later than the 23rd day prior to Election Day”. In regard to the elections for the 21st Knesset, which took place on April 9, 2019, we were therefore required to render judgment in the appeal and approval proceedings no later than March 17, 2019. Under the time constraint from the time of the filing of the proceedings – March 10, 2019, and March 12, 2019 – to the date upon which we were required to render judgment – March 17, 2019 – we allowed the Respondents in each of the proceedings to file written pleadings, and we heard supplementary oral arguments before a nine-judge panel, as required by the Law.  The hearings took place on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, and Thursday, March 14, 2019, and the judgment was duly handed down on Sunday, March 17, 2019, without stating reasons in view of the statutory time constraints detailed above, and as has been usual in such proceedings over the years (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections v. Tibi, [1]; EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2]; EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3]). In the judgment, a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, decided not to approve the decision of the Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of Cassif. The Court unanimously decided to reject the appeal in regard to the Elections Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list. The Court also decided, by a majority of eight justices, against the dissenting opinion of Justice D. Mintz, to grant the appeal in regard to the Ra’am-Balad list, and to order that the list is not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. The Court further unanimously rejected the appeal in regard to the decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir, and decided by a majority, against the dissenting opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg, to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and order his disqualification as a candidate for the 21st Knesset. Four days later, on March 21, 2019, we published a summary of the reasoning grounding the judgment, and we now present the full reasoning.

 

General Background and Normative Framework

3.         The right to vote and be elected is the life breath of every democratic regime, and the conceptual foundation of this right is grounded in the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of political expression (EA 2/84 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [4], 262-264 (hereinafter: the first Neiman case); EA 1/88 Neiman v Central Elections Committee [5], 185 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case); EA 561/09 Balad v. Central Elections Committee [2], para. 2 (hereinafter: the Balad case); EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 7 (hereinafter: the first Zoabi case); EDA 1095/15 Central Elections Committee v. Zoabi [6], para. 5 (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case); cf. LCA 7504/95 Yassin v. Registrar of Parties [7], 58-60 & 71 (hereinafter: the Yassin case); Ruth Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, in A. Barak (ed.), Essays in Honor of Shimon Agranat, (1986), 145, 151-152 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Gavison)).

            Nevertheless, equality and freedom of political expression are not unrestricted rights, and it has already been held that “it is the right of a democracy to deny the participation in the democratic process of lists that reject democracy itself […] one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14 (hereinafter: the Tibi case); and further see the Yassin case, p. 62, the first Zoabi case, para. 8; the second Zoabi case, para. 6). Therefore, along with the formal capacity conditions that must be met in order to realize the right to vote and be elected, which concern, inter alia, age and citizenship (see: sec. 5 of Basic Law: The Knesset in regard to the right to vote, and secs. 6, 6A and 7 of that Law in regard to the right be elected), there is a need for material restrictions intended to prevent participation in the elections by lists and candidates that seek to use the tools of democracy in order to deny the very existence of the state or infringe its fundamental principles.

4.         As will be explained in the brief survey below, such material restrictions have been developed over the years in Israeli law, as well. At its inception, the State of Israel adopted a democratic regime characterized, inter alia, by the values of equality and freedom of political expression mentioned above. Alongside those values, and without any necessary contradiction, the sovereign State of Israel was established as a Jewish state, in recognition of the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its land. This important fundamental principle, which Justice M. Cheshin defined as an “axiom” when he served as chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset, must also be protected. President A. Barak addressed this in the Tibi case, stating:

There are many democratic states. Only one of them is a Jewish state. Indeed, the reason for the existence of the State of Israel is its being a Jewish state. This character is central to its existence, and it is – as Justice M. Cheshin stated before the Central Elections Committee – an “axiom” of the state. It should be seen as a “fundamental principle of our law and system” (emphasis original; ibid., p. 21).

President D. Beinisch addressed the uniqueness of Israeli democracy in this regard in the Balad case, noting:             

The State of Israel’s being the only state that serves as a home for the Jewish people, and therefore preserves unique characteristics worthy of protection, is the starting point for every discussion of the character of the state (ibid., para. 3).

In this regard, it would not be superfluous to note that there are those who hold the opinion that there is a “significant moral tension that requires a process of reconciliation between opposing values (Justice I. Englard in the Tibi case, p. 64. For a detailed discussion of this subject, see:  Adi Gal & Mordechai Kremnitzer, Disqualification of Party Lists and Candidates – Does it Strengthen Democracy or Weaken It? (Israel Democracy Institute, 2019) 22-26 (Hebrew)). As opposed to this, there are those who are of the opinion that there is no contradiction between democratic values and Jewish values, but rather they derive from one another (the second Neiman case, pp. 189-190; Justice Y. Amit in the second Zoabi case, para. 3; Elyakim Rubinstein, On the Equality of Arabs in Israel, 1 Kiryat Mishpat 17, 26 (20021) (Hebrew)). Below, we will address the material restrictions established in regard to the right to vote and be elected in Israeli law. As  will be seen, these restrictions define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state without distinction between these two frameworks, in the spirit of the principles we addressed above.

5.         Since 1985, the material constitutional restrictions upon the right to vote have been grounded in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. This section, in its current form, establishes:

7A(a).  A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

6.         As already noted, these restrictions developed in Israeli law over the course of years. Basic Law: The Knesset, which was enacted in 1958, did not originally comprise a material provision – as opposed to a formal provision in regard to competence – that restricted the right to be elected. The absence of such a provision notwithstanding, in EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [8] (hereinafter: the Yeredor case), the Court recognized the authority of the Elections Committee not to approve the participation of the Socialists list in the elections for the 6th Knesset because the list, and the El Ard organization with which it identified, “deny the integrity of the State of Israel and its very existence”. Some twenty years later, the Court again addressed the disqualification of a list from standing for election. The Central Elections Committee for the elections for 11th Knesset in 1984 disqualified the Kach list and the Progressive List for Peace from standing for election. The Kach list was disqualified by the Committee for the racist and anti-democratic principles that it espoused, its open support for terrorism, and incitement of hatred and hostility between different sectors of the Israeli populace. The Progressive List for Peace was disqualified due to the Committee’s determination that the list comprised subversive foundations and tendencies and that central members of the list acted in a manner that identified with the state’s enemies. The disqualification of the two lists was brought before the Court in the first Neiman case, which held, by majority, that in the absence of an express provision of law, the doctrine established in the Yeredor case should be limited to the causes for disqualification set out there, i.e., denial of the very existence of the state – which must be proven by clear, unequivocal, and persuasive evidence (for a critique, see Gavison, at pp. 184-195).

7.         Following the judgment in the first Neiman case, the legislature amended Basic Law: The Knesset and added sec. 7A. This section, in its original form, comprised three causes for disqualifying a list of candidates whose purposes or actions expressly or impliedly amounted to (1) negation of the existence of the state as the state of the Jewish people; (2) negation of the democratic character of the state; (3) incitement to racism.

            When the Kach list again sought to stand for election for the 12th Knesset in 1988, the list was disqualified by the Elections Committee for the reasons set out in subsecs. (2) and (3) of sec. 7A. The appeal of the decision was denied by the Court (see: the second Neiman case), which held that the list indeed negated the democratic character of the state and that its activities constituted incitement to racism. In its decision, the Court emphasized that given the importance of the freedoms that the rights to vote and to be elected are intended to realize, affirming those rights is preferable to denying them, and the disqualification of a list must be reserved for the most extreme cases. That year, the Court also adjudicated another proceeding related to the elections for the 12th Knesset. The Court majority denied an appeal of a decision by the Central Elections Committee not to disqualify The Progressive List for Peace from standing for election (EA 2/88 Ben Shalom v. Central Elections Committee [9]). In 1992, after the murder of the founder of the Kach movement, Rabbi Meir Kahane (hereinafter: Rabbi Kahane), in 1990, the Central Elections Committee disqualified two lists that viewed themselves as the heirs to Rabbi Kahane from participating in the elections for the 13th Knesset. A unanimous Court denied the appeals of the disqualifications, adopting the criteria established in the second Neiman case (EA 2805/92 Kach List v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [10] (hereinafter: the Kach case)); EA 2858/92 Movshovich v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [11] (hereinafter: the Movshovich case)).       

8.         In 2002, sec. 7A of the Basic Law was amended. The amendment comprised three primary changes: (1) the separate causes for disqualification in regard to negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state were unified as one cause; (2) an additional cause was added under which a list could be disqualified from participation in elections if it supported armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel; (3) it was established that not only could an entire list be disqualified, but also a candidate could be disqualified from standing for election, but that as opposed to the disqualification of a list, the disqualification of a candidate required the approval of the Supreme Court.

9.         In the Tibi case, the Court addressed a number of decisions given by the Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset in regard to the elections in January 2003, among them the first decisions of their kind pursuant to the aforementioned amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided to disqualify Knesset members Ahmed Tibi of the Hadash-Ta’al list (hereinafter: Tibi) and Azmi Bishara of the Balad list (hereinafter: Bishara). The Committee further decided that Baruch Marzel of the Herut list (hereinafter: Marzel) should not be disqualified. In addition, the Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list from standing for election. In the Tibi case, the Court focused upon and outlined the criteria for each of the causes in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. On that basis, the Court decided not to approve the Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset members Tibi and Bishara from standing for election. The decision in regard to Tibi was unanimous, whereas the decision in regard to Bishara was by a majority. A majority further dismissed the appeal of the Committee’s decision to permit Marzel’s candidacy, and the appeal against the disqualification of the Balad list was granted by a majority, and it was held that the list could stand for election.

10.       Another amendment to sec. 7A of the Basic Law was adopted in 2008, adding sec. (a1) that established: “In connection with this article, a candidate who was illegally present in an enemy state in the seven years that preceded the deadline for submitted lists of candidates shall be considered someone whose actions constitute support for an armed conflict against the State of Israel, unless he has proven otherwise”. About a year after that amendment, prior to the elections for the 18th Knesset, the Court addressed an appeal of the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify the Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al list for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a) and (3) of the Basic Law. A majority of the Court granted the appeal, and            the participation of those lists was permitted. In 2012 and 2015, the Court was again called upon to address the disqualification of candidates. In the first Zoabi case, the Court unanimously overturned the Central Election Committee’s decision to disqualify Knesset member Hanin Zoabi (hereinafter: Zoabi) from running in the elections for the 19th Knesset for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. In the second Zoabi case, two approval proceedings were addressed jointly after the Central Elections Committee disqualified Zoabi’s participation in the elections for the 20th Knesset for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law, and also disqualified Marzel from participating in those same elections for the causes enumerated in secs. 7A(a)(1) and (2). A majority of the Court decided not to approve the Elections Committee’s decisions in regard to both Zaobi and Marzel, and both stood as candidates in those elections.

11.       The judgment in the second Zoabi case was rendered in 2015. In 2017, section 7A of the Basic Law was amended again to add the words “including his expressions” after the words “the actions of the person”. It is important to emphasize that, as opposed to various arguments raised before us in these proceedings, this amendment – as stated in its Explanatory Notes – “was not intended to change the case law of the Court according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state”. In other words, the strict evidentiary threshold outlined in the case law over the years for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification remains as it was, given the purpose of the section and the balance between the values it is intended to protect.

            To complete the picture, we would note that in 2016, the Knesset approved an amendment to the Basic Law in regard to the termination of the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or support of armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, as stated in secs. 7A(a)(2) or 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. We would further note for the sake of completing the picture that two petitions filed against the constitutionality of the said amendment were denied (HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12]) (hereinafter: the Ben Meir case).

 

The Causes for Disqualification established in Section 7A

12.       Having surveyed the proceedings and legislative amendments relevant to the disqualification of lists and candidates seeking to stand for election to the Knesset and the development of the case law and the Basic Law in this regard, it would now be appropriate to address the interpretive principles and the criteria outlined and applied in all that regards the various causes for disqualification. I would preface by stating that the prevailing trend in this Court’s case law is that a cautious, restrained approach should be adopted in all that relates to the disqualification of lists and candidates participating in Knesset elections. Indeed, in view of the magnitude of the rights to vote and be elected, this Court has repeatedly held that the starting point is that the causes for disqualification should be interpreted narrowly and should be applied in the most extreme cases (see, for example, the second Neiman case, at p. 187; the Tibi case, at pp. 17-18). From this starting point, the case law derived the answer to the question of what must be proved in order to ground the presence of any of the causes for disqualification, as well as the criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold. We will first examine the case-law interpretation of what is required to prove each of the causes for disqualification, and then examine the criteria established in regard to the required evidentiary threshold.

(1) Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

13.       The first cause established under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset concerns preventing participation of candidate lists or candidates in the elections if the purposes or actions of the list or the actions of the candidate, including his statements, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The “nuclear-minimal” characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and its “nuclear-minimal” characteristics as a democratic state were established in the Tibi case, which held that it is the infringement of these characteristics that may give rise to a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. In the matter of the “nuclear” characteristics that define the State of Israel as a Jewish state, it was held that these include the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which there will be a Jewish majority; that Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; that the symbols and holidays of the state primarily reflect Jewish tradition, and that the Jewish heritage is a central element of the religious and cultural heritage of the state (the Tibi case, p. 22; and compare the view of Justice Y. Turkel in that case at p. 101; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 66, and the first Zoabi case, para. 20; the Balad case, para. 6; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66; the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and see: Amnon Rubinstein & Raanan Har-Zahav, Basic Law: The Knesset, 64 (1993) (Hebrew)).

            As for the “nuclear” characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, it was held that “these characteristics are based […] upon recognition of the sovereignty of the people, as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core human rights, among them human dignity, respect and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary” (the Tibi case, p. 23; and see the second Zoabi case, para 29; and compare the Yassin case, p. 66). It was further noted in the Tibi case that a list that negates the right to vote for the Knesset on ethnic-national grounds, or a list seeks to change the regime by violent means will not be permitted to stand for election, as it essentially negates the democratic foundations of the Israeli regime (ibid., p. 24; and see the second Neiman case, p. 190, and the second Zoabi case, para. 30).

(2) Incitement to racism

14.       The second cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(2), is incitement to racism. We will address the grounds of this cause and its underlying rationales, particularly in a Jewish state, at greater length below. At this stage, we would note that already in the second Neiman case, in which, for the first time following the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Kach list was disqualified on the grounds of incitement to racism, the Court held, per President M. Shamgar,  that the “objectives and conduct [of the list] are also clearly racist: systematically fanning the flames of ethnic and national hate, which causes divisiveness and animosity; calling for the forceful deprivation of rights; systematic and intentional degradation directed towards a specific part of the population selected because of their national origin and ethnicity; [calling] for their humiliation in ways very similar to the terrible experiences of the Jewish nation” (ibid., p. 197).

(3) Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

15.       The third cause for disqualification, established in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law, concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. This cause is premised upon the primary conceptual justification for the disqualification of candidates and lists – viz., defense against those who would seek to negate the very existence of the state or undermine the foundations of its existence and its democratic nature by means of armed struggle (the first Zoabi case, para. 29). In the Tibi case, President A. Barak noted in regard to this cause that: “Democracy is allowed to prevent the participation of candidate lists that employ violence or support violence as a tool for changing the nature of the regime” (ibid., p. 26; and also see the second Zoabi case, para. 69). Preventing participation by virtue of this cause will, of course, be possible where a candidate or a list personally takes active part in an armed struggle of a terrorist organization or an enemy state, as well as where they encourage such a struggle or provide material, political or other support (ibid., para. 69; and see the Tibi case, p. 27; the Balad case, para. 7; the first Zoabi case, para. 29). Disqualification of a list or candidate by virtue of this cause would be possible only if the support is of an armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization (the Tibi case, p. 27; and see the second Zoabi case, para. 69; for a detailed discussion of this cause, see: Gal & Kremnitzer, 16-19).

 

The Criteria in regard to the Required Evidentiary Threshold

16.       Alongside the narrow interpretation of the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, over the years, the case law further added a series of strict criteria in regard to the required evidentiary threshold for the crystallizing of any of the causes. These criteria limit the possibility of disqualifying a list or candidate from standing for election to the Knesset only to clear, extreme cases due to the intense caution that the Court adopts as the starting point in this regard (the Balad case, para. 3; and see the opinion of Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; the Kach case, p. 2). Below, we will summarize the criteria outlined in the case law in regard to the evidentiary threshold required for the existence of the disqualifying causes. These criteria were, for the most part, first applied in regard to the disqualification of lists, and after the amendment of the Basic Law in 2002, they were respectively adopted in regard to the disqualification of an individual candidate, as well (see the Tibi case, the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case). These are the criteria:

            (-)        First, in order to decide whether one of the elements set forth in sec. 7A is present in the objectives or actions of a list or a candidate, it must be shown that the objective is one of the dominant characteristics of the list’s or the candidate’s aspirations or activities, and that they seek to participate in the elections in order to advance them (see the second Neiman case, p. 187; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Second, it must be shown that these central, dominant purposes can be learned from express declarations and direct statements or reasonable conclusions of clear, unequivocal significance (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18, the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para 14).

            (-)        Third, it must be shown that the list or the candidate actively works for the realization of the said objectives, and that there was non-sporadic activity for their realization. It was held that objectives of a theoretical nature are insufficient, and that there must be a showing of systematic, repeated activity whose “intensity must be given severe, extreme expression” (the second Neiman case, p. 196; the Tibi case, p. 18; the Balad case, para. 4; the first Zoabi case, para. 14).

            (-)        Fourth, the evidence grounding the actions or objectives sufficient to prevent standing for election to the Knesset must be “clear, unambiguous and persuasive” (the second Neiman case, p. 188; the Tibi case, p. 18; the second Zoabi case, para. 34; compare: the first Neiman case, p. 250), and a “critical mass” of highly credible evidence is required to justify the disqualification (the Tibi case, p. 43; the first Zoabi case, para. 14). The burden of proof in this regard rests upon the party arguing for disqualification of the list or candidate, and a doubt arising as to the sufficiency of the evidence must weigh against the disqualification (the second Neiman case, pp. 248-249; the Kach case, p. 3).

17.       A complex question concerning the evidentiary threshold for proving the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law is that of whether to apply probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent. There is a difference of opinion in the case law, and the matter has been left for further consideration and has yet to be decided. The spectrum of opinions expressed on this matter range from an approach that rejects the application of the probability test (see the position of Justice M. Elon in the first Neiman case, p. 297; President M. Shamgar following the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset in the second Neiman case, p. 187; Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 248; and Justices S. Levin. E. Mazza, and D. Dorner in the Tibi case, pp. 81, 96-97, and 99), to the opposite approach that is of the view that this test should be applied to each and every one of the disqualification causes in sec. 1A of the Basic Law (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 106, and see Barak Medina, Forty Years to the Yeredor  Decision: The Right to Political Participation, 22 Mekhkarei Mishpat 327, 376-381 (2006) (Hebrew)). As noted, the matter has been left for further consideration and has not yet been decided in the case law (see President A. Barak and Justices A. Procaccia and D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, pp. 21, 88, 90; President D. Beinisch in the Balad case; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 34; President M. Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 36).

            A middle position between these two opposing views on the application of the probability test has also been expressed, according to which a distinction can be drawn between the causes under sec. 7A(a)(1) and (3) and the cause concerning incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a) (2). Thus, for example, in the Tibi case, Justice Procaccia noted that “condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the political election process are values unto themselves, independent and unqualified even when unaccompanied by any probability of the realization of the potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entry of inciters to racism into the political arena […] incitement to racism is condemned as a value of the universal and national heritage, and it stands beyond the test for the probability of its foreseeable danger under any particular criterion. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the state is so extreme that anyone who holds it as part of one’s political doctrine should be disqualified out of hand” (ibid., p. 90; Gal & Kremnitzer, 62-63). Another opinion that distinguishes the cause related to incitement to racism and the other causes in regard to the probability test, and which proposes applying a very low-level probability test to it, was expressed by Justice D. Beinisch in that matter, in stating: “If I were of the opinion that we should adopt the approach that applies ‘probability tests’ for the disqualification of lists or candidates, then in all that regards racism, I would hold that ‘racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility. Racism, by its very nature, may spread like a disease even when it appears that the scope of the political activity surrounding it is small, and the political prospects of the list or candidate are not serious. Racism is a type of disease for which isolation and removal from the political and social arena are conditions for preventing its spread” (p. 88). We will address this subject below, and examine whether there is, indeed, a place for a different approach to the cause of incitement to racism as opposed to the other causes in relation to probability tests.

            Another question that derives to some extent from the probability test and that concerns the necessary evidentiary threshold for proving the existence of the causes for disqualification is whether and to what extent there is a connection between the causes for disqualification and the criminal offenses intended to protect those values. In this regard, it would appear that the approach adopted in the case law holds that the Penal Law can assist in identifying the presence of the elements of causes for disqualification, while emphasizing that we are concerned with different methods for the prevention of the phenomena and that the tests applicable in each of the areas are not the same (see President M. Shamgar in the second Neiman case, p. 191; President A. Grunis in the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and see Gavison, p. 166; and cf. the Ben Meir case, para. 28; and HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13]).

 

An Elections Appeal and Approval of an Elections Committee Decision – What is the Difference?

18.       Basic Law: The Knesset distinguishes two types of decisions by the Central Elections Committee. The first is Elections Committee decisions to prevent or not prevent a candidate list from standing for election. Such decisions can be challenged in an appeal to the Supreme Court, under secs. 64(a) and 64(a1) of the Elections Law. The second is Election Committee decisions declaring that a particular candidate is barred from participating in the elections. Such a decision requires the approval of the Supreme Court, under sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset and sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law, whereas an Elections Committee decision to deny a request to bar a candidate from standing for election is of the first type of decisions in the sense that it does not require approval but can be appealed to the Supreme Court, under sec. 63A(d) of the Elections Law.

            The procedure for approving an Elections Committee decision is not one of “regular” judicial review in the sense that decision is not consummated until approval is granted. In this, it differs from appeal proceedings in regard to Election Committee decisions, which come into force when given. The scope of the Court’s authority in an approval proceeding is not identical to that granted it in an appeal proceeding. It has been held in this regard that the Court must refrain from nullifying a decision under appeal even if it would have decided differently, as long as it is lawful and does not deviate from the margin of reasonableness. As opposed to this, in an approval proceeding, the Court is granted authority to examine whether it, itself, approves the disqualification of the candidate from standing for election (the Tibi case, pp. 28-31; the first Zoabi case, para 15; the second Zoabi case, paras. 12-13).  It is interesting to note that there are different approaches in the case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s intervention in the decisions of the Elections Committee due to the fact that it is primarily a political body that weighs political considerations. Thus, there are those who take the view that this fact justifies narrowing the scope of intervention in the Committee’s decisions (Justice E. Rivlin in the Tibi case, p. 109, and Justice S. Levin in the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). As opposed to this, there are those of the opinion that “this fact of the political composition of the Committee, with the exception of its chair, requires an examination of the merits of the Committee’s decision by the this Court in order to prevent political considerations from outweighing an objective legal examination” (Deputy President M. Elon in the Ben Shalom case, p. 279; for a similar view, see Justice D. Beinisch in the Tibi case, p. 86 and the Balad case, para. 16).

            This feature of the Central Elections Committee as a primarily political body that makes decisions influenced by political considerations, with no obligation to explain those decisions, indeed justifies examination and consideration by the legislature (see the comment of President Naor in the second Zoabi case, para. 78, and Gal & Kremnitzer, 61-62). At present, the Court is responsible for both types of proceedings brought before it in accordance with the provisions of Basic Law; The Knesset and the Elections Law, and the distinctions between them as presented above. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to further note what we held in this regard in another context – that of the Ben Meir case – in which it was argued that there is constitutional significance to the distinction between the two proceedings. In rejecting that argument, we held: “There is, indeed, a difference in the scope of authority granted to the Court in the framework of an elections appeal as opposed to an approval of a decision […] however, at the end of the day, this Court has the authority [even in an appeals proceeding – E.H.] to review the decision on the merits, and to oversee its lawfulness and reasonableness, including all that relates to the factual foundation” (ibid., para. 34).

19.       Having presented the general normative framework for the proceedings before us, I will now turn to an examination of each of the four proceedings and decide upon them.

EA 1866/19 Freij v. Ben Ari

20.       Three requests for the disqualification of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir were submitted to the Central Elections Committee. Two of the requests – that submitted by the Israel Religious Action Center - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Tag Meir Forum, and that submitted by MK Stav Shaffir – relied upon two causes for disqualification: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. The third request – submitted by members of the Meretz faction – relied upon the single cause of incitement to racism. After considering those requests, the Elections Committee decided, as noted, to reject all three requests, and thus the appeal before us, which was filed jointly by all the parties requesting disqualification.

 

Arguments of the parties

21.       The Appellants argue that Ben Ari and Ben Gvir have consistently acted for years to realize the racist doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Kach list, which was disqualified from running for election, and act in an extreme manner to humiliate Israeli Arabs, including by calling for their expulsion from the country. According to the Appellants, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir support a racist ideology that seeks to undermine the principles of equality and human dignity in regard to anyone who is not Jewish. It was argued that the judgments that addressed the Kach list clearly established that its ideology is racist and infringes the fundamental principles of the democratic regime. The Appellants are of the opinion that the primary characteristic of the conduct of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is ongoing incitement to racism, and that this is also expressed in the platform of the Otzma Yehudit party, which opposes democratic values. It was argued that the declarations of the two were consistently and continuously translated into severe actions that were, in part, also carried out by other elements of the Otzma Yehudit party.

22.       Ben Ari and Ben Gvir relied upon the Election Committee’s decision and argued that the appeal should be denied. According to them, the evidence presented by the Appellants does not justify their disqualification. Their primary argument was that the platform and their public activity over the years apply to those who are “an enemy of Israel”, who are not loyal to the state, and does not apply generally to all “the Arabs” as such, and supports and encourages the emigration of anyone who is not loyal “and who is an enemy of the state”. According to them, the fact that this Court did not disqualify Marzel from participating in the elections shows that they, too, should not be disqualified.

23.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that Ben Ari should be barred from participating in the elections on the grounds of incitement to racism. He argues that the Appellants presented persuasive, clear, unequivocal, recent evidence, particularly since May 2018, in which Ben Ari is heard speaking in various films, some of which were uploaded to his Facebook page. According to the Attorney General, we are concerned with ongoing, consistent expressions over a significant period of time that are at the hard core of incitement to racism. It was argued that these statements show that Ben Ari refers to the Arab population in its entirety while calling for a violent denial of the rights of the Arab population of the State of Israel and for their systematic, targeted humiliation on the basis of their ethno-national identity.

            As for Ben Gvir, the Attorney General was of the opinion that despite the fact that the collection of evidence in his regard is very troubling, and that some of his statements come “dangerously close to the line that would bar a person from standing for election to the Knesset”, he should not be disqualified. According to the Attorney General, as opposed to the evidence presented against Ben Ari, the evidence in regard to Ben Gvir is insufficient to constitute the persuasive, clear, unequivocal evidentiary foundation required for disqualification. This, because most of the evidence is not from the recent past, and in view of Ben Gvir’s declarations and explanations in the current disqualification hearings.

24.       As stated in the judgment we issued without the reasoning on March 17, 2019, we decided by majority, against the dissenting view of Justice N. Sohlberg, to adopt the position of the Attorney General and grant the appeal in EA 1866/19 in all that regards Ben Ari, and to order his disqualification form standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, while we unanimously decided to deny the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir.

 

Disqualification of a Candidate on the grounds of Incitement to Racism

25.       Racism is a well-known societal disease from which the human race has suffered since time immemorial. Racism shows its ugly face in hatred and incitement to hatred of the other, simply by reason of inborn traits or communal, religious, ethnic, or national affiliation. It strips people of their humanity on the basis of those affiliations and violates the basic right to human dignity and equality granted to all who are created in God’s image (HCJ 2684/12 Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education et. al. v. Attorney General [14], para. 26 of the opinion of Justice S. Joubran) (hereinafter: the Torat Hamelech case)). The democratic State of Israel was established as the state of the Jewish people, which has experienced unparalleled racial persecution and suffering throughout the ages. Racism stands in absolute contradiction to the fundamental values upon which the state was established, and we, as Jews, have a special obligation to fight it uncompromisingly. Justice Z. Berenson addressed this in 1973 in HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council [15], 771, stating:

When we were exiled from our land and removed far from our country, we became victims of the nations amongst whom we lived, and in every generation, we tasted the bitterness of persecution, malice and discrimination only for being Jews “whose laws are different from those of any other people” [Esther 3:8]. With this bitter, miserable experience that seeped deep into our national and human consciousness, it might be expected that we would not walk in the corrupt path of the nations, and that with the renaissance of our independence in the State of Israel, we would be cautious and be wary of any hint of discrimination and unequal treatment against any law-abiding non-Jewish person [..] Hatred of foreigners is a double curse: it corrupts the image of God of the hater and inflicts evil upon the blameless hated. We must show humanity and tolerance to everyone created in God’s image (HCJ 392/72 Berger v. District Planning and Building Council, IsrSC 27(2) 764, 771 (1973); and see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 89; the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein in the Torat Hamelech case, para. 38 and in the second Zoabi case (dissenting in regard to the result), para. 116).

26.       The Israeli legislature took up this mission following the elections for the 11th Knesset, which took place in 1984, and in the course of which, as noted, the disqualification of the Kach party was requested due to incitement to racism (the first Neiman case). Thus, Amendment no. 9 to Basic Law: The Knesset added sec. 7A, which sets out the causes permitting the disqualification of a list from standing for election, among them that of incitement to racism. The Explanatory Notes the bill explain in this regard that this cause is premised upon the recognition of the severity and danger of the phenomenon of racism” (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no, 9) Bill), and in the plenary session for the second and third readings of the bill, the chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Eliezer Kulas stated:

Democracy is the “credo” of the people and their way of life. One must be educated to democracy and democracy must be defended. In a democracy, there is no place for incitement to racism, no place for racism, no place for harming any person on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or sex. Racism and discrimination are contrary to the character of a democratic regime and the character of the Jewish people, which experienced what racism is on its own flesh (Transcript of the 118th session of the 11th Knesset, p. 3898 (July 31, 1985) (hereinafter: Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset)).

            In regard to our special, historical duty as Jews to fight against racism, Prof. Gavison noted in her 1986 article (cited above):

The Israeli legislature added this cause for disqualification for various historical reasons. I view incitement to racism as a particular (severe) instance of value inconsistency. Incitement to racism is an extreme rejection of the obligation to the equal value of the person. On the basis of the lessons of history of the last century, in which Jews were innocent victims of such incitement, there is complete justification for designating incitement to racism as an express form of incompatibility with the fundamental values of the state (ibid., p. 161).

27.       In parallel to Amendment no. 9 of Basic Law: The Knesset, the Penal Law, 5737-1977 (hereinafter: the Penal Law) was also amended to add the offense of incitement to racism. “Racism” was defined in sec. 144A of the Law as “persecution, humiliation, degradation, a display of enmity, hostility or violence, or causing violence against a public or parts of the population, all because of their color, racial affiliation or national ethnic origin”. Then Minister of Justice Moshe Nissim addressed the relationship between these two amendments in stating: “We must view both of these bills as of a piece, […] for the fundamental, proper, considered, and balanced treatment […] of phenomena with which the State of Israel cannot be reconciled” (Transcript of Session 118 of the Knesset, p. 3361), while it was noted in the Explanatory Notes of the amendment to the Penal Law that “the Hebrew heritage deems the dignity and value of the person, created in God’s image, and making peace among people as exalted values. […] Jewish heritage views the demeaning of human dignity as a serious offense” (Explanatory Notes to the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, p. 195).

            In the second Neiman case, President M. Shamgar addressed, inter alia, the definition of the term “racism” in the Penal Law and held that for the purpose of interpreting sec. 7A of the Law, there is no need to achieve a definitive definition of the term “incitement to racism”. President Shamgar also rejected the argument of counsel for the Kach list according to which “racism” refers only to biological distinctions, holding: “Different forms of persecution based on nationality are widely accepted today as a form of racism” (the second Neiman case, p. 192; for a discussion of the relationship between the offense of incitement to racism under sec. 144B of the Penal Law and sec. 7A, see: the first Zoabi case, para. 32; and compare Gavison, pp. 170-171).  Denunciation of incitement to racism, and the struggle against it in the legal field also found expression in other legislative acts (see, for example, sec. 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951; sec. 5 of the Political Parties Law, 5752-1992; sec. 42A of Basic Law: The Knesset; and sec. 39A(3) of the Municipal Authorities (Elections) Law, 5725-1965).

28.       Combatting incitement to racism and provisions banning political activity of various groups on that basis can also be found abroad. Thus, for example, the President of France is authorized to order the disbanding of political parties for various reasons, among them incitement to racism or other group discrimination. The President’s decision can be appealed to the French Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat) (Gal & Kreminitzer, 43-45; Gregory H. Fox & George Nolte, Intolerant Democracies, 36 Harv. Int. L. J. 1, 27-29 (1995); European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Guidelines on Prohibition and Dissolution of Political Parties and Analogous Measures, 16 (1999) (hereinafter: the Venice Commission Report)). Spanish law allows for declaring a political party unlawful if it systematically infringes fundamental freedoms and rights by encouraging or justifying the assault, exclusion or persecution of people on the basis of ideology, belief, faith, nationality, race, sex or sexual orientation (Knesset Research and Information Center, International Parallels to sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset and their Possible Consequences for the Termination of the Tenure of Members of Parliament, pp. 8-9 (2006) (hereinafter: the RIC Report); Erik Bleich, The Freedom to be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve and Combat Racism, p. 103 (2011); Gur Bligh, Defending Democracy: A New Understanding of the Party-Banning Phenomenon, 46 VNTJL 1321, 1338 (2013); Venice Commission Report, p. 16). The Czech Republic’s Political Party Law of 1991 prohibits the registration of parties whose activities endanger the rights and freedoms of citizens, and in 2010, the Czech Workers’ Party was banned, inter alia, because of incitement to racism (Miroslav Mareš, Czech Militant Democracy in Action: Dissolution of the Workers’ Party and the Wider Context of this Act, 26(1) East European Politics & Societies 33, 43-44 (2010); Mapping “Militant Democracy”: Variation in Party Ban Practices in European Democracies (1945–2015), 13(2) Euconst. 221, 238-239 (2017) (hereinafter: Mapping Militant Democracy); RIC Report, p. 17; Venice Commission Report, p. 16). There are similar restrictions in Poland, Portugal, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania (Venice Commission Report, pp. 16-17; RIC Report, pp. 10-12). The Penal Code of the Netherlands allows for the disbanding of organizations that endanger public safety, and by virtue of this law, it was held that the Centre Party ’86 encouraged discriminatory propaganda against foreigners and was a danger to the public. It was, therefore, disbanded in 1998 (Defending Democracy, p. 1339; Paul Lucardie, Right-Wing Extremism in the Netherlands: Why it is Still a Marginal Phenomenon, presented at Symposium, Right-Wing Extremism in Europe, 4-5 (2000); Mapping Militant Democracy, p. 238; for a comprehensive survey of the existing arrangements in various countries in regard to the disqualification of political parties and candidates in general, see, e.g., the Tibi case, pp. 14-15; the first Zoabi case, paras. 10-11; Talia Einhorn, Proscription of Parties that have a Racist Platform under Art. 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset (1993)).

29.       The ban upon organizations that incite to racism is also grounded in international human rights law, which includes provisions treating of the prohibition of organized racist propaganda activities. For example, sec. 4(b) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979) establishes, inter alia, that the signatory states “Shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination […]”. Based, in part, on that convention, in 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution in regard to the growing violence by European political groups and parties with a neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist or xenophobic agenda, and called upon the EU member states to adopt a number of concrete measures for effectively combatting the activities of those groups (see: European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)).

30.       In Israel, in 2016, the State Comptroller, Judge (emer.) Yosef Haim Shapira, published a report that examined the activities of the Ministry of Education to promote education for living in common and for preventing racism, and found that not enough had been done in this area over the last years, given the differences among sections of the Israeli population that lead to discord and strife. The report further noted that “in this complex reality, we have experienced serious phenomena of hatred, racism, violence, divisiveness, sectarianism, and intolerance over the last few years” and “racist and violent statements, discrimination, persecution and even shocking hate crimes have become not so infrequent occurrences […] while the social networks serve as a fertile ground for disseminating hatred of the other” (State Comptroller, Education to Common Life and for the Prevention of Racism – Special Comptroller’s Report, p. 8 (2016)).

31.       Indeed, the fundamental values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state instruct us to act decisively and uncompromisingly to eradicate racism in our midst. This message also sheds light on the danger that must be determined in this regard for the purpose of the probability test, if it be found that it should be applied to the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. In my view, the inherent danger of racist discourse derives from the fact that such discourse feeds and sets the stage for actions intended to realize the racist ideology, which in turn motivate and reinforce continued racist discourse. As Justice D. Beinisch stated in the Tibi case: “‘Racism’ in its ‘nuclear’ sense, comprises, by its very nature, a potential for danger whose probability is a real possibility” (ibid., p. 88). Indeed, racist discourse, particularly if it is systematic, significant, and prolonged, causes this societal disease to infiltrate, take root and spread. Therefore, it is necessary to send a clear, unambiguous message that inciteful racist discourse is illegitimate, particularly when expressed by a candidate for public office who shouts it from the rooftops. Such discourse must be left “outside the camp” in every civilized state, and all the more so in the Jewish state.

32.       The French-Jewish author and intellectual Albert Memmi, who was born in the Tunis ghetto in 1920, writes in the introduction to the Hebrew edition of his book Racism:

The Jewish people is always a minority, and therefore, like most of the world’s minorities, historically and socially exposed, and is therefore a very convenient target. (This is, incidentally, one of the justifications for Zionism: The need for Jews to cease to be a minority, at least in one place).

Perhaps today, things have already begun to change somewhat. The declarations of some statesmen and religious leaders […] have aroused the political conscience of the nations. All of these may cause us to believe that the hell that was the lot of the Jews in almost every place in the world will come to an end […] thanks to the existence of the State of Israel. However, we should not yet rejoice. Already at the end of the last World War, it was claimed that the horrors of the war made people allergic to racism; racist philosophies would completely perish. But our hope was too rash. Nowadays, there are people who once again dare to be racist, and yet again we see the writings on the wall that call for the expulsion of the Jews, whose citizenship again is put in question, and the stage is once more set for their humiliation. We must tirelessly return to the struggle and not stop, perhaps forever (Albert Memmi, Racism, 8 (1988) (hereinafter: Memmi).

            If, as Memmi states, we Jews are obligated to spearhead the ongoing, uncompromising struggle against racism – of which antisemitism is one of the oldest and most severe examples – we must be worthy of leading that fight, and we must expunge the dangerous disease of racism from our midst in the sovereign State of Israel.  This is a long fight that requires perseverance, and as Memmi warns: “We are all fertile ground for absorbing and germinating the seeds of racism if we let down our guard even for a moment” (ibid., p. 41).

            And now from the general to the specific.

 

The background for addressing the matters of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir

33.       The main claim against Ben Ari and Ben Gvir is, as noted, that they view themselves as the successors of Rabbi Meir Khane and of the ideology of the Kach list that he headed. As may be recalled, that list was disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset (see the second Neiman case), and other lists that presented themselves as its successors have also been barred from running for the Knesset in the past (see: the Kach case; the Movshovich case). It should also be noted that already in 1984, prior to the constitutional grounding of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Court noted in the first Neiman case that the Kach list “propounds racist and anti-democratic principles that contradict the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel”. It should also be noted that in 1994, the Israeli Government decided to declare the Kach movement, the Kahana Chai movement, and associates and derivatives of those movements, as terrorist organizations under the Prevention of Terror Ordinance, and proceedings instituted in that regard were dismissed (see: HCJ 547/98 Federman v. Government of Israel [16]; and see: AAA 8342/02 Ben Gvir v. Commissioner of Police [17]).

34.       The Tibi case examined, inter alia, the question of barring Marzel from standing for election on the Herut list after the Committee decided to reject a request for his disqualification. It was argued that he supported the ideology of the Kach movement, and the Court was willing to assume that the evidentiary foundation presented did, indeed, ground Marzel’s involvement in the activities of that movement prior to the elections. However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court majority saw fit to grant significant weight to the fact that Marzel had declared that he had changed his views, and in the words of the judgment: “Mr. Marzel himself declares that he has recanted his prior views, and that he now seeks to act only in accordance with the law. He accepts the principals of democracy. He disavows the path expressed in the broad statements of Kach. He does not support violent actions” (the Tibi case, p. 60). Against that background, the Court dismissed the appeal in the Tibi case in regard to the disqualification of Marzel, although it had reservations as to the sincerity of his declarations.

35.       Ben Ari served in the 18th Knesset as a member of the Ihud Leumi faction, and Ben Ari and Ben Gvir ran on the Otzma LeYisrael list in the elections for the 19th Knesset in 2013. A request to bar the list from the elections was denied by the Central Elections Committee, but the list did not meet the electoral threshold. In the list’s election campaign for the 19th Knesset, posters were used that displayed the word “loyalty” in Arabic, and beneath it the phrase: “There are no rights without obligations”. The campaign was barred by the chair of the Elections Committee Justice E. Rubinstein, who ruled that it bore a racist message that was intended to portray the Arab community as disloyal to Israel. Prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset in 2015, the list changed its name from to Otzma Yehudit, and ran as part of the Yahad list, led by MK Eli Yishai. Leading up to the elections, the question of Marzel’s participation in that list arose again, after the Elections Committee decided to disqualify him. In a majority decision, the Court ruled that the disqualification decision should not be approved. It was noted that while Marzel came very close to the point of disqualification from participation in the elections, nevertheless, the claims by those who requested his disqualification were largely based upon newspaper reports and information obtained from the internet of low probative value, which were met by Marzel’s denial. The Court noted that Marzel “explained a significant part of the evidence submitted in his regard, and special weight should be given to his declarations in this matter […] These explanations cast doubt upon incitement to racism being a primary objective of Marzel’s activity” (emphasis original; ibid., para. 34). Marzel, Ben Ari and Ben Gvir did not serve in the 20th Knesset, as the Yahad list did not pass the electoral threshold.

36.       Did the Appellants succeed in presenting evidence in the matter of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir that establishes a cause for disqualification against either of them from running as candidates for the 20th Knesset by reason of incitement to racism? Given our approach that particular care should be taken, and that ordering that a list or candidate be barred from participating in the elections should be reserved only for extreme cases, we found that the evidence presented in the matter of Ben Gvir is insufficient for establishing a cause for disqualification, as noted, even under sec. 7A(a)(1) as argued by the Appellants. As opposed to this, the majority of the Court was of the opinion that the evidence presented justifies the disqualification of Ben Ari on the grounds of incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Ben Ari

37.       In his arguments, the Attorney General referred to a very long list of evidence, focusing upon evidence from the period since the beginning of 2017, and emphasizing statements and actions by Ben Ari over the course of the year preceding the elections. This evidence includes statements by Ben Ari, in his own voice, in various film clips, that, as the Attorney General argues, present an unambiguous, clear and persuasive picture of incitement to racism against the Arab population in its entirety. We are concerned with a very detailed evidentiary foundation that comprises some 40 items in regard to statements and actions by Ben Ari. After reviewing that evidence and examining Ben Ari’s affidavit and statements before the Elections Committee, as well as his response to the appeal, his oral arguments before us, and the supplementary pleadings that he submitted, we are of the opinion that the arguments presented on Ben Ari’s behalf do not provide an explanation that would remove his actions and statements from the scope of incitement to racism that raises a cause of disqualification under sec. 7A(A)(2) of the Basic Law.

38.       Below, we will address the main elements of the evidentiary foundation presented:

            In November 2017, Ben Ari spoke at the annual memorial ceremony for Rabbi Kahane, while wearing a sticker on his jacket lapel that read: “Rabbi Kahane was right”. In the course of his speech, Ben Ari was heard saying the following:

There are enemies, there is a Jew, there is a knife, so they slaughter. Because they are given an opportunity, they slaughter […] We’ll give them another hundred thousand dunams, and affirmative action, perhaps they will love us. In the end, yes, they love us, slaughtered […] Rabbi Kahane taught us – there is no coexistence with them. There is no coexistence with them! (emphasis added).

            Further on, Ben Ari was heard referring to Bedouin citizens, stating:

We of Otzma Yehudit came out with a plan called Immigration and Building, Emigration and Peace […] After immigration and building, we will fulfil what God said […] Cast out that slave-woman, because whoever wants money will get money, whoever wants a bus will get a bus […] We will say and initiate here what has to be done so that we will wake up in the morning to a Jewish state […] The Bedouins have to be dealt with, but in the countries of origin. Return the land of the Negev to the Jewish people (emphasis added).

            Another piece of evidence presented by the Appellants is a video that Ben Ari posted on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari” (hereinafter: the Facebook page) on May 20, 2018. In the film, Ben Ari is seen giving a speech and saying the following:

The Arabs in Haifa are in no way different from the Arabs in Gaza […] In what are they different? In that here they are enemies from within […] here they carry out a war against us within the state […] it’s called a “fifth column” […] this dog should be called by its name, they are our enemies, they want to destroy us, there are, of course, loyal Arabs, but they can be counted as something like a percent or less than a percent, to our great despair, the overwhelming majority are full partners with their brothers in Gaza […] The Arab enemy has to be told that it’s one or the other, either you are loyal to the state or you should go to Syria […] There is no coexistence with them, they want to destroy us, that is their objective, that is their goal […] This is the fifth column here (emphasis added).

            According to Ben Ari, this was said following demonstrations in Haifa in support of the residents of Gaza “against the background of the balloon terror in the south of the country”. An examination of the Facebook page on April 17, 2019, shows that the video garnered 21,000 views, hundreds of “likes”, and additional hundreds of comments and shares.

39.       In July 2018, Ben Ari posted another video on his Facebook page, in which he is heard saying the following:

Do you know that the Bedouin marry Arab women from Gaza, from Hebron, who all come here. They get national insurance, they give birth in hospitals at our expense, their children later get every benefit at our expense […] they even serve in the army! These enemies the Bedouin serve in the army, let me repeat what I am saying – the enemy Bedouin serve in the army! They are seduced by money. I know from firsthand sources, from those who serve with them – they don’t trust them for a minute. There is an agenda that if they serve in the army, they will be loyal to us. No, they are not loyal to us! (emphasis added).

            This video received some 4,800 views and many comments.

            About a month later, Ben Ari posted another video on the Facebook page “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, in which he appears saying, among other things:

First, we have to change the equation that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live! We don’t expel him, don’t take away his citizenship. He doesn’t live! A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language [] Tell me racism, racist? Whoever says that they are loyal underestimates them. “What? An Arab just wants to eat, just wants to make a living” – that’s not true, […] An Arab has nationalistic ambitions, he screams them, he shouts about them, he is ready to die for them (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said “against the background of the conduct in regard to Gaza and the solution that should be implemented against it”. This clip also received 9,300 views and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            In another video from the same month, Ben Ari is heard saying, among other things:

Over the last hours, in Tel Aviv, in the center of Tel Aviv […] our staunchest enemy has been arriving, and that is the internal enemy, the internal enemy, the enemy that we want to ignore, the enemy we want to hide our heads in the sand and not see, the enemy of Israeli Arabs (emphasis added).

            Ben Ari explained that this was said against the background of a demonstration by Arabs and Jews against what is called the “Nation-State Law” (Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People) (hereinafter: The Nation-State Law)) in which PLO flags were waved and in which there were calls for the liberation of Palestine. He further explained that he was referring to Arabs who are not loyal to the State of Israel and who want to eradicate its Jewish character.

40.       After about a month, on Sept. 16, 2018, immediately following the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in which the late Ari Fuld was murdered, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page, in which he states, among other things, the following:

[…] They murder because they have work. They murder because they want to inherit this land […] If there are infiltrators, it is the Arab enemy […] You need Shlomo Neeman [head of the Gush Etzion regional council] to ask all the business owners to fire today the terrorist of tomorrow. It is your responsibility, stop employing the murderers! Don’t employ these murderers! They get money from us and also come to murder us […] They murder us whenever they have the chance. The conclusion is that there is no coexistence. Look at the Arabs! Do they coexist amongst themselves? Every day in the news, murder in Rahat, murder in Reineh, murder in Umm al Fahm, attempted murder in Lod, murder in Jaffa. First of all, when speaking of coexistence, Rabbi Kahane would always say, let’s see the Arabs coexist amongst themselves (emphasis added).

            The clip received some 7,300 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

            At the end of November 2018, Ben Ari referred to the Arabs of the city of Lod in another video, this time on his Twitter account, accompanied by the caption: “The Arab conqueror of Lod continues to rage even today: The State of Israel is being conquered from within, Israel needs Otzma Yehudit!” In another video clip published on his Facebook page shortly after, Ben Ari referred to the members of the Lod municipal council as the “Arab enemy”. At the end of December 2018, Ben Ari published a clip on his Facebook page titled “Now in Afula Illit, a meeting with Otzma Yehudit loyalists”. In the clip, Ben Ari is seen conversing with a group of residents and stating as follows:

They wanted to bring you a clan of enemies into your neighborhood […] The State of Israel is being conquered from within, they are determined to conquer us from within […] By means of the word equality, the enemy will destroy us […] What is happening here is happening in Dimona, is happening in Lod. Lod is already a completely conquered city. But Afula? This criminal who opened the center for the enemy in the name of equal rights […] If, with the help of God, we enter the coalition, the first thing that we will do is the complete revocation of this thing called affirmative action. Do you understand that you are second class citizens because you are not Arabs? […] Most of them are willing to give up everything as long as they slaughter us. And what I am saying is not racism because, to my regret, it is the reality (emphasis added).

            Further on in the clip, Ben Ari is heard referring to the murder of the late Sheli Dadon, which occurred in 2014, saying as follows:

Did anyone ever hold a discussion of their character? On their treasonous character? […] The moment you give here, you give him affirmative action, you give him more work, he will raise a family here. His children will also be here, his children, fewer of my children will be here, and so […] I need a work plan. I need a work plan now a work a plan. […] This is not racism, it is fact, Arabs are the most migrant people in the world, they aren’t tied to any land […] That’s why they came here. Because there is work. […] One of the first things, our first condition for any discussions about a coalition, with the help of God, that they will discuss with us, is – revoking affirmative action (emphasis added).

41.       Some two months prior to the elections for the 21st Knesset, on Feb. 8, 2019, shortly after the murder of the late Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian terrorist, Ben Ari uploaded another video clip to his Facebook page in which he stated, among other things, the following:

There is a murderous people here, a murderous nation. We owe the revenge, and the revenge is Otzma Yehudit […] Only the revenge of Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset […] They want to destroy us, they are looking for our neck. […] They want to slaughter us […] The revenge will come when Otzma Yehudit will be in the Knesset with twenty mandates. When we will be there, they will see that we are not playing with them like Lieberman. They will find themselves in their countries of origin, and the village they came from will become an airport. To fly them to their countries of origin (emphasis added).

            An examination of the Facebook page shows that the clip received some 20,000 views. In another video clip that Ben Ari posted the same day, he is heard saying, among other things,: “They are looking for our neck, looking for our daughters […] anyone who talks to you about coexistence is inviting the next murder […] we have to send our enemies back to where they came from […] our enemies, these murderers, we will send them to murder in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iran in Turkey” (emphasis added). This clip, which was, as noted, published close to the elections, received some 32,000 views, and hundreds of “likes”, comments and shares.

42.       The evidence presented, the main part of which we described above, indeed paints a clear, unambiguous, persuasive picture in which Ben Ari systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public. We are concerned with significant evidence that comprises disparaging expressions of extreme severity that continued over a period of some two years until very close to the elections for the 21st Knesset, and Ben Ari is heard saying these things in his own voice. This fact is of high probative value (the second Zoabi case). Ben Ari attributes negative characteristics to practically all of the Israeli Arab public, and calls them “murderers”, a “fifth column”, “enemies”, and of “treasonous character”. We are not concerned with a “slip of the tongue” in a moment of anger, but rather with a continuous, consistent series of statements that express hatred and scorn for the Arab population in its entirety as one that appears to understand only violence, with which one cannot coexist, and which must, therefore, be expelled, and as one that receives various social benefits “at our expense”. As noted in the Appellants’ response to Ben Ari’s supplementary pleadings, these publications were not removed. Ben Ari surpassed himself in comparing the Israeli Arab citizens of Haifa to dogs, stating that “the dog should be called by its name”. The use of dehumanization and attributing animalistic traits to people is known to be one of the most degrading propaganda mechanisms employed by racist regimes in order to mark a population as “inferior” and “sub-human”, and it endangers and seriously harms the dignity of the individuals who are members of that group as human beings.

            Ben Ari’s statements, and the not insignificant exposure they receive on social media, reflect the racist political program he espouses and which he intends to realize as a member of the Knesset. Certain statements that expressly call for violence are of particular severity (see, in this regard, his statements in the video clip published in August 2018, according to which “anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live […] A firing squad kills him, he is done away with, the way Arabs understand. That’s their language”). It is important to note that publications on the social media platforms that Ben Ari chose to use by uploading recordings in which he is heard speaking in his own voice have great influential potential, as the social networks provide candidates for the Knesset quick channels of communication  to many communities without any journalistic mediation. In this manner, the social networks have, to a significant extent, replaced the historic “town square”, and serve as a platform for exchanging views, disseminating ideas, and garnering support among broad, diverse communities. The great accessibility of social networks, as well as the quick and effective dissemination of opinions and ideas by means of the digital platforms, can serve as a very effective means for spreading racist ideas and expedite the dissemination of those ideas (see, in this regard, in general: Yotam Rosner, The Role of Social Media in the Radicalization of Young People in the West, National Security in a “Liquid” World, 131, 135-137 (Institute for National Security Studies, 2019) (Hebrew)).

43.       In addition to the specific explanations that Ben Ari gave for the above publications, he further explained that he is not a racist, and that what he said was directed only at that defined segment of the population that is “enemy”, which includes anyone who is not loyal to the state, and in his own words: “The definition of the enemy is not made on a purely ethno-national basis, but on a political one. Anyone who identifies with the political objectives of the Arab national movement identifies himself as an enemy”. According to him, he does not refer to the Arab public as a whole, and any Arab who is “loyal to Israel” has a right to be a citizen. As opposed to that, whoever “is not loyal to the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people […] should find his place outside of the state”. Ben Ari further clarified that the distinguishing characteristic, according to his approach, is “the relationship to the Zionist enterprise and to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”. He further argued that the quotes attributed to him were fragmented and tendentious and explained that in saying that the Arab population of Israel is not loyal, he meant that he has not met “many loyal Arabs” (emphasis added). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney noted: “In my estimation, there is an absolute majority that is not loyal” (Transcript of the hearing, p. 22, line 14), and in this regard, Ben Ari clarified in his supplementary pleadings that his statement that there is an absolute identity between ethno-national origin and loyalty was made in opposition to a statement that he attributed to former minister Naftali Bennet according to which 99% of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state.

            Ben Ari apologized for his statements in regard to Bedouin soldiers. He pointed out that he “apologizes for them before those loyal soldiers who may have been hurt” and explained that his intention was “unequivocally only to those sons of women who came from the areas of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza”, and that he does not think that “all of the Bedouin population is disloyal” (paras. 32-33 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari even emphasized that “if it sounds as if I am against the Bedouin, God forbid. If there is loyalty, there is loyalty, and I respect and honor that (hearing transcript, p. 29, lines 16-17). Ben Ari asked to clarify that his statement of Sept. 16, 2018, following the murder of Ori Fuld, in which he called to “stop employing the murderers” as referring only to terrorists, the words do not, of course, refer to all Arabs […] [only] to the security measures that should be adopted in regard to employing Arabs from the Palestinian Authority”. In his response to the appeal, Ben Ari explained that his statements in the Afula meeting were made “against the background of the murder of a resident of my community Dadon”, and in his supplemental pleadings, Ben Ari added that even if what was said in that meeting “grate upon the ear, they do not rise to the level of a ‘critical mass’”. In his affidavit, Ben Ari emphasized that “I am not saying that all Arabs are like that [of a murderous, treasonous character], or that this character derives from ethno-national origins. But this murderous violence is characteristic of the national struggle of the Arab national movement since the beginning of the 20th century” (para. 47 of his affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari added another reason for his statements, noting that his words in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula should not be understood as racial discrimination, and he referred in this regard to Amendment no. 8 of 2011 to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance in the matter of the considerations that may be taken into account by an admissions committee of a residential community (hereinafter: the Admissions Committee Law). Ben Ari explained what he said after the murder of Ori Ansbacher in a supplementary notice in which he explained that he “referred to the murder, and that was its only context”. In his affidavit, he added that his words might sound inclusive in regard to people on the basis of ethno-national origin, but that his intention was “to those who, from an Arab national position, seek to murder Jews against a nationalistic background, and as part of what they see as a national struggle, and who support and identify with those acts (para. 50 of the affidavit). In the hearing before us, Ben Ari’s attorney added that “there is never any justification for harming individuals on the basis of the nationality” (Transcript, p. 15, line 6), and that Ben Ari’s statements about the Arab public were always made in the context of a specific event” (ibid., line 12).

            Lastly, Ben Ari sought to emphasize that presenting broad positions is not exclusive to him but is rather a common practice of candidates for the Knesset, and even of serving members of the Knesset.

44.       I examined Ben Ari’s arguments and explanations and I do not see them as sufficient to change my conclusion. While Ben Ari repeatedly states that he is not a racist, unfortunately, his actions and statements, which I have summarized above, are diametrically opposed to that declaration. The question I pondered was what positive weight should be afforded to the fact that Ben Ari already served as a member of the Knesset (in 2009 - 2013). This fact does, indeed, constitute a consideration in his favor, but it is of limited weight inasmuch as Ben Ari worked toward the advancement of his racist ideology even in that period, and tearing the New Testament to shreds and throwing it in the waste basket in the Knesset was just one example of that (for other actions and expressions, see paras. 79-91 of the notice of appeal). In any case, as the Attorney General emphasized in presenting his position, the evidentiary foundation from the recent past, and primarily from the year preceding the elections, shows that a “critical mass” of evidence has amassed that unambiguously, clearly, and persuasively testifies to systematic incitement to racism by Ben Ari. The summary of the case law presented above shows that the Court has attributed significance and weight to explanations and clarifications presented by the candidate, to which the decisions in the matter of Marzel testify (the opinion of President A. Barak in the Tibi case, p. 60, and that of Justice I. Englard at p. 66; the second Zoabi case, para. 34, and as opposed to that, see the dissenting opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein at para. 103). However, in the instant case, the explanations provided by Ben Ari are not persuasive and pale before the enormity of the racist statements that he repeated again and again in his own voice, and which he preached in public at rallies in which he participated and on social networks. Other than an apology, that was only partial, in the matter of Bedouin soldiers, Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. He tried to give his words a post facto interpretation, but that, as stated, was not persuasive because it is not consistent with the meaning and natural context of what was said. Thus, for example, Ben Ari tried to explain that he does not speak about the Israeli Arab public in general but only of those who are “enemies”, but the recordings repeatedly show that the reference is to the entire Arab public, or at the very least, to its overwhelming majority – 99% of that public – as disloyal to the state. Ben Ari himself notes in one of those recordings that he has not met Arabs who are loyal to the state (see, for example, the video clip of Ben Ari from Nov. 7, 2017, from 6:30). Another explanation proposed by Ben Ari in regard to some of his statements was that they were made immediately after terrorist incidents and attacks against Israelis. The pain, the anger, and even the will for revenge aroused at such times is understandable. However, it is important to bear in mind that fear and a sense of threat have always been the fuel that fires racist ideologies, and one must, therefore, take care not to harness understandably harsh feelings that arise at times of distress and pain and exploit them to advance such ideologies. The explanations that Ben Ari presented in an attempt to equate the Admissions Committee Law – with all the clear limitations it establishes – and the things he said in regard to the sale of apartments to Arabs in Afula have no place here inasmuch as the two cannot be compared (and compare: LCA 6709/98 Attorney General v. Moledet [18]) (hereinafter: the Moledet case)).

45.       In summation, this chapter states that the Court’s approach that the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset are to be narrowly construed and exercised in the most extreme cases, was and remains the starting point for every discussion of these causes. However, we are persuaded that the broad, up-to-date evidentiary foundation presented in the instant case gives rise to a cause that disqualifies Ben Ari from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to incitement to racism under sec. 7A(a)(2) of the Basic Law. Given this conclusion, there is no need to examine the additional cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law.

            Indeed, it is not always easy to draw the line separating racial incitement from the expression of an opinion – as severe and harsh as it may be – that is entitled to protection under the fundamental right to freedom of expression in general, and to freedom of political speech in particular. This is particularly the case when the former also concerns the right to vote and to be elected. Nevertheless, in the instant case, and given the evidentiary foundation we presented, it is absolutely clear that Ben Ari’s statements crossed the line, and thus the conclusion reached. It would be appropriate to conclude this chapter with another quote from Memmi’s book Racism:

One cannot be indulgent toward racism; one must not even let the monster in the house, especially not in a mask […] To accept the racist universe to the slightest degree is to endorse fear, injustice, and violence. It is to accept the persistence of the dark history in which we still largely live. It is to agree that the outsider will always be a possible victim (and which man is not himself an outsider relative to someone else?) […] The anti-racist struggle, difficult though it is, and always in question, is nevertheless one of the prologues to the ultimate passage from animality to humanity (ibid., p. 116).

 

Ben Gvir

46.       In the matter of Ben Gvir, the Appellants presented a line of evidence, including evidence concerning criminal proceedings against him that, in part, concerned racist publications and support for the Kach movement that was declared a terrorist organization. However, the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented concerned acts and statements form many years ago, part from as long ago as the 1990s, and only a small part concerned the last few years. After examining the arguments raised by the Appellants and those of Ben Gvir, we concluded, as noted, that the evidence presented is not sufficient to ground a cause for disqualification from standing as a candidate in the elections for the 21st Knesset, given the rule that we addressed above in regard to the strict evidentiary threshold required to substantiate disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

47.       The up-to-date evidence to which the Appellants and the Attorney General referred in regard to Ben Gvir should not be taken lightly. It includes statements he made in November 2017 at a memorial service for Rabbi Kahane, whose praises he also enumerated in an interview on Feb. 21, 2019. Ben Gvir made similar statements in a television interview in Nov. 2018 that he published on his Facebook page at that time. Those statements there were certainly very harsh and troubling, and there is substance to the Attorney General’s opinion that they come dangerously close to the line that would bar him from running in the Knesset elections. In this regard, it would not be superfluous to return to the words of Justice M. Elon in the second Neiman case, in 1989, in regard to the Kach list and Rabbi Kahane’s ideology:

The content of the Kach platform and the purpose of its promoters and leaders, as reflected in the material presented to us, stand in blatant contrast to the world of Judaism – its ways and perspectives, to the past of the Jewish nation and its future aspirations. They contradict absolutely the fundamental principles of human and national morality, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, and the very foundations of present-day enlightened democracies. They come to transplant in the Jewish State notions and deeds of the most decadent of nations. This phenomenon should cause grave concern among the people who dwell in Zion. This court is charged with the preservation of the law and its interpretation, and the duty of inculcating the values of Judaism and civilization, of the dignity of man and the equality of all who are created in the divine image, rests primarily upon those whom the legislature and the executive branch have chosen for the task. When, however, such a seriously dangerous phenomenon is brought to our attention, we may not refrain from sounding the alarm against the ruinous effects of its possible spread upon the character, image, and future of the Jewish State. The remedy lies, in the first place, in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society (ibid., p. 302).

            These trenchant remarks are applicable here, as well. However, Ben Gvir, who was admitted to the bar in 2012, took pains to emphasize and explain that while he is in favor of “fighting against the enemies and against any who seek to erase the state, harm its Jewish character, and destroy it (whether such actor is Jewish or whether Arab)”, he “opposes acting in any violent or unlawful manner” (para. 43 of Ben Gvir’s affidavit). He further noted that over the last years, he has changed his ways and he acts by legal means and initiates legal proceedings where he deems appropriate. These explanations bear weight and should be granted significance, and this, together with the current evidentiary foundation presented in his matter, which, as noted, does not rise to the level of a “critical mass” under the strict criteria established in this regard in the case law, led us to the conclusion that the appeal in the matter of Ben Gvir, on both heads, should be dismissed.

 

EA 1876/19 Ra’am-Balad List v. Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset

48.       The Ra’am-Balad list is composed of two parties – Ra’am and Balad – and two requests for its disqualification were filed by the Likud and MK David Biton, and by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir. The disqualification requests were based upon the cause in sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law – negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law – support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The requesting parties focused primarily on the activities of members of Balad, and it was argued that they oppose the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the State of Israel and act to negate the core characteristics of Israel as a Jewish state. It was further argued that members of the list support the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations and violent acts against the police and IDF soldiers. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 17 for and 10 against to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, and thus the current appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

49.       Ra’am-Balad argued that the Elections Committee’s decision should be annulled, and emphasized that most of the evidence presented in its regard was already adjudged and examined in prior proceedings against the Balad list or its members, including the evidence concerning their support for the idea of “a state of all its citizens”, and the Court held that the evidence did not substantiate a cause for disqualification. It was further argued that the Committee’s decision leads to a problematic result that also disqualifies the members of the Ra’am party on the list from standing for election even though no significant evidence was produced against them that would justify their disqualification. According to Ra’am-Balad, the Committee reached its decision without any material debate, and it ignored the decisions of this Court and the opinion of the Attorney General; the evidence against it does not relate to actions or activity that substantiate a cause for disqualification; and the evidentiary foundation rests upon articles form the internet of low probative weight and whose content was denied by the members of the list. Ra’am-Balad further argued that due to its political composition, the Elections Committee is not authorized to rule upon the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and that the legal arrangement that grants it that authority is disproportionate and infringes the principle of equality of the elections as established in sec. 4 of the Basic Law, and the right to vote and to be elected.

50.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the appeal of Ra’am-Balad should be granted and noted that the disqualification requests were indeed largely founded upon evidence from prior to the elections for the 20th Knesset, and part of it had already been examined in prior proceedings before this Court. Whereas, it is argued, the new evidence submitted relies largely upon articles form the internet that were denied by the members of the list and that are of low probative value. It was further emphasized that most of the evidence pertains to persons who are no longer on the list, among them: Basel Ghattas (hereinafter: Ghattas) and Said Naffaa, or who are in a unrealistic slot on the list, like Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka (hereinafter: Zahalka), and are not relevant to the members of the list and its new candidates who are in realistic slots. In all that relates to the cause of support for armed struggle of a terrorist organization, the Attorney General was of the opinion that significant weight should be accorded to the affidavits submitted by the representatives of the list which note that they reject violence and that they never called for its use. As for the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, the Attorney General noted that the consistent position of the case law of this Court in regard to Balad and its members is that there is no cause for disqualifying them from participating in the election for the claims have been raised once again in this proceeding. However, the Attorney General, without deciding the issue, explained that were the Balad party running independently for the 21st Knesset, there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification in view of the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill submitted to the 20th Knesset by members of Knesset from the Balad party, and due to the content of that bill. But the Attorney General added that since the requests refer to the disqualification of the Ra’am-Balad list, and because the law does not allow for disqualifying half of a list, there is some difficulty in disqualifying the entire list due to the actions of members of the Balad list, who for the most part are not, as noted, candidates in realistic slots on the list, while no significant arguments were raised in regard to the Ra’am party and its members. On the constitutional level, in regard to the matter of the Elections Committee’s authority to address the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the Attorney General argued, inter alia, that given the time constraints established in the Elections Law for deciding upon an appeal, the issues should not be taken up in the framework of the current proceedings.

51.       Respondents 2-3, who submitted the requests for disqualification, relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued for dismissal of the appeal. In their view, the fact that the Ra’am-Balad list includes new candidates does not alter the fact that the ideology of the members of the Balad list negates the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the fact that members of the party support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. The Knesset, which was joined as a Respondent to the appeal due to the constitutional arguments, was of the opinion that these arguments should be dismissed. It emphasized that the claim of lack of authority was not raised before the Elections Committee, that it is being raised long after the said authority was bestowed upon the Committee by law, and like the Attorney General, the Knesset added that the elections proceedings are not appropriate for examining this issue.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

52.       The starting point for examining the evidentiary foundations presented by the Plaintiffs in regard to the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is grounded in the criteria established in the case law, which we surveyed at length above. These criteria were addressed and even applied in the past in regard to the Balad list and its platform (see the Tibi case and the Balad case), and those cases addressed, inter alia, the question whether a party that calls for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens” is disqualified from standing for election to the Knesset. In the Tibi case, the Court answered in the negative, and held that calling for the realization of that principle does not necessarily imply the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court held that as long as that call is intended to guarantee equality among citizens, it should not be interpreted to be a call that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As opposed to that, “if the purpose of Israel being a ‘state of all its citizens’ is intended to mean more than that, and it seeks to undermine the rationale for the creation of the state and its character as the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then that undercuts the nuclear, minimal characteristics that characterize the State of Israel as a Jewish State” (the Tibi case, pp. 22-23, 41).

53.       In the Tibi case, the Court concluded that, despite the fact that Balad’s platform expressly called for realizing the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and despite the additional evidence presented in open court and in camera, taken in its entirety, what was presented did not ground a “critical mass” of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that would justify the disqualification of Balad for the cause argued, nor the disqualification of Bishara – then head of the list – whose disqualification was requested in that same proceeding. It would not be superfluous to note that most of the evidence presented in that matter in regard to Balad concerned actions and statements by Bishara. It was argued in regard to Bishara that, inter alia, in various events and party conferences he expressed himself in a manner that reflected a view according to which Jews do not have a right to self-determination. It was further argued that Bishara supported the approach that recognized the right of return of Arabs to Israel and a struggle against Zionism, and that he even tabled a bill for the abolition of the status of various Zionist institutions.

54.       After examining all of that evidence, the Court concluded in the Tibi case that even though Bishara’s objectives are a dominant objective of his activity and not merely a theoretical concept but rather an objective with political potential that he had put into practice, his actions did not negate the minimal, nuclear definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It was held that the Court was not presented with persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and consequently, not against the Balad list. That was so inasmuch as Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and did not argue that the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) should be revoked, did not deny the centrality of Hebrew as the language of the state, along with Arabic as an official language, and did not oppose Israel’s holidays and symbols, as long as the cultural and religious rights of the Arab minority are recognized.

55.       As noted, the Tibi case concerned the elections for the 16th Knesset, and some eight years later, in the Balad case, the Court addressed disqualification proceedings filed against the Balad party in anticipation of the elections for the 18th Knesset. That matter concerned the decisions of the Elections Committee to disqualify the Balad list, as well as the Ra’am-Ta’al list that also sought to contend in those elections. The causes for which the Elections Committee decided to disqualify the Balad list were, as in the present case, the causes under secs. 7A(a)(1) and (3) of the Basic Law. At that point, Bishara no longer headed the list. He had fled the country, and it was claimed that the reason was that a criminal investigation was being conducted against him for suspected involvement in security offenses (the Balad case, para. 9). Inter alia, the evidence presented in that matter to ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state included Balad’s platform, which was published on its internet site, and an article by Zahalka, who was then the party leader, which described the party’s vision as striving for a State of Israel as “a state of all its citizens”. In addition, public statements of party members made in various situations, as well as articles from which, it was argued, one could discern an expression of support of the Balad members for its founder Bishara even after his flight from Israel, were presented. The Court granted Balad’s appeal and held that there was no cause for disqualification from contending in the elections for the 18th Knesset. The Court’s decision rested, inter alia, upon the opinion of the Attorney General at the time, who noted that the evidence presented against Balad, taken in its entirety, was inferior to the entirety of the evidence presented against that party in the Tibi case. The Court held:

After examining all of the evidence presented to us, and bearing in mind the criteria and principles outlined in the matter of Balad [the Tibi case], the entirety of the evidence presented to this Court in that matter and its concrete findings there in regard to them, we did not find that the disqualification requests that are the subject of this appeal in regard to Balad rest upon a sufficient evidentiary foundation to give rise to a cause for disqualifying the list from contending in the elections for the Israeli Knesset (ibid., para. 22).

            This conclusion reached by the Court in the Balad case concerns the two causes for disqualification advanced there. We will further address the additional cause under sec. 7A(a)(3) below.

56.       Another disqualification proceeding concerning the members of the Balad party was addressed in 2012 in the first Zoabi case, which examined the issue of the disqualification of Zoabi from standing for election for the 19th Knesset on the Balad list. In that proceeding, the Court examined the evidence regarding Zoabi’s support for the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, and was of the opinion that the evidence presented no materially new or different grounds from what had been presented in the Tibi case and the Balad case that would justify a different conclusion. The Court arrived at a similar result some three years later in the second Zoabi case. In that matter, the Court examined, inter alia, whether statements in which Zoabi was heard saying “there was no justification for the establishing of the State of Israel from the start. Now that there are generations of Jews who were born in it, I want to live with them but not in a Jewish and racist state”. The Court also examined an article that reported on a demonstration in which Zoabi participate, entitled “Demonstration against the Crimes of the Occupation”, and a recording in which Zoabi is heard shouting insults at the police. The Court held that there were no grounds for disqualifying Zoabi’s candidacy in the elections. That was so because the desire for the establishment of a state of all its citizens and “striving for an end to the occupation does not necessarily mean a negation of the Jewish foundations of the State of Israel.”

57.       The current proceeding, in which the Ra’am-Balad list is appealing its disqualification by the Elections Committee from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, is another link in the chain of similar proceedings on the same matter. In all that concerns the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, the evidence presented by the petitioners for disqualification includes various statement by members of Balad form the past and present, among them a quote from an interview conducted by Dr. Mtanes Shehadeh, chair of the Balad list, and number two on the Ra’am-Balad list (hereinafter: Shehadeh), in which he says, among other things, that Bishara was “an important activist in Balad’s leadership at the time, and contributed greatly to political discourse […] in Israel”, and is later quoted in that interview as saying that “the flag and national anthem do not represent us”. A report from the YNET website was also presented according to which MK Talab Abu Arar, who is a member of the list, and others met with the president of Turkey. Additional evidence presented concerns an interview with the former general secretary of Balad in which he called upon Israeli Arabs not to vote in the Knesset elections and to act for the realization of the principle of “a state of all its citizens”, as well as evidence concerning past activities of members of Balad, including statements by Zoabi from 2009 and past activities of Bishara.

            This evidence is not materially different from the evidence presented in the previous proceedings that we surveyed, which concerned proceedings for the disqualification of Balad and members of its list, as far as the cause of negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state is concerned. Moreover, not only has most of the evidence presented in this proceeding been examined in previous proceedings and found insufficient in accordance with the criteria outlined for the said cause, but as noted, a not insignificant part of that evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections for the 21st Knesset, or are not candidates in realistic slots on that list. That being the case, we cannot accept the argument that the Ra’am-Balad list should be disqualified from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset due to actions and statements attributed to Zoabi when she herself was not disqualified at the time in the first Zoabi case and the second Zoabi case for the same actions and statements, especially when she is located in the 118th slot on the current list. The argument in regard to ongoing connections of some kind or another between members of the list and Bishara was argued in a general manner and does not suffice for changing the conclusion as to the insufficiency of the evidence presented. As for the majority of the candidates on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset who hold realistic slots, with the exception of Shehadeh, no evidence at all was presented to ground the cause for disqualification, and as explained above, the evidence presented in regard to Shehadeh is based upon quotes from media interviews and reports on various internet websites whose probatory weight has already been held to be low (the second Zoabi case, para. 34), and Shehadeh has declared that his words were presented in a “distorted, misleading manner, and was accompanied by incorrect analysis” (para. 9 of the affidavit submitted by Shehadeh to the Elections Committee).

58.       The primary up-to-date evidence presented to us in this proceeding in regard to the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill, which members of Knesset from the Balad party sought to lay on the table in the 20th Knesset. At the end of the day, that bill was not presented due to a decision by the Knesset presidium of June 4, 2018 not to approve its introduction, based upon the opinion of the Knesset’s legal advisor. A petition filed in this regard was rendered moot and dismissed in limine when it was decided to dissolve the 20th Knesset (HCJ 4552/18 Zahalka v. Speaker of the Knesset [19]). The purpose clause of the bill established that it was intended to ground “the principle of the equal citizenship of every citizen, while recognizing the existence and the rights of the two national groups, Jewish and Arab, living within the borders of the state that are recognized by international law” in a Basic Law. The bill also redrafted the conditions for obtaining Israeli citizenship, such that obtaining citizenship by virtue of the principle of return would be annulled (see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset of June 3, 2018). In addition, new state symbols and a new anthem should be established in accordance with the principles set forth in the bill (on the significance of this provision as negating the principle according to which the “primary symbols” of the state should reflect the national rebirth of the Jewish people, see sec. 5 of the opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, and see what was stated in this regard in sec. 6 of the bill in regard to the status of the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state). If that were not enough, the petition filed by the members of Bald in the 20th Knesset against the decision of the presidium to prevent laying the bill on the Knesset table explicitly stated that the said bill accorded with Balad’s party platform.

            It would seem undeniable that the said bill, in all its parts, expresses a negation of the most minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state as the Court explained in the Tibi case. The fact that the step taken by the members of Balad in this regard was democratic – tabling a bill – does not lead to a different conclusion. This was indeed a significant action by the members of Knesset representing Balad in the 20th Knesset attempting to realize – by means of a legislative bill – a political program and worldview that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It would appear that Ra’am-Balad was aware of the significance of this evidence, but argued that it should not be given decisive weight in the current proceeding, inter alia, given the fact that it is only one piece of evidence (or at most two, if the petition constitutes a separate piece of evidence in this regard), and given the background for submitting the bill and that it was submitted in response to the legislative proceedings on the Nation State Law. These arguments attempt to minimize the significant weight of this evidence, and I agree with the position  of the Attorney General that had Balad run as an independent list comprising members of Knesset who had served in the 20th Knesset and who presented the bill, and who now sought to stand for re-election to the 21st Knesset, there would be grounds for seriously considering whether these two pieces of evidence show that Balad had crossed the divide delineated in the Tibi case that separates between espousing the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in order to achieve equality and seeking to negate the minimal, nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. If we were standing at that junction, we would also likely be required to consider the issue of the applicability of the probability test in applying the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, which was left for further consideration in the Tibi case and in the ensuing decisions. However, the list whose disqualification was requested is a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and we agree with the opinion of the Attorney General that his fact is significant for examining the causes for disqualification. In addition, it must be borne in mind in regard to the representatives of Balad on the list that none of those placed in realistic slots were among those who submitted the bill on Balad’s behalf. Moreover, in the affidavit he submitted to the Elections Committee, Shehadeh declared that he himself and all of Balad’s candidates for Knesset are committed to the principle of “a state of all its citizens” that is presented in the party’s platform as examined and approved in the Tibi case, the Balad case, and in the first and second Zoabi case (para. 2 of the affidavit). Given all of the above, and given the strict criteria outlined in the case law for the disqualification of a list from standing for election to the Knesset, we have concluded that there are no grounds for disqualifying the Ra’am-Balad list on the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

59.       The Election Committee’s decision that “the Ra’am-Balad list is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset” does not state whether the list’s disqualification is based upon both of the two causes in secs. 1A(a)1 and (3) of the Basic Law or only upon one of them. In the future, even if the Committee does not state the reasons for its decision, it may be appropriate that it at least note what cause grounded its decision on disqualification. In any event, for the purposes of this appeal, I will assume, as did the parties, that the disqualification rested upon both causes.

            The prevailing rule established that in order to prove that a list or a candidate seeking to stand for election supports armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist group, it must be shown that it is the primary objective of the list and that it actually works toward realizing it. In all of the past proceedings in the matter of both Balad and Ra’am, it was held that the evidence presented in this regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that would justify disqualifying either of the lists or any of candidates on those lists on the basis of the cause grounded in sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic law (EA 2600/99 Erlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [20] (hereinafter: the Erlich case); the Tibi case; the first Zoabi case; the second Zoabi case). Those holdings bear consequences for the matter before us inasmuch as the evidence presented to ground the cause of support for armed struggle is immeasurably less than that presented in the above cases. The Petitioners for disqualification primarily based their arguments upon pictures of Shehadeh visiting a former security prisoner and upon quotes from an interview in which it is alleged that he refused to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization and added that “any struggle against the occupation is a legitimate struggle”, and that he “is for a struggle against the occupation. People have a right to fight against the occupation. If there are people who are oppressed, they have a right to fight”. In addition, an interview with MK Abd Al Hakeem Haj Yahya, who holds the second slot in the Ra’am party, was presented in which he referred to an attack on the Temple Mount in July 2017 in which Israeli police were murdered. According to the petitioners for disqualification, other statements by members of the list in 2009 and 2011 demonstrate a support for terrorism. The petitioners for disqualification further added the fact that former Knesset members of Balad met with the families of terrorists who were killed while carrying out terrorist attacks; Zoabi’s participation in the “Mavi Marmara” flotilla; the meeting held by former Balad Knesset members with Bishara in 2014; and the conviction of former Balad Knesset member Ghattas for security offenses.

60.       We reviewed the above evidence, and we are not of the opinion that it constitutes a body of persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence that shows that support for an armed struggle by a terrorist organization is a central, dominant purpose of the Ra’am-Balad list or of any of the parties that compose it. In addition, we do not think that evidence was presented that meets the evidentiary threshold for proving that this list acts for the realization of such an armed struggle in a real and consistent manner. This is an a fortiori conclusion given that the evidence presented in the prior proceedings addressed by this Court was far more significant than that presented before us, and it was nevertheless held that it was insufficient to ground a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. Moreover, a significant part of the evidence presented to us refers to persons who do not appear on the Ra’am-Balad list for the 21st Knesset, and some of it was already examined in the previously noted cases. The petitioners for disqualification presented various statements by Shehadeh from which one might infer support for violent activity, but that is not the only possible interpretation and the doubt acts to the benefit of the conclusion that would permit the list to participate in the elections (the second Zoabi case, para. 73). In addition, weight should be given in this regard to the fact that Shehadeh made it explicitly clear in his affidavit that he does not support violent activity and that Balad’s approach is “democratic and employs legal means. We have never called for the use of violence, and none of the candidates on our current list have ever been convicted of any criminal offence”. It was further noted that statements expressing opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria were examined by this Court in the past, and it was held that they do not, in and of themselves, give rise to a cause for disqualification (the second Zoabi case, para. 67).

61.       In conclusion, for the reasons stated above, I was of the opinion that we should grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, that the disqualification decision by the Elections Committee should be overturned, and we should order that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset. I did not find reason to address the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to rule upon the causes for disqualification. The conclusion that we reached in this appeal renders those arguments moot, but in my view, the fact that those arguments were never raised before the Elections Committee suffices to dismiss them in limine.

 

EDA 1806/19 Lieberman v. Cassif

62.       At the request of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction and Knesset members Avigdor Lieberman and Oded Forer, the Elections Committee decided to disqualify Cassif from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset as a candidate on the Ra’am-Balad list. The Committee presented that decision for the Court’s approval in accordance with sec. 63A(b) of the Elections Law and sec. 7A(b) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

 

Arguments of the Parties

63.       The request for Cassif’s disqualification rests upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The evidence adduced in support of the request consisted primarily of four publications and newspaper articles – mostly from the internet – that show, according to those requesting disqualification, that in his statements, Cassif rejects the Jewish character of the State of Israel and calls for the changing of the state’s symbols and anthem, and for revoking the Law of Return. It is also argued that the evidence presented shows that Cassif supports the armed struggle of the Hamas terrorist organization against the state. This, inter alia, because he compared senior government leaders to Nazi war criminals, and because other statements testify, in their opinion, that Cassif believes that attacking soldiers does not constitute terrorism and that Israel should be fought because of its serious crimes against the Palestinian population.

64.       Cassif argued on his behalf that the evidence presented by those requesting the disqualification does not justify his disqualification from running in the Knesset elections. That is particularly so given that the request for disqualification is based, so he argues, upon distorted and tendentious quotes and relies primarily upon one interview with him in which he primarily presented academic ideas and not his political philosophy. As for the arguments that portray him as rejecting the Jewish character of the State of Israel, Cassif emphasized that he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to self-determination alongside an independent Palestinian state, while ensuring full equal rights to all residents of Israel. As for the arguments portraying him as supporting the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel, Cassif claimed that the various comparisons that he made between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany are not relevant to grounding a cause for disqualification, and that he opposes all forms of violence against any person. Similar to the arguments raised by the Ra’am-Balad list, Cassif also raised constitutional arguments in regard to the authority of the Elections Committee to examine and rule upon the disqualification of lists and candidates under the causes grounded in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, and I will already state that for the reasons mentioned in the previous chapter concerning the appeal of Ra’am-Balad, I have not found it necessary to address these arguments in the approval proceedings in regard to Cassif.

65.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that there is no cause for barring Cassif from running in the elections for the 21st Knesset because no “critical evidentiary mass” was presented that would justify it, noting that the evidentiary grounds adduced in support of disqualification was meager in both amount and quality.

 

Negation of the Existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State

66.       The evidence in the matter of Cassif on this cause relies upon two newspaper publications. The first is an article on the internet site of Makor Rishon from Feb. 7, 2019, according to which Cassif stated in an interview some two years earlier on the subject of the evacuation of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria that he viewed this as a first step towards a Palestinian state, and that the State of Israel cannot be and must not be a Jewish state. Cassif expressly refutes these words attributed to him (para. 10 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee). As already noted, the probative weight that can be ascribed to such articles, and all the more so to “second hand” articles is low.

67.       The second and more significant piece of evidence presented by those requesting Cassif’s disqualification is an interview with Cassif in the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. According to the petitioners for disqualification, certain statements by Cassif in that interview can be understood as a call for the negation of some of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, for example, in response to the interviewer’s question about the character of the Israeli public space, Cassif said: “The public space has to change, to belong to all the residents of the state. I disagree with the concept of a Jewish public space”, adding that this would be expressed “for example, by changing the symbols, changing the anthem […]”. Cassif was also asked in that interview whether he supported the revocation of the Law of Return and answered “Yes. Absolutely”. As for the question of the Palestinian right of return to Israel, he replied: “There is no comparison. There is no symmetry here at all […]”. These worrying statements, which Cassif did not deny, certainly bear significant weight in examining the cause for disqualification in his regard under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law. However, we are concerned with a newspaper interview and a single statement made in it, and I therefore agree with the Attorney General’s view that this piece of evidence alone is not sufficient to meet the strict criteria established by the case law for disqualifying a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset. Indeed, as presented in detail above, in order to ground a cause for disqualification, it is necessary to present statements that unambiguously, clearly and persuasively testify to the negation of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. One must also show that this is the dominant purpose motivating the candidate’s activity and that he vigorously and consistently acts for its realization as part of a concrete political program. To this we should add that in his statements before the Elections Committee and before this Court, Cassif noted that he sees himself as obligated to the platform of the Hadash party, whose representatives have served in the Knesset for many years, and stated in the hearing before the Elections Committee: “The party of which I am a member and which I represent, […] made it its motto and has always said that we view the State of Israel as a state in which the Jewish people in the land is entitled to define itself. I do not deny that, I have never denied that, and I have no intention of denying that” (Transcript 10/21, p. 37).

 

Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel

68.       Has it been shown, as the petitioners for disqualification claim, that Cassif supports armed struggle by the Hamas terror organization against the State of Israel? A large part of the disqualification request in this regard rests upon statements attributed to Cassif that imply a comparison between the State of Israel and senior members of the government of Nazi Germany and Nazi war criminals. Thus, for example, in the article on the Makor Rishon website mentioned above, it was claimed that “Cassif called Lieberman ‘a descendant of Adolph’, and explained: ‘A conceptual descendent, not an actual one”, and called former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum”. In another article on the website of Channel 20 from March 2016, a Facebook post by Cassif was quoted in which he wrote about the Israeli government, among other things, that “this is a fascist government par excellence, with real Nazi motives […] and at its head, above all others: an incompetent scoundrel who has destroyed every good thing there ever was here […] an outstanding student of Göring’s doctrine”. In another article published on the Channel 20 website in April 2018, there was a recording of Cassif from a class that he gave in which he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse created by the current government, it is legitimate to kill Arabs. This is how one slides into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago”.

69.       Those statements, which Cassif did not deny, are very harsh, and the evident comparison between the State of Israel and government ministers to Nazi Germany is outrageous and were better never said, and having been said, I reject them in the most severe terms. The weak explanations provided by Cassif, according to which the statements were only made as metaphors in order to arouse critical public debate and to warn against dangerous deterioration, do not blunt their severity. Cassif also took the trouble to explain that in his publicist writings he emphasized that “any comparison between the Nazi annihilation and Israeli policy in the territories would make a mockery of the Holocaust”, of which it may be said that he did not practice as he preached. However, we must admit that as outrageous and enraging as these statements may be, they do not ground a cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, and they cannot, in and of themselves, lead to the disqualification of his candidacy in the elections (and compare: the Kach case, p. 3). In any case, Cassif made it clear that he does not intend to repeat such things as an elected representative (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted by Cassif to the Elections Committee), and it is to be hoped that he will act accordingly.

70.       The additional evidence presented in support of Cassif’s disqualification on the cause of support for the armed struggle of Hamas against Israel also does ground a cause for his disqualification. In this regard, the plaintiffs directed our attention, inter alia, to a post by Cassif that was mentioned earlier, which, they argue, shows that he supports a violent struggle against the fascism and racism that have, in his opinion, spread in Israeli society. They also referred to an article on the website of Channel 20, also mentioned above, that includes a recording of Cassif from 2018 in which he is heard saying that “Hamas is a political party”. Lastly, the plaintiffs refer to Cassif’s statements in the interview in Ha’aretz in which he stated:

Cassif: “Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable […] Wherever there was a struggle for liberation from oppression there are national heroes who, in 90% of the cases, did things that were, in part, terrible. Nelson Mandela, who is now regarded as a hero, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was a terrorist according to the accepted definition […]”.

Interviewer: “In other words, the Hamas commanders today, who initiate actions against soldiers will be heroes of the Palestinian state that will be established?”

Cassif: “Certainly”.

Cassif asked to explain what he said, and told the Elections Committee and the Court that he opposes the use of violence against any person. He did not deny his opposition to the Israeli policy in Judea and Samaria and said that in his vision for the future he sees an end of the military regime there and that his activity is intended, among other things, to change the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in general. However, as already noted, expressing this opinion alone does not give rise to a cause for disqualification (see para. 56), and Cassif declared unambiguously that he does not support opposition by means of armed struggle, but rather political, non-violent opposition (compare: the Tibi case, p. 50; the second Zoabi case, para. 71), and in his words: “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence, this was also expressly stated in the interviews with me and in every other framework […] I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all” (Transcript 10/21, p. 34). Cassif also expressed a similar position in that interview in Ha’aretz that was presented by the plaintiffs, a part of which was quoted above, in stating: “We have always opposed harming innocent civilians. Always. In all of our demonstrations, one of our leading slogans was: In Gaza and Sderot, children want to live. With all of my criticism of the settlers, going into a house to slaughter children, as in the case of the Fogel family, is something that is intolerable. You have to be a human being and reject this”.

As for Cassif’s statement in regard to harming soldiers, we are concerned with a severe, enraging statement that could be interpreted as legitimizing the harming of IDF soldiers by the Hamas terror organization. While Cassif tried to create a distinction in this regard between his theoretical, academic views and his political views, in my view, it is an artificial and unpersuasive distinction that is hard to accept. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the evidentiary foundation presented by the plaintiffs relies upon those aforementioned publications, and I agree with the position of the Attorney General that this evidentiary foundation is meager and insufficient to ground the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law in accordance with the criteria set out in the case law, which I discussed above.

 

EA 1867/19 Ben Ari v. Hadash-Ta’al List

71.       The request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list from standing for election to the 21st Knesset was filed by Ben Ari and Ben Gvir upon two causes: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state under sec. 7A(a)(1) of the Basic Law, and support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. The Elections Committee decided by a majority of 15 for and 12 against to dismiss the request, and thus the present appeal.

 

Arguments of the Parties

72.       The appellants who seek the disqualification, and a few members of the Elections Committee who joined them as appellants, argued that the statements and actions of members of the list are intended to negate the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and that its members support the Hezbollah and Hamas terror organizations while legitimizing harming Israeli citizens residing in the Judea and Samaria area and IDF soldiers.

73.       For its part, the Hadash-Ta’al list relied upon the decision of the Elections Committee and argued that the requesters of disqualification did not present an appropriate evidentiary foundation that could ground the claimed causes for disqualification. It was explained that the request was partly based upon old evidence that had been examined by the Elections Committee in previous elections, and that many of the statements attributed to members of the list were distorted and presented in a tendentious manner. It was further noted that most of the evidence was based upon reports taken from internet sites and newspaper clippings of low probative value, and that part are not even relevant to grounding the causes for disqualification.

74.       The Attorney General was of the opinion that the entirety of the evidence presented in regard to that request does not justify its acceptance inasmuch as it did not amount to the “critical evidentiary mass” required for disqualifying a list from participating in the elections for the Knesset. This is particularly so given that the evidentiary material presented in the matter of Hadash-Ta’al is significantly more limited than that presented in previous proceedings in which the said causes for disqualification were addressed. The Attorney General also added that the request was based largely on newspaper reports and parts of speeches that are of low probative value, and in particular, given the fact that we are not concerned with up-to-date evidence, and that part relates to the period preceding the elections for the 20th Knesset.

75.       The appellants based their argument in regard to the cause of disqualification concerning the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state on a few statements by members of the list that are insufficient– both quantitatively and qualitatively – for meeting the necessary evidentiary threshold to ground the argument that Hadash-Ta’al negates the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The primary piece of evidence presented by the appellants in this regard was an interview with Knesset member Tibi in the Ha’aretz newspaper in March 2017, in which he was asked to provide a hypothetical description of the situation in which the vision of two states was abandoned and instead, a single state was established in which the Arab minority became the majority. In that interview, Tibi is quoted as saying that such a state would be substantially different from the State of Israel today, and that the Declaration of Independence would be replaced by a civil declaration in which equality would be a supreme value, the Law of Return would be revoked, and the state’s symbols would be changed. However, Tibi expressly stated in that interview that his vision is a vision of two states – a fact that the appellants refrained from mentioning in their arguments. The appellants further referred to a short segment of a television interview with Tibi in 2011 in which he said that he cannot recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state. These two pieces of evidence, which are not from the recent past, are not sufficient to show clearly, persuasively and unambiguously that Tibi acts for the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It should be borne in mind that we are concerned with a member of Knesset who has served for some two decades, and that no argument was presented in regard to his parliamentary activity that would support the claimed cause for disqualification (compare the Ben Shalom case, p. 251). The additional evidence presented consists of quotes regarding which there is doubt as to whether they could ground the cause of negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, and in any case, they are attributed to Raja Zaatra, who is not a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list for the 21st Knesset and who claimed that the quotes were untrue. The appellants further referred to statements by Cassif, who is a member of the Hadash-Ta’al list, but as noted above, we did not find them sufficient to lead to disqualifying Cassif himself, and thus they cannot lead to the disqualification of the entire list (see and compare: the Tibi case, p. 44; the Balad case, para. 20).

76.       The evidence adduced by the appellants in all that regards the cause for disqualification concerning support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel comprises, inter alia: a public address by Tibi in 2011 in Arabic in which, it is argued, he expressed praise for martyrs, and a report from 2007 on his participation in a march marking five years since Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin, among a crowd in which people dressed up as suicide bombers were present. In addition, the appellants referred to statements by a member of the Hadash party, Aida Touma Suleiman (hereinafter: Suleiman) in which she called the conduct of IDF forces in violent events on the Gaza border “premeditated murder”, refused to call the Hamas a terrorist organization, and argued that “an intifada by the people against the occupation is legitimate”. The appellants further referred to Suleiman’s participation in a demonstration in support of those who refuse to serve in the IDF, and to her refusal to hold a debate on women soldiers in the IDF when she served as chair of the Knesset committee for the advancement of the status of women. In addition, statements by a member of the Ta’al party, Osama Saadi, were presented expressing support for a popular struggle and who, it is claimed, refused to denounce harming Israeli citizens who reside in Judea and Samaria. The appellants also referred to statements by the chair of the Hadash faction, Ayman Odeh (hereinafter: Odeh), who refused to denounce harming IDF soldiers and thanked a Palestinian television station that praised the parliamentary activity of the Joint List in the 20th Knesset. The appellants further referred to a report that Odeh had clashed with police in a conference of the Popular Front and Democratic Front organizations, reports on meetings of members of the list with security prisoners in prison, reports of discussions held with Palestinian leaders, and to the Hadash party’s condemnation of the decision of the Persian Gulf states and the Arab League to declare the Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

77.       I examined the said assembled evidence and arrived at the conclusion that it is insufficient under the strict criteria outlined in the case law for establishing a cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(3) of the Basic Law. As the Attorney General noted, part of the evidence presented in this matter does not show – even prima facie – direct or indirect support for terrorist activity. To that one should add that some of the evidence adduced is old and even precedes the elections for the 20th Knesset, and the Elections Committee to which that evidence was presented in the past did not find that it grounds the cause for disqualification. Indeed, some of the material attributed to the representatives of Hadash-Ta’al as detailed above can be interpreted as supporting an armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization, but given the fact that in those very same publications to which the appellants refer there are also statements by members of the list according to which they do not support violence as a political approach, the resulting doubt weighs against that interpretation. Moreover, those requesting disqualification did not present the official platform of the list, which is a primary source depicting its purposes (the second Neiman case, p. 186; the Moledet case, p. 362), and for this reason, as well, it is difficult to conclude that the list supports armed struggle against the State of Israel by a terrorist organization and that this is the central, dominant purpose of Hadash-Ta’al for the realization of which it acts in a real and consistent manner.

 

Conclusion

78.       For the reasons detailed above, I have, as stated, arrived at the conclusion that the appeal in EA 1866/19 should be granted in part, and to hold that Ben Ari is banned from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which does not apply to Ben Gvir; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 and hold that the Ra’am-Balad list is not barred from participating in those elections; to overturn the Elections Committee’s decision in EA 1806/19 and hold that Cassif may participate in the elections for the 21st Knesset; and to deny the appeal in EA 1867/19 and hold that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset.

 

Justice I. Amit:

            I concur in the decision of President E. Hayut, and I will add a few words of my own.

1.         Every election season, as a kind of ritual, the Supreme Court is called upon to address the disqualification of lists or candidates on the basis of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969. Knesset elections are a purely political matter, and the Elections Committee reflects the relative political power in the Knesset like a mini-Knesset. As opposed to this, sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset was originally enacted to reflect timeless constitutional criteria of causes for qualification that are not judged on the basis of prevailing sentiment. In view of the fundamental right to vote and to be elected, the Supreme Court established strict criteria for the disqualification of a list or a candidate, which were reviewed in para. 16 of the President’s opinion: dominant purpose; express declarations or unambiguous conclusions; non-sporadic conduct; and persuasive evidence.

            In putting those principles into practice, we examine each disqualification independently on its own merits, in accordance with the relevant cause for disqualification and the evidence referring to it, while not seeking any kind of political “symmetry” or “balance”. As I had the opportunity to say: “the voting in the Elections Committee is political, and thus the great caution that this Court must exercise as a party to the decision so as not to be infected by the political game” (EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 1 of my opinion) (hereinafter: the second Zoabi case)).

            And now to the matter on the merits.

2.         Sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Incitement to Racism”:

            The legislature stated its opinion loudly and clearly. Incitement to racism is politically out of bounds. Incitement to racism is contrary to universalist democratic values. Incitement to racism is incompatible with the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Incitement to racism – not in this house and not in the Knesset. For this reason, the Kach movement was denounced and expelled from the community and placed beyond the bounds of law. Racially inciting discourse is harmful by its very nature, and as such, I am of the opinion that it should not be subject to the probability test.

3.         In the “last round”, Baruch Marzel’s candidacy was confirmed, but in his dissent, Justice Rubinstein expressed his opinion that we were concerned with “the sheerest of sheer costumes” (the second Zoabi case, para. 118 of his opinion). As the President so aptly demonstrated, the candidate Ben Ari did not even bother to put on a disguise. According to him, the logic is as follows: Whoever is not a Zionist is an enemy, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are not Zionists, therefore the conclusion is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are to be viewed as enemies. The Attorney General was rightly of the opinion that Ben Ari should be disqualified, and we agree.

4.         Sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset – “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”.

            In the second Zoabi case, I noted that “the Jewish public must be sensitive to the dilemma of the Arab minority, but similarly, elected Arab representatives must conduct themselves with wisdom and sensitivity in regard to the state of which they are citizens and understand the sensitivities of the majority”. In the fascinating hearing before us, it could be inferred from the statements of those requesting the disqualification of Ra’am-Balad that a party that is not Zionist should be deemed as one that entirely rejects the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and must, therefore, be disqualified. In my opinion, this argument insensitively pigeonholes a considerable part of the Arab population that, while not Zionist, identifies with the State of Israel and sees itself as an integral part of it. It is hard to accept that the State of Israel would make an outcast of anyone who is not a Zionist, or anyone who ideologically rejects the Zionist idea. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for “incitement to racism” reinforces both characteristics of the State of Israel as “Jewish and democratic”. Disqualifying a list or a candidate for discourse and speech that is not Zionist in accordance with the approach of those seeking disqualification in the present case constitutes somewhat of a lessening of the democratic element. Therefore, and for the purposes of the cause for disqualification under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, the two components of “Jewish and democratic” must be balanced wisely and sensitively so that accusers will not say that our state is “democratic” for the Jewish majority and “Jewish” for the Arab minority.

            And note: we sing [in the National Anthem – trans.] “the soul of a Jew still yearns” with misty eyes, and the Law of Return, 5710-1950 is, indeed, the “Foundation Stone” of the State of Israel and a Jewish state. The Law of Return is the alpha and omega for the very existence of the State of Israel, and it is what ensures the existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. But not every passing thought, notion, or expression that casts doubt about the Law of Return will inherently lead to disqualification given the strict tests for disqualification noted above (such as dominance), and perhaps the probability test as well. However, a bill to rescind the Law of Return, or a party platform that openly calls for the rescission of the Law of Return might move a list across the boundary of disqualification, and it would seem that Balad, almost as a habit, not infrequently walks on the boundary. It would not be superfluous to note that in the Tibi case (Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 40), President Barak was ready to accept the statement of MK Bishara that he did not demand the revocation of the Law of Return. From this we can infer the result had it been otherwise claimed. This brings us to the central piece of evidence presented to us in regard to Balad, which is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that it presented to the Knesset, and which in effect, expresses a desire to undermine the Jewish character of the state.

5.         A number of reasons led me to the conclusion that the Balad list should not be disqualified for that bill, even without addressing the question of the probability test.

            First, most of the Balad Knesset members in the prior Knesset are not on the current list, which changes its character. Second, that bill should be seen as a sporadic act of protest following the enactment of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. The bill is not included in Balad’s platform, it is not claimed that it was part of its platform in the past, and no systematic, consistent activity in that direction was proven. The bill should, therefore, be viewed as a one-time act that does not, in and of itself, give rise to a cause for disqualification.

6.         These are the main reasons why I am of the opinion that that the Balad party walked on the margin but did not cross it, even though the bill brought it but a step away. For my part, I will leave the grounds for the Attorney General’s opinion – that Balad did not stand alone but rather as part of a joint list of Ra’am-Balad – for further consideration. One could, on the other hand, argue that the very fact of that partnership with another party placed Balad under a higher duty of care lest crossing the boundaries might harm the other party. The other side of the coin is that the unification of parties does not grant immunity from disqualification, such that parties that may join with Balad in the future will have to take that into account. I will, therefore, leave the matter for further consideration.

 

Justice U. Vogelman:

1.         I concur in the conclusions and the comprehensive opinion of my colleague the President, and with the main points of her reasoning.

2.         The principles applicable to appeal and approval proceedings with which we are concerned are grounded in a broad range of case law, which is appropriately detailed in the opinion of my colleague the President.

3.         My colleague the President addresses the difference between an elections appeal and an elections approval, and on the various approaches in our case law in regard to the scope of the Court’s review in the different proceedings. My colleague Justice I. Amit, for his part, addresses the caution that the Court must adopt, in his view, in proceedings such as these due to the fact that the vote in the Elections Committee if political.

4.         I see no need to set in stone the proper approach among those enumerated by my colleagues (inasmuch as each of them leads to the same result in the instant case). However, I would like to emphasize that, in my view, given the nature of the rights and balances involved, the “political” considerations cannot be given weight in terms of the constitutionality of the decisions, and that the political nature of the proceeding in the Central Elections Committee is not meant to influence the form of judicial examination and its scope.

5.         On the matter of disqualification for incitement to racism.

            The first matter I wish to address in this regard concerns the application of probability tests for the realization of the dangers that the causes for disqualification are intended to prevent (a question that has not yet been resolved in our case law). In the context of the said cause, I would like to point out that, in my view, there is no place for a “probability test” inasmuch as racist expression is not worthy of protection. In the words of Justice D. Beinisch: “Racism is the kind of affliction whose isolation and removal from the political and social arena is an essential condition for preventing its spread” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset v. Tibi [1], p. 88) (hereinafter: the Tibi case)).

            The words of Justice Procaccia in the same matter are apt:

The phenomenon of racism in the chronicles of history and the annals of the Jewish people is special and unique. Nothing compares to its rejection and the defense against it even among the many protections of the fundamental human rights that the constitutions of western states diligently labor to ground. The moral, ethical taint of incitement to racism, against the background of its deep opposition to the universal concept of human rights, and in view of the atrocities of the Holocaust of European Jewry that was annihilated due to racial theory, does not tolerate its inclusion on the podium of ideas and opinions of political discourse. That is so, even if there is no foreseeable danger whatsoever of the realization of the inciter’s dogma, and even if his words are like “a voice crying out in the wilderness” without echo and without being heard.

Racism is condemned, and it must be eliminated by virtue of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966, of which Israel is a signatory. The parties to it pledged not to sponsor racial discrimination and to adopt immediate measures in order to uproot every phenomenon of racism (arts. 2, 4, and 5 of the Convention).

The condemnation of racism takes on a special dimension in Jewish tradition in view of the blood-soaked history of a nation that was a victim of the manifestations of this phenomenon over generations. Racism stands in contradiction to the fundamental values of the State of Israel as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, according to which full social and political equality must be ensured for all citizens regardless of religion, race, and sex. The depth and force of the condemnation of racism as a social phenomenon do not accord with granting of an opportunity to a candidate to run for office on the basis of racist ideas among the range of opinions and perspectives expressed in political discourse. Standing for election on the basis of racist ideas flies in the face of the educational, moral purpose of inculcating the principles of equality and tolerance in Israeli society. These ideas cross the bounds of the red line that guarantees tolerance even for expressing deviant ideas and views. Casting them out beyond the pale is necessary so that expressing them will not be interpreted, even by inference, as granting approval and legitimacy to those who hold them to participate in the life of the state (and compare: R. Gavison, Twenty Years since the Yeredor Ruling – The Right to be Elected and the Lessons of History, p. 173).

                        […]

In this spirit, the condemnation of incitement to racism and its removal from the framework of political contest is a value unto itself, unconditional and unrestricted even where there is no attendant probability whatsoever of the realization of its potential danger. There is no need to seek manifest or hidden elements of danger in order to deny the entrance of inciters to racism into the political arena (compare the words of Justice E. Goldberg in the meeting of the Knesset Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the Kach party, Oct. 5, 1988, p. 47ff.). Incitement to racism is condemned as a value of universal and national heritage, and it stands above and beyond the probability test of its foreseeable danger on the basis of some criterion or another. The contradiction between racism and the fundamental values of the stare is so deep that anyone who embraces it in his political thought should be disqualified from the outset (the Tibi case, pp. 89-90).

            I agree with every jot and tittle of these true words.

6.         Moving from the general to the specific – my colleague well described the factual grounds upon which we decided that the cause of incitement to racism is met in the case of Ben Ari, and it would be superfluous to reiterate the well-grounded presentation of the evidentiary foundations. Ben Ari’s incitement extends to a broad range of subjects, among them a call for excluding Arab citizens from residing within the limits of an Israeli city, recall dark periods in the history of nations. The addition of the cause for disqualification with which we are concerned to the Basic Law by the constituent authority of the State of Israel was intended for a war against such phenomena, and it is our role to interpret the Constitution and maintain its boundaries.

7.         The matter of Ben Gvir is different. I concur with my colleague’s conclusion – which ascribed weight to his declarations concerning changing his manner – that the foundation amassed in his regard does not amount to a “critical mass” that grounds a cause for disqualification.

8.         As for the Ra’am-Balad list – as my colleague notes, the entirety of the evidence adduced is not qualitatively different from what was presented to this Court in previous proceedings that concerned the question of the disqualification of Balad and members of the list in which it was held that it did not constitute a sufficient foundation for disqualification. I see no need to address the Basic Law bill that Balad presented, to which my colleagues referred, given that the Balad Knesset members who served in the last Knesset are not included in the current list, and given the clarification by the list’s attorney that the bill is not part of Balad’s platform.

9.         In the matters of Ofer Cassif and the Hadash-Ta’al list, as well, I concur with the conclusion that the evidentiary foundation is insufficient to ground the claimed causes for disqualification.

 

Justice M. Mazuz:

            I concur in the main points of the reasons and conclusions of President E. Hayut, and I wish to add two comments. Because they are not necessary for the decision, I will state then in brief:

1.         The cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”:

            As we know, the cause of “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” under sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset formerly comprised two separate causes: “Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and “negation of the democratic character of the state” (secs. 7A(1)-(2)). The two causes were unified in the framework of a 2002 amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that added the authority to disqualify a candidate (not just a list) and the cause of support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. As explained in the Explanatory Notes, this unification derived from the desire for uniformity between the wording of sec. 7A and sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992 (“and this because the two sections are interrelated”), and was not intended to introduce a change in the content of these causes by virtue of their unification.

            In practice, the unification of the causes, which involved a certain change in the wording of the cause, was the basis for an interpretation of this cause that was both different in content and broader in scope. While under the prior wording, the cause of “negating the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people” addressed the negation of the view that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people in the sense of the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, under the unified wording, the term “Jewish state” was interpreted as referring to the internal content of the state’s identity and the elements of the Jewish identity of the state from within (“the primary symbols” of the state and the “nuclear characteristics” of its Jewish identity).

            In my opinion, the proper interpretation of the cause for disqualification of “negating the existence of the State of Israel”, like the separate cause under the prior wording, refers to the identity of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people in the national sense, as the place in which it realizes its right to self-determination, and not as referring to internal features of the state that characterize it as a Jewish state. This position has consequences, inter alia, in regard to how to view the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill introduced at the time by Knesset members of Balad, however, in view of the President’s conclusions in this regard (para. 58), I see no need to expand upon my approach to the bill and I will only note that I agree in principle with the comments of Justice I. Amit in paras. 4-5 of his opinion.

 

2.         A Probability Test and Incitement to Racism:

            This issue has been addressed on several occasions in previous case law, beginning with the first Neiman case, and various opinions – mostly rejecting it in general, or at least in regard to the cause of incitement to racism – but it has been left for further consideration and remains undecided.

            I am of the opinion that there is no place for a probability test in applying the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. The probability test has no grounding in the language of the law, and it raises many – theoretical and practical – difficulties in its application. I will not presume to exhaust all the reasons for this position, but will suffice with a few words: first, in terms of the interpretation of the law. As we know, the interpretation of a statute begins with its language and is limited by it. There are no grounds for requiring a probability test in the language of sec. 7A. Section 7A refers to objectives and actions, including statements, by a list or candidate. We are concerned with causes of “conduct” not “results”. Second, the Court, called upon to approve or review a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify a candidate or list, lacks the tools for applying a probability test for the purpose of approving or rejecting the probability evaluation of the Elections Committee. A probability estimate in the public-political context is inherently speculative, and the Court would do well to refrain from it. Third, and this is the main point, sec. 7A treats of the lack of legitimacy of a list or candidate who meets the disqualification criteria to participate in the “democratic game”. The theoretical basis for disqualifying lists or candidates, as stated, does not suffice by preventing a real, concrete threat, but primarily concerns not granting legitimacy to lists of candidates whose objectives and actions are beyond the legitimate democratic boundaries for participating in the democratic elections.

            It would appear that the cause of “incitement to racism” under sec. 7A(a)(2) well demonstrates this. Incitement to racism and racist acts are unacceptable per se, as they are contrary to the most basic values of a democratic society, which is founded upon the idea of the equality of human beings. We are concerned with universal values accepted in the law of nations. Under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, known as the CERD Convention – signed by the State of Israel on March 7, 1966, ratified on Jan. 3, 1979, and entering into effect on Feb. 2, 1979 – the State of Israel assumed, like the other signatory nations, inter alia, the obligation to prohibit racial and other discrimination and to adopt all means, including legislation, to bring about its end (art. 2(1)(d) of the Convention). In 1985, together with the amendment of Basic Law: The Knesset and the addition of sec. 7A, the Penal Code was also amended with the addition of Article 1A: Incitement to Racism, which established various offences of incitement to racism (both amendments were included in the same pamphlet of bills – H.H. 5745 193). The offences of incitement to racism are conduct crimes, not result crimes, and do not comprise an element of probability (“it does not matter whether the publication did cause racism” – sec. 144B(b)).

            Incitement to racism is, therefore, prohibited and unacceptable without regard for the probability of the realization of its objectives. It is an illegitimate form of discourse in a democratic society. Incitement to racism does not represent any protected value that requires a balancing of interests. The value of freedom of expression, which is the life breath of democracy, was intended to protect non-violent public debate and to permit a conceptual contest among legitimate values in a democratic society. Racist discourse “pollutes” the democratic discourse and undermines the purpose of conceptual inquiry among the members of society and the free establishment of views on the basis of democratic values. Therefore, the reason for preventing the participation of a list or candidate that incites racism in the elections is not restricted to a fear of the realization of the objectives of the incitement, but is primarily concerned with the public value of not granting legitimacy to racist speech as part of the democratic discourse. In this sense, the cause for disqualification for incitement to racism is a special case of the cause relating to the negation of the democratic character of the state.

            Lastly, I would emphasize that I do not believe that the probability test is necessary for mitigating the causes for disqualification or for granting flexible tools for their application. To that end, the case law established a strict, narrow interpretive approach to the causes of disqualification. Strict criteria were also established that are implemented in judicial review of this matter, among them the demand that the objectives attributed to a list or candidate constitute a central, dominant objective and not a secondary, marginal issue, and the requirement of active, consistent, and systematic action for the realization of those objectives. It was further held that the evidence for disqualification must be persuasive, clear and unambiguous. All of these provide the Court with effective tools to ensure that the disqualification authority, which is an exceptional and intrusive authority, be exercised only in extreme, clear cases, without the need for the problematic means of a probability test.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

1.         If we were to interpret and implement the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset as written, as they would be understood by the average person, then not only would Dr. Michael Cassif be barred from candidacy for the Knesset elections. A plain reading of the section would, in all probability, lead us to conclude that additional lists and candidates whose matters have been examined by this Court over the years would also be granted this dubious honor.

2.         However, that is not the case. From the very outset, this Court adopted a strict approach to the legal interpretation of sec. 7 and to its application in practice. This approach reflects a value-based decision that democracy grants special – almost supreme – importance to the constitutional right to vote and be elected. Disqualifying a list or a candidate from standing for election to the Knesset must be the very last resort; one that is reserved for manifestly extreme case in which there is no room for doubt: “The essence of such a matter, the limitation of a basic constitutional right, inherently carries a standard of interpretation that must be strict and narrow, and section 7A should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. This interpretive approach does not conflict with the statute but is rather a result of a proper understanding of the purpose of the statute, which does not seek to limit freedoms, but to protect them against actual danger” (the second Neiman case, p. 187; emphasis here and below added – N.S.). This approach has become firmly rooted in the case law of this Court: “Preventing the participation of a party in the elections is a most extreme step. The right to vote and to be elected is a right of the highest constitutional level” (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], p. 802, per Deputy President A. Barak); “Preventing a party from participating in the elections is an extreme and exceptional step that in many ways directly contradicts the fundamental principles upon which democracy rests” (the Balad case, para. 3 of the opinion of President Beinisch); “Preventing participation in Knesset elections is an extreme step that is reserved for the most exceptional cases for which the normal democratic tools are insufficient” (the second Zoabi case, para. 75 of the opinion of President M. Naor).

            I will briefly summarize the guiding criteria as expressed in the case law: Barring participation in Knesset elections will only be done as when all else has failed.

3.         Recently, in the Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 47) (Prevention of Participation in Elections due to a Candidate’s Statements) Bill, the constituent authority expressed the view that it accepts the narrow path taken by the Court in applying sec. 7A. The bill expressly established that a person’s actions also include his statements. The Explanatory Notes clarify as follows: “The proposed amendment expressly anchors the approach accepted in the case law in this matter, according to which “actions” under sec. 7A of the Basic Law also include statements. Thus, the amendment is not intended to alter the Court’s case law according to which the application of sec. 7A of the Basic law will performed narrowly and strictly in order to protect the state’s most vital interests” (H.H. 675, p. 52). However, there was also some criticism of the direction of the case law, on the need to take care not to adopt an overly restrictive interpretation of the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A, while unduly expanding the boundaries (see, e.g., the second Zoabi case, para. 8 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein).

4.         The criteria developed in the case law for the application of sec. 7A, which reflect the narrow interpretive approach, were set out in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President. Primarily, in brief, one must show that the cause for disqualification can be found in the objectives or the actions of the list or candidate; those objectives or actions must form part of the dominant characteristics of the actions of the party or candidate; they can be learned from express declarations or from unambiguously probable conclusions; theoretical objectives are insufficient, but rather one must show systematic “activity in the field” that must constitute severe, extreme expression in terms of its intensity; and lastly, the evidence based upon the above must be “persuasive, clear, and unambiguous”.

5.         On the basis of those criteria, my colleague the President found, and my colleagues concur, that the evidentiary foundation in the matter before us paints an unambiguous and persuasive picture according to which Ben Ari “systematically inflames feelings of hatred toward the Arab public in its entirety, while continually demeaning that public” (para. 42 of the President’s opinion). Therefore, she held that he must be disqualified.

6.         I considered and reconsidered the matter. I carefully read the various statements, watched and listened. I considered the various clarifications and explanations over and over again, and the dilemma was difficult and weighed heavily. I did not easily decide to disagree with my colleague’s conclusion. The source of my dilemma was the substantial gap between the image of Ben Ari as reflected in the virtual arena – in the social networks – and that shown us in the Elections Committee’s hearings and in the Court. Thus, in his affidavit in the instant proceeding, Ben Ari rejected the claims about his racist views, and declared, inter alia, as follows:

I do not think that people are of different value due to their ethnic, national or religious origin. All human beings were created in the Divine image, and all human beings were granted free choice. Your own deeds will cause you to be near, and your own deeds will cause you to be far[1] […] In my view, the Arab National Movement, whose purpose is to destroy Jewish sovereignty through the use of violence and terror is the enemy of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people and of Zionism. I would like to emphasize that what makes it an enemy of the state, the people and of Zionism is not the ethno-national origin of its members and supporters, and not their religious belief.  What turns the members and supporters of the Arab National Movement into enemies are the political objectives that this movement established and the ways in which it acts for the realization of those objectives since the beginning of the 20th century and to this day […] Anyone who accepts that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people and agrees that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state is a desirable citizen who is worthy of all the civil, social and political rights without regard for religions, race, sex, ethnic origin or skin color. In addition, I am of the opinion that basic human rights are granted to every person as such, and that the state must act justly and fairly toward every person without regard for religion, race, sex, ethnic origin, or skin color (paras. 9, 16-17 of the affidavit).

7.         Further on in the affidavit, Ben Ari addresses all the statements quoted in his regard (as opposed to in the hearing before the Elections Committee, in which he addressed only a part of them) and explained that “all of my arrows are directed against those who are not loyal to the State of Israel and hostile to the Zionist enterprise. Even if, at times, my words may sound or be apprehended as general, that absolutely does not reflect an intention to generalize, and in no way reflects my true, consistent opinion” (para. 22 of the affidavit). Like the cases adjudicated by this Court in the past, real doubt arises in regard to the sincerity of Ben Ari’s declarations.

8.         Three examples from the past: (a) Baruch Marzel declared, at the time, that he had recanted his prior views, that he sought to act only in accordance with the law, accepts the principles of democracy, and had withdrawn from the path of generalized statements of the Kach movement. A long line of evidence led the Court to a conclusion in regard to “a real doubt as to the sincerity of Mr. Marzel’s declarations, according to which he had disavowed his approach and his former racist, undemocratic ideology” (the Tibi case, para. 81 of the opinion of President A. Barak). Later, prior to another election, President M. Naor stated: “I, too, do not believe that Marzel has changed his views and thoughts” (the second Zoabi case, para. 33). (b) Hanin Zoabi declared, at the time, her opposition to violence, and nevertheless “it was difficult for me to be persuaded that MK Zoabi does not support armed struggle” (ibid., para. 7 of the opinion of my colleague Justice I. Amit). (c) MK Azmi Bishara argued, at the time, that he opposed violence and armed struggle, and he, too, did not earn much trust: “There is doubt in our hearts. But the doubt must act – in a democratic state that believes in freedom and liberty – in favor of the freedom to vote and to be elected” (the Tibi case, para. 46 of the opinion of President A. Barak).

            As may be recalled, Hanin Zoabi and Azmi Bishara served honorably as members of the Israeli Knesset. Marzel’s candidacy was also approved, twice, although he was not elected. And what of the case of Ben Ari? In the end, his statements “in real time” speak for themselves, and clearly to his detriment. I will not belabor the point and repeat what has already been presented at length in the opinion of my colleague the President. I will suffice by referring there, and the reader will not be pleased. The statements are not at all consistent with the tolerant, placating tone that arises from the above affidavit presented in these proceedings. Which Ben Ari should we therefore believe?

9.         Ultimately, I inclined to the view that there is no justification for ordering Ben Ari’s disqualification. I have not arrived at this conclusion because I take incitement to racism lightly, but because I am strict in regard to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected. Given the strict criteria applied in the case law of this Court over the years, and in view of Ben Ari’s explanations and clarifications, there is doubt as to whether the statements amount to incitement to racism or a negation of the democratic character of the State of Israel to the point that would justify barring Ben Ari from running in the Knesset elections. Indeed, the fundamental right to vote and to be elected is not absolute. In appropriate circumstances, it is proper to limit it, but that is not the situation in his regard. While the evidentiary foundation in the matter of Ben Ari is broad in scope, it is not more exceptional, extreme and severe in “quality” and intensity than matters brought before this Court in similar cases (both in the Tibi case and the second Zoabi case). While Israeli democracy requires protection, it is still strong enough to comprise even Ben Ari as a member of Knesset (as we may recall, Ben Ari already served in the position in the recent past, in the years 2009-2013).

10.       This result is required for two additional considerations that are of a practical nature: First, the procedural framework in which we act. As we know, sec. 7A was presented to the Knesset together with the Penal Law (Amendment no. 24) Bill, 5745-1985, which established an express criminal prohibition upon incitement to racism. “We are determined to combat the phenomenon of incitement to racism with full force. To that end, we decided to act on two planes – on the constitutional plane, by including incitement to racism as a cause for the disqualification of a list of candidates from participating in Knesset elections, and on the penal plane – establishing an offense of incitement to racism in the Penal Law” (from the statement of the Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, in presenting the bills for a first reading; Knesset Record (5745), p. 2381). As opposed to the criminal process, which is conducted in accordance with a clearly defined framework of procedure, which includes, inter alia, an evidentiary proceeding in which it is possible to question and interrogate carefully, in the constitutional proceeding before this Court, the factual examination is far more limited. This requires us to be especially careful in drawing conclusions and establishing facts on the basis of the evidentiary foundation presented before us. Second, lest we forget: Even after a candidate has cleared the hurdle of sec. 7A, Israel is not bereft:[2] “The very fact that a candidate is permitted to contend in the Knesset elections does not mean that from the moment he is elected he may do whatever he pleases. There is still the possibility of rescinding the immunity of a member of Knesset in certain situations, placing him on trial if it be found that he committed a criminal offense, and terminating his tenure in the Knesset if he is found guilty of an offense of moral turpitude” (the first Zoabi case, para. 35 of the opinion of President A. Grunis).

11.       It cannot be denied that Ben Ari’s statements – at least in large part – are hard to digest. I was, indeed, very annoyed by his callous style, the racist tone, and the coarse generalities. It does not do honor to him or to those who listen to his teachings. We can and should protest against evil, and against those who seek our harm and our lives – foreign and domestic. But we are obliged – particularly as public servants – to do so responsibly and carefully. Nevertheless, even when common sense protests and the soul recoils from Ben Ari’s statements, there is still no justification for placing him beyond the pale. The strength of freedom of expression, the strength of democracy “is not the recognition of the right to speak pleasantries that are soothing to my ears. Its strength is in the recognition of the right of the other to say things that are grating upon my ear and that pierce my heart” (HCJ 14/86 Laor v. Theater and Film Review Board [22], p. 441). That is true of freedom of expression in general, and of political speech in particular, when what is at stake – we will not refrain from repeating – is a mortal blow to the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected.

12.       I wholeheartedly concur with my colleague the President on our obligation to combat racism uncompromisingly. As a son of my people and a descendant of my family, I am well aware of where the terrifying harm of hate of the stranger and the different leads. But make no mistake, the two are not comparable, and not even close. And note: the struggle against racism is not only on the legal plane, but also – and primarily – on the educational plane, “in a reassessment of the ways of educators and pupils alike, in all walks of our society” (the first Neiman case, p. 302). In this regard, it would be proper to quote what Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook wrote in the month of Nissan 1947 in a letter to the principals and teachers of a Jerusalem school. The Minister of Justice, MK Moshe Nissim, quoted part of the letter, titled “Embarrassing and Sad Conduct of Children”, in presenting the bill in regard to sec. 7A to the Knesset plenum for a first reading, as follows:

To the Principal and Teachers of a school here in our Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished!

I must bring the following matter to your honorable attention, as follows: This morning, while passing by the school on the way to Yaffo-Ben Yehuda Street, I saw some from among a group of children from the school repeatedly hitting and coarsely taunting Arab peddlers who passed there. Twice together – at the two Arabs, one young and one old, who were apparently partners, beginning with the younger one and continuing with the older one with particular coarseness. This occurred a short distance from the gate to the schoolyard. Then again at a youngster on the sidewalk of Jaffa Road, at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street.

I was saddened and very ashamed by what I saw. Due to their running and mischief, I was unable to catch them and rebuke them for this. I do not know who these children are, or who are their parents and teachers. I know only that they were from the school. Not all of them, not all of the group of children from the school, took part in that despicable harm and taunting, but some of them. And I believe that some of them protested.

Nevertheless, the very existence of this fact, which pained and insulted me, as noted, requires that I bring to your awareness the need for greater and special educational attention to bringing an end to such possibilities, both in and of itself as a matter of Jewish law and morality, and in terms of the practical community and political value of preserving peace and good neighborliness.

With all due respect and in the hope of the glorification of God and the salvation of his people and heritage.

            Here we see plain, clear, resolute, human Jewish morality. We must walk in its light.

13.       For the same reasons for which I was of the opinion that we should not order the disqualification of Ben Ari, I arrived at the conclusion that the Election Committee’s decisions in the matters of the Ra’am-Balad list and of Dr. Ofer Cassif should be overturned and that the appeal in regard to the Hadash-Ta’al list should be denied, and that we should hold that they are not barred from participating in the Knesset elections. As in regard to the decision is the matter of Ben Ari, this decision, as well, was not at all easy. Some of the statements presented to us – both those attributed to Cassif and those attributed to other members of the Hadash-Ta’al list – are not pleasant to the ear, to put it very mildly. But just as we are enjoined and stand ready to defend against those who would incite to racism and thereby undermine the democratic character of the State of Israel, so we must defend against those who would undermine its Jewish character and who express support – express or implied, publicly or privately – terrorist attacks and murder. In the course of the debate on sec. 7A, prior to its first reading, MK Michael Eitan rightly stated in this regard:

The State of Israel has a political need to provide an answer to a long list of families of Jewish victims who were harmed solely because they are Jews here in the State of Israel on the question of whether the purpose of defensive democracy, that has been and is employed, is to protect them, as well. Can Jews in the State of Israel who are harmed by the agents of the PLO also find an answer in such legislation that is intended to defend democracy to the fact that there are people in the State of Israel who identify with the PLO and see themselves as its agents? And there is also a Knesset faction that once sent a telegram expressing solidarity to the Palestine National Council in Amman, which identifies with the PLO. Where is defensive democracy in their regard? Where is the symmetry? Should democracy defend itself only against insane Jewish fanaticism?

                        […]

When we discuss the issue of defensive democracy, we have to provide an answer to the Bromberg family, the Tamam family, the Ohana family, and a long list of families that daily ask the simple question: Is the purpose of defensive democracy to defend us as well, or is the only answer that marginal group to which we all take exception? And when I ask that question, I understand that we are treading a delicate, sensitive line because we are concerned with a democratic regime, we are not interested in silencing debate, we are not interested in outlawing lists. But in any event, we must ask ourselves the question what is the boundary line?

14.       Indeed, the question of where the boundary lies is difficult. It would seem that thirty years after the constituting of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, there is no clear, unambiguous answer to this. In any case, as presented above, the special importance of the fundamental constitutional right to vote and to be elected obligates us to strict criteria whose bottom line is that when there is doubt, there is no doubt. Therefore, and for the reasons stated in the opinion of my colleague the President, I am of the opinion that what has been adduced before us is insufficient for ordering the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif, the Hadash-Ta’al list, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

15.       One parenthetical objection: In the matter of the Balad party, the Attorney General noted that “were the Balad party running independently … there would be reason to carefully consider its disqualification”. However, “in view of the fact that under the prevailing legal situation, there is no possibility of disqualifying only half of a list (as opposed to disqualifying an entire list or disqualifying specific candidates on the basis of evidence relating to them personally), and in view of the fact that there are almost no arguments against the Ra’am list, it is necessary to examine whether the existing evidence suffices to justify disqualifying the joint list, in view of the case law of the honorable Court in regard to the need to severely limit such a disqualification”. My colleague the President did not expand upon that matter, having found other reasons for not ordering the disqualification of Balad (although she attributed weight to the fact that we are concerned with a joint list). For my part, I find the present legal situation very problematic, when a party that prima facie meets the requirements of one of the causes for disqualification can join with another party such that the joint list provides it with a “city of refuge”. This should be given consideration when and if the need to address this question arises in the future.

16.       In conclusion, where my opinion accepted, we would overturn the Election Committee’s decision in EDA 1806/19; deny the appeals in EA 1866/19 and EA 1867/19, and grant the appeal in EA 1876/19, and hold that Dr. Ofer Cassif, Dr. Michael Ben Ari, Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir, the Hadash-Ta’al list and the Ra’am-Balad list are not barred from standing for election to the Knesset.

 

Justice A. Baron:

            I concur in the comprehensive opinion of President E. Hayut, both in the conclusion she reached in each of the proceedings before us and in her reasoning. I will briefly add my view of the disqualification of the candidacy of Dr. Michael Ben Ari (hereinafter: Ben Ari) for election to the 21st Knesset, in which we are concerned with an exceptionally extreme step, akin to a “doomsday weapon”.

            The racist statements in the warp and weave of all of the recorded statements of Ben Ari cry out from the page and scorch the ears. Words are not “just” words. There are times when words are also acts, and in the case of Ben Ari’s statements they constitute a clear act of incitement to racism. Ben Ari makes improper use of words to arouse hatred against the Arab public, while portraying all Arabs as murderers and bitter enemies. His statements delegitimize an entire community, instigate conflict and strife, and even call for actual violence against Israeli Arabs. Moreover, we were presented with a solid evidentiary foundation that clearly shows that we are concerned with a severe, extreme case of incitement to racism. The racist statements are explicit, systematic (some 40 instances since 2017 alone), constitute a dominant characteristic of Ben Ari’s statements, and gain wide exposure in the media and on the social networks.

            The principle of freedom of expression, and particularly freedom of political expression, is a cornerstone of a democratic regime. According to this principle, “freedom of expression is not just the right to say or hear what is generally acceptable. Freedom of expression is also the freedom to express dangerous, irritating, deviant ideas that the public reviles and despises” (HCJ 399/85 Kahane v. Broadcasting Authority [23], p. 280). Words and statements can thus find refuge under the aegis of freedom of expression even when they express marginal ideas, and even when they arouse disgust, but given their “critical mass”, as noted above, Ben Ari’s words constitute incitement to racism and therefore undermine fundamental principles of democracy. As the case law of this Court has already made clear, “one who does not accept the fundamental principles of democracy and seeks to change them cannot ask to participate in democracy in the name of those principles” (EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], 14). In this regard, I would note that in my opinion, as well, incitement to racism does not merit any protection, and therefore there is no place for applying a “probability test” as a condition for the application of the cause under sec. 7A(a)(2) of Basic Law: The Knesset.

            Ben Ari did not apologize for his statements and did not retract them. And if that were not enough, even his explanations continue to reflect a racist attitude toward the Arab public. According to Ben Ari, his recorded statements are not directed against the entire Arab public, but only toward those among it who are not “loyal” to the State of Israel. However, the recordings deliver a clear message that any Arab is disloyal, a traitor, and enemy, and dangerous by definition. We are, therefore, concerned with an extreme case that requires Ben Ari’s disqualification from participating in the elections for the Knesset.

 

Justice D. Mintz:

            I concur in the opinion of my colleague the President in regard to the partial granting of the appeal in EA 1866/99 and with the holding that Ben Ari is barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset, which is not the case in regard to Ben Gvir. I also agree that the appeal in EA 1867/19 should be denied, and that it should be held that the Hadash-Ta’al list is not barred from contending in the elections for the 21st Knesset. However, I cannot agree with the position in the matter of overturning the Election Committee’s decision in EA 1876/19 in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and in EDA 1806/19 in the matter of MK Ofer Cassif. In my view, those decisions should be left standing, and we should hold that the Ra’am-Ta’al list and MK Cassif are barred from participating in the elections for the Knesset, as I shall explain.

Foreword

1.         The starting point for this discussion is that the restrictions upon the constitutional right to vote and to be elected to the Knesset must be minimal, and they must protect the most vital interests of the state (HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [21], pp. 802-803). This Court has recognized the justification for limiting those rights even before an express provision was enacted to permit the disqualification of a candidate or list from participating in the elections for the Knesset when it was long ago held that the right to vote and to be elected can be limited in order to protect the very existence of the state (EA 1/65 Yeredor v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 6th Knesset [8], p. 387) (hereinafter: the Yeredor case); EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [4]) (hereinafter: the first Neiman case)). And as Justice J. Sussman stated: “Just as one need not consent to be killed, so a state need not agree to be annihilated and wiped off the map.” (the Yeredor case, p. 390). The restriction of rights is justified in the name of the right of a democracy to defend itself against those who would seek to employ democratic tools for the purpose of negating the very existence of the state, harm its fundamental principles or advance anti-democratic objectives (EDA 9255/12 Central Election Committee v. Zoabi [3], para. 8 of the opinion of President A. Grunis); EDA 1095/15 Central Election Committee for the 20th Knesset v. Hanin Zoabi [6], para. 7 of the opinion of President M. Naor) (hereinafter: the Zoabi case).

2.         The desire to prevent the use of democratic tools to advance anti-democratic objectives that undermine the existence of the state stood at the basis of the enactment of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter also: the Basic Law), to which various amendments were made over the years. The last, in 2017 (Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 46), 5777-2017 (hereinafter: Amendment no. 46)) clarified that a candidate could be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, included the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism or support for an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The legislature had its say and defined the boundaries of the right to vote and to be elected in light of the basic and most vital principles for the existence of the state.

3.         It should be noted that sec. 7A of the Basic Law is not the only legal provision that restricts the use of a right granted by democracy in order to prevent harm to the basic, most vital principles for the existence of the state in general, and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state in particular. This purpose is also expressed in the framework of sec. 5 of the Parties Law, 5752-1992, which denies the possibility of registering a party, inter alia, for the causes enumerated in sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Section 1(a1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 defines the limits of the material immunity granted to an elected official by virtue of his office in a manner similar to that in sec. 7A (HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. Attorney General [13], pp. 306-307). As the President also noted, the Basic Law was amended in 2016 to include a provision authorizing the Knesset to end the tenure of a member of the Knesset for incitement to racism or for supporting armed struggle against the State of Israel (the cause of negating the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic was not included in the framework of that provision in view of its being general and more ambiguous, and upon the presumption that the Knesset plenum would have difficulty applying it (see: HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [12], para. 29 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

4.         These supplementary provisions define a clear boundary beyond which actions, objectives and expressions are not legitimate for elected representatives and for a party or list of elected representatives. The gates of the house of representatives are not open to those who seek to harm the character of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic (including the cause of “incitement to racism”, which constitutes a special case of harm to the democratic foundations of the state) or to support an armed struggle against it and thus to support a threat to its very existence. What is concerned are actions that do not afford material immunity for those who succeeded in being elected to the house of representatives. Some of those causes also permit the termination of the tenure of those who seek the state’s harm. The underlying premise is that a person who seeks to take an active part in Israeli democracy and its institutions must accept the principles of its existence and the democratic “rules of the game” (see, for example: EDA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [1], p. 23 (hereinafter: the Tibi case)). This, even though such actions or expressions may sometimes fall within the bounds of freedom of expression granted to every person in the state. In other words, what is permitted to every person is not necessarily granted to a person who seeks to be elected to the legislature. The reason for this is clear: the principle of freedom of expression grants every person the freedom to express himself even in a manner that contradicts the principles of the Jewish and democratic regime of the State of Israel (within the bounds of the law). However, permitting a person who voices such ideas to be elected to the legislature may lead to a situation where he will “import” his ideas into the legislature and thus undermine the foundations of the regime upon which the state rests by implementing or realizing his ideas. In this regard, Justice T. Strasburg-Cohen nicely distinguished the two (in the Tibi case, p. 70):

It would be appropriate to note that Israeli democracy does not prevent Knesset Member Bishara from expressing his views, which he terms “theoretical”, “philosophical”, or “historical”, from any platform, in accordance with the law. However, as far as membership in the Knesset is concerned, those views that are part of his political views, and he seeks to implement and realize them, inter alia, by means of his membership in the Knesset. Therefore, those views greatly deviate from theory, philosophy, and history and cross into the area of political activity.

 

The Causes for Disqualification and Amendment no. 40 of the Basic Law

5.         The criteria established in the case law in regard to the implementation of the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law were clarified at length by the President, and I do not intend to dwell upon the matter. I will only say a few words about the distinction in the framework of this provision between disqualifying a candidate and disqualifying a list from participating in the Knesset elections. Thus, while the section establishes that “a list of candidates shall not participate in elections to the Knesset … should there be explicitly or implicitly in the goals or actions of the list …” (emphasis added – D.M.) one of the causes enumerated therein. The wording in regard to the disqualification of a candidate is somewhat different. As it reads at present, after Amendment no. 46, the disqualification of a candidate shall be possible “should there be in the actions of the person, including his expressions” one of the causes enumerated in the section. This difference is no trifling matter.

6.         As we know, a law is interpreted in accordance with its language and purpose. First, the starting point of interpretation is the language of the law, where the written text should be given the meaning that its language can carry (Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Interpretation of Statutes 81 (1993) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Interpretation in Law); HCJ 7754/14 Tzalul Environmental Association v. Petroleum Commissioner [24], para 9). The language is the framework for the work of the interpreter, and he may not breach it (HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset [5], p. 702). When the text tolerates different meanings, the interpretation that realizes its purpose should be chosen (Interpretation in Law, 85). In the present matter, as noted, Amendment no. 46 added the words “including his expressions” to sec. 7A of the Basic Law in regard to a candidate. According to the plain meaning, statements that can undermine the existence and fundamental principles of the state are sufficient to lead to the disqualification of a candidate from being elected to the Knesset, and there is no need for acts. That is also the interpretation that is consistent with the purpose of the section, which is intended to contend with those who seek to employ democratic tools in order to further anti-democratic objectives.

7.         Indeed, as the President noted, the Explanatory Notes to the bill state that the amendment was not intended to change the case law of the Court “according to which sec. 7A of the Basic Law should be used sparingly and strictly in order to protect the most vital interests of the state” (H.H. Knesset, 675). It is also important to explore the legislative history of legislation, through which it is possible to ascertain the legislative intent and purpose (Interpretation in Law, 161; CA 4096/18 Chacham and Or-Zach v. Assessment Officer [26], para. 20). However, I cannot concur with the position that the language of the amended provision is meaningless and that what has been is what will be. As has been said: “The legislative purpose, and certainly the legislative history, cannot give the law legal meaning that it cannot bear” (Interpretation in Law, 353). Indeed, there is nothing in Amendment no. 46 that would violate the principle that the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law be interpreted narrowly. I also accept that the words of a candidate or the Knesset, as well as his deeds, be examined meticulously, inasmuch as disqualification remains an extreme act that should be employed only in exceptional circumstances, as has been held in the past (see, e.g., EA 561/09 Balad – National Democratic Alliance v. Central Elections Committee for the 18th Knesset [2], para. 3 (hereinafter: the Balad case)). Nevertheless, that does not mean that the amendment does not affect the causes for disqualification established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law as we knew them in the past.

8.         First, one cannot ignore that in the past, the view was expressed in the case law of this Court that “expressions”, as opposed to “actions” do not fully fall within the compass of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, for example, in the Zoabi case, Justice H. Melcer noted: “An action in Israel’s sub-constitutional law does not generally include expression, and therefore, when the legislature sought to treat of expressing an opinion orally or in writing, it did so separately, alongside the action, or defined: “an action including an expression” (para. 2b of his opinion; and compare para. 121 of the opinion of Deputy President Rubinstein in the same matter). If, at the time, there was any doubt whether “expressions”, as distinct from “actions”, could be included under the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, then since the enactment of Amendment no. 46 of the Law, it has been expressly clarified. The legislature made itself unambiguously clear that the power of a word is as good as the power of an action. As was said: “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), “Does the tongue have a hand? This comes to teach us that just as the hand can kill, so the tongue can kill…” (Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 15b).

9.         Second, although the line separating “expression” and “action” is not always clear, we cannot ignore that the interpretive principles outlined in the past in regard to the causes for the disqualification of a candidate placed emphasis on the candidate’s actions as against his expressions. Thus, for example, “actions” that must be given severe, extreme expression was spoken of (the Tibi case, p. 17). As for the third cause, which concerns support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it was held that such “support” can be “material” or “political” (the Tibi case, p. 26; the Balad case, para. 7). Thus, Amendment no. 46 has the potential to change the criteria that were developed for the disqualification of a candidate, which have, until now, been based upon those established for the disqualification of lists.

 

The Probability Test

10.       Another matter that requires examination, and which should be addressed prior to diving into the appeals before us, is the question of the applicability of “the probability test” noted by the President, that is, whether the participation of a party or a candidate can be prevented from participating in the elections where it has not been proven that there is a probability that they may actually realize one of the causes established under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. This question already arose in the first Neiman case, which was adjudicated prior to the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, in regard to the disqualification of a list. In that matter, Justice A. Barak expressed his view that although the matter was not expressed in either the majority or minority opinions in the Yeredor case, the disqualification of a list is possible only when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the party’s platform will be realized in practice. However, after the enactment of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, it was clearly established in EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset [5], 188 (hereinafter: the second Neiman case) that:

In setting forth the principles of sec. 7A, the legislature did not require the existence of a clear and present danger, the probability of danger arising from the objectives and conduct of the party in question, or any similar test that looks to the connection between the condemned action and the possible results. Through this, the legislature changed the legal status until the enactment of Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 9).

            Thus, in enacting sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset, the legislature abandoned the possibility of “the probability test”. In this regard, I join in the comments of my colleague Justice M. Mazuz. The provisions of the Basic Law contain no requirement for a reasonable possibility of the actual realization of the threat arising from the actions or platform of the list or its objectives (or from the actions of a candidate or his objectives, under the current wording of the section). There is firm support for the view that the matter was decided long ago in the second Neiman case, despite the questions that later arose in the Tibi case. In brief, I would note that I also find great substance in the view of Justice E. Mazza in the Tibi case (pp. 98-99) that making disqualification contingent upon the probability test could render sec. 7A devoid of all content, inasmuch as the more extreme, severe and outrageous the message, the less the probability of its actually being realized.

 

Critical Mass

11.       The case law of this Court has established that in order to approve a disqualification decision, the Court must have before it evidence that is “persuasive, clear and unambiguous” (the first Neiman case, pp. 250-251; the second Neiman case, p. 197). When the Court is convinced that such evidence has been laid before it, then the material thus constitutes the critical evidentiary “mass” required in this regard (see: the Tibi case, p. 42). This evidence can satisfy the Court as long as it is convinced of its truth, as the Court does in every matter given to its decision.

            This is not a quantitative but a qualitative test. If, for example, the Court is convinced by a single piece of evidence (and unlike this case in which there is a compendium of evidence) that can decide the matter in a certain direction, then it can base its decision thereupon. Only then will that single piece of evidence constitute a “critical mass”. As opposed to this, sometimes there is an accrual of many pieces of evidence whose force does not tip the scales and it will not constitute a “critical mass”. There is nothing actually new in this (see, for example, in the various proceedings: CrimA 7007/15 Shmil v. State of Israel [27], para. 22; CA 8742/15 Astrolog Publishers Ltd., v. Ron [28], para. 44; Yaakov Kedmi, On Evidence, Part IV, 1761ff. (2009) (Hebrew)). Indeed, the force of the evidence required for a decision changes in accordance with the category of the matter given to the Court’s decision. Sometimes, evidence that banishes all reasonable doubt is required. Sometimes, evidence that tips the scale of probability is required. Sometimes, “administrative” evidence of varying degrees is required. This, too, is not new (see, for example: CrimA 961/16 Alharoush v. State of Israel [28], para. 15; AAA 3326/18 A. v. Director of Firearm Licensing [30], para. 20). The present matter requires highly persuasive administrative evidence, and not necessarily a large amount of evidence. It is not the quantity that is decisive, but the quality.

            And now to the matter before us in the proceedings in which I disagree with my colleagues.

 

EA 1806/19 In the Matter of Cassif

12.       As noted, my colleagues decided not to disqualify Cassif’s candidacy for the Knesset elections, and I cannot concur. In my view, an examination of the material presented to us reveals that there is no room for doubting that Cassif’s statements clearly cross the legitimate boundaries defined in the framework of sec. 7A of the Basic Law. Thus, inter alia, Cassif published the following:

Uniting the democratic forces for a struggle against the Judeo-Nazism that is taking over our society is not enough, although it is certainly needed, there is a necessity for changing the methods, you don’t sing songs against fascism, you fight (report on Channel 20, May 22, 2016, quoting Cassif).

            In another report, he is heard saying that “in the Israeli discourse that the current Israeli government has created, killing Arabs is legitimate. This is how one descends into the abyss of what happened in Germany 80 years ago” (report of Channel 20 of April 12, 2018). Similarly, in regard to the Hamas, which is known to be a terrorist organization that is waging a murderous war of terror against Israel (and see: HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior [31], para. 10 of the opinion of Deputy President M. Cheshin), Cassif is quoted as saying that the organization is a “political party” (report on Channel 20 of April 11, 2018). In addition, in an article on the Makor Rishon website from Feb. 7, 2019, it is reported that in the course of an interview with him, he stated that the State of Israel must not be a Jewish state. In addition to those statements, his clear, unambiguous statements expressed in a personal interview in the Ha’aretz supplement of Feb. 8, 2019, entirely fall within the scope of two of the causes for disqualification under sec. 7A: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. Thus, Cassif presented an unadorned statement of his worldview, which includes the revocation of the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: The Law of Return) (p. 28 of the interview) and changing the symbols and anthem of the state (p. 26 of the interview).

            One cannot ignore that it is his position that The Law of Return should be revoked, as if it were a stumbling block rather than a law that expresses a supra-constitutional principle grounded in the Declaration of Independence, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and its connection to its homeland (see, for example: HCJ 7625/06 Rogachova v. Ministry of Interior [31], para. 28 of the opinion of President M. Naor; Ariel Bendor & Elichai Shilo, Israel as a Jewish State: Constitutional Significance, in Strasburg-Cohen Volume 160 (2017) (Hebrew)). Cassif’s clear statements fall completely within the bounds of statements that express the negation of the most nuclear foundations of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, as defined long ago in the Tibi case.

13.       However, these statements are dwarfed in their intensity in view of what Cassif stated about harming IDF soldiers. This is what he said:

Harming soldiers is not terrorism. Even in Netanyahu’s book on terrorism, he expressly defines harming soldiers or members of the security forces as guerilla warfare. This is absolutely legitimate according to every moral criterion, and incidentally, in international law as well. Nevertheless, I do not say that this is something wonderful, delighting, or desirable (p. 26 of his interview with Ha’aretz).

            We are concerned with matters that are most explicitly included in the cause for disqualification for support for armed struggle against the State of Israel. The fact that harming soldiers, in certain circumstances, is viewed differently from harming civilians under international law, or that it can be defined, according to Cassif, as “guerilla warfare”, does not change the fact that his statements explicitly express granting legitimacy and support for armed struggle against the State of Israel in accordance with the cause of disqualification under sec. 7A of the Basic Law. We are concerned with clear, unambiguous statements that cannot otherwise be interpreted or explained. There is “cold comfort” in that Cassif does not see such harm as “something wonderful, delighting, or desirable”.

14.       I do not find any real repudiation of these strong statements in Cassif’s statements before the Central Elections Committee or in the affidavit he submitted to the Committee, other than a denial of things attributed to him in the Makor Rishon newspaper (sec. 10 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), which, in any case, can be given only minimal weight in view of their being “second hand”. Cassif tried to place his extreme statements in a “political” context (pp. 29-30 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019), but this does not constitute a retraction of his harsh statements. In view of the severity and clarity of the statements, a general declaration alone, as Cassif expressed in para. 9 of his affidavit to the Elections Committee, is insufficient: “The request to disqualify my candidacy is a factual distortion and misleading interpretation of my words, and I therefore completely deny what is cited there”. It might have been expected that Cassif would clarify what that “factual distortion” was, and what misleading interpretation was given to the words. But other than this general, vague statement, what Cassif declared is insufficient to refute the existence of the solid evidence grounding the causes for disqualification.

            Cassif indeed notes, in a general way, in his affidavit that he “opposes all forms of violence against any person” (Cassif’s affidavit of March 3, 2019, para. 11). However, he in no way retracted the things he said in that interview – and not what he said in regard to harming IDF soldiers, in particular. On the contrary, in his affidavit, Cassif emphasized that in that interview in the Ha’aretz supplement he noted that he opposes harm to innocent civilians (ibid.). And as for harming IDF soldiers? Cassif’s silence is deafening.

15.       In his affidavit, Cassif reiterates his explanation that the statements attributed to him are, at most, “isolated” statements that “were made in order to sharpen a particular idea”, that the style of expression that included the term “Nazi” is not “characteristic” of him in general, that the statements were made in the heat of political debate, and that we are merely concerned with metaphor (para. 13 of the affidavit to the Elections Committee of March 3, 2019). However, it cannot be said that Cassif denies those expressions, retracts or denounces them, but at most, he explains them with various excuses. In the hearing before the Elections Committee, as well, Cassif did not express a clear, concrete disclaimer as to what he said, and in particular, I did not find any clear disclaimer of the statement that there is legitimate and moral justification for harming IDF soldiers. In the end, Cassif was kind enough to tell the Committee that he opposes violence (p. 34 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). But that, as noted, is not enough. General statements according to which he rejects and opposes violence are insufficient in view of his sharp, clear statements in regard to harming IDF soldiers. According to Cassif’s approach, harming soldiers is not a form of “violence”. Moreover, when he was expressly asked in the Elections Committee hearing: “When you justify terrorist attacks upon IDF soldiers, is that not violence?” (ibid.), he did not provide a pertinent answer. In response to the question, he diverted to the causes for disqualification: “We are speaking here the language of the law, and we are talking about whether there are causes for my disqualification in light of Basic Law: The Knesset…”, while he repeated his general position that “I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all. That is one cause that I do not meet”.

16.       Even Cassif’s repeated excuse that he made the statements as a “regular citizen” and not as a public representative, and that he would “not necessarily” use those expressions if he were elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of the affidavit submitted to the Elections Committee), do not work to his benefit. Cassif is currently being examined in regard to what he has already said, and upon opinions he has already expressed as a citizen. I would note in this regard that it is clear that the provisions of the law look to the future and do not seek to “punish” a candidate for his conduct in the past, but rather to contend with the fear of an elected official exploiting his status to perform improper acts (see: the Tibi case, p. 64). However, in order to answer the question whether the actions of the list or a candidate meet one of the causes for disqualification listed in sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the evidence that has accumulated in regard to that list or candidate must be examined, and this, naturally, often means before they were elected to the legislature. How can one accept the argument that Cassif should not be held accountable merely because we are concerned with statements that he made as a private individual? Every statement and action of a candidate (who has not served as a member of the Knesset in the past) is examined with consideration for the fact that the person concerned is a private individual seeking that the gates of the legislature be opened before him. Every such candidate is examined with consideration for things that he said before being elected as a public representative, while the accumulated material will always be from the period prior to his candidacy.

17.       Moreover, the argument by Cassif’s attorney that only “ideas on an intellectual basis” were concerned, cannot be of help. Statements supporting armed struggle against Israel and the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state cannot be explained away by saying that they concerned an “intellectual” debate (see, for example, the Tibi case, p. 70, which was quoted above in para. 4). This is all the more so in view of Amendment no. 40 to Basic Law: The Knesset of 2017, which made it clear, as noted, in accordance with the interpretive rules set out, that a candidate will be disqualified if his objectives or actions, “including his expressions”, constitute a negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, incitement to racism or support for armed struggle by a hostile state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

18.       As noted (in para. 4, above), the provisions of sec. 7A of the Basic Law create a distinction between the legitimate right of every person to express “ideas on an intellectual basis”, whatever they may be, from every platform (subject to very limited constitutional restrictions) and the statements of a candidate for election to the Knesset, where such a person seeks to move to the area of political activity. In accordance with the dictate of the legislature, theoretical ideas are examined from a different perspective when a person seeks to realize them by means of membership in the Knesset. Were Cassif’s statements examined as of an ordinary citizen, one might say that they are infuriating and enraging or that one should forcefully take exception to them, but they are protected as free speech. However, once Cassif sought to be elected to the Knesset, we must examine whether we are concerned with statements that express support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the state of Israel or whether they negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, in the sense of denying its core foundations as established in the Tibi case. If the answer is positive – and as noted, I find it difficult to think otherwise – the candidate cannot rely upon the argument that the statements were made by him as “a private person” and that he is, therefore, exempt from answering for them. That is so in view of the purpose of sec. 7A, which, as noted, limits the use of the right granted by democracy, and in the present matter, the right to vote and to be elected, in order to prevent harm to the most basic, essential principles of its existence.

            In any case, once Cassif chose to clarify in his affidavit that he would “not necessarily” use the same expressions once elected to the Knesset (para. 13 of his affidavit), the excuse that the statements were made by him as a private individual cannot be maintained. Cassif is even unwilling to declare that those severe statements will no longer leave his lips as a public representative. Cassif himself made it clear that even after being elected, it is not necessarily the case that he will not repeat those things. In so doing, Cassif also declares that he refuses to accept the rules of the game – even if ultimately elected to the legislature (which actually occurred while these lines were being written).

19.       Indeed, not infrequently, a candidate will seek to “fix up” the positions that he publicly flaunted after he is threatened with disqualification, and in the framework of disqualification proceedings he will seek to explain that things are not what they seem. However, as a rule, a candidate’s request to deny his public statements – statements that often are those that paved his way to election to the Knesset and upon which the public trust in him was based – should be taken with a grain of salt. Dissociating from such statements in the disqualification proceedings may show those “corrected” positions to be stated solely to evade the verdict, as lip service, and not reflecting an authentic position (see: the opinion of Justice E. Rubinstein in the Zoabi case, para. 48). Cassif’s statements should be measured by the same criterion by which Ben Ari’s statements were measured. The two should not be distinguished. In a certain sense, Amendment n. 46 closed the gap between the evidentiary requirement for proving the causes for disqualification in regard to negation of the existence of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic and support for armed conflict against the State of Israel and that of the cause of incitement to racism. Just as incitement to racism generally disqualifies by means of verbal statements (as also noted in para. 47 of the position of the Attorney general in EDA 1866/19), so too, the other causes disqualify through expression. If not identical, the evidentiary level of all the causes for disqualification should be similar.

            Just as Ben Ari’s statements disqualify him from running for the Knesset – despite his claim that he “is not a racist”, so Cassif’s words should disqualify him – despite his general claim that he “opposes violence” of any kind. The result should be identical for both.

20.       However, in certain circumstances, the gates can be opened to a candidate who retracts his statements. This, for example, if the candidate convinces that the evidence presented refers to old events, while declaring that he has changed his ways (that is the situation in the matter of Ben Gvir). A candidate who changes his ways is like a “penitent”, of whom the sages said: “In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand, as it is stated: Peace, peace upon him who is far and him who is near” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 34b). Such a person is unlike one who “confesses but does not repent” who is likened to one who “immerses himself with a reptile in his hand”:

R. Adda b. Ahava said: To what can one compare a person who has sinned and confesses his sin but does not repent? To a man holding a reptile in his hand, for even if he immerses himself in all the waters of the world his immersion is useless for him. But if he throws it away, then as soon as he immerses himself in forty se'ahs of water, his immersion is immediately effective, as it is said: “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit, 16a).

            A fortiori in the case of Cassif, who does not even confess his expressions. Even before the Elections Committee, and in his affidavit as well, there is no retraction of his words, nor a declaration that he has changed his path. The paltry statements that Cassif uttered do not come close to the vitriolic statements that he uttered from a public platform. On this it has been said: “He who covers up his faults will not succeed,” as opposed to “He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

21.       The State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is obligated to defend itself and to act against those who oppose it. My colleagues defend Cassif, and it has, indeed, been said, “Judge your neighbor justly” (Leviticus 19:15). Relying upon the Gemara in tractate Sanhedrin, Rashi explains: “Judge your neighbor favorably”. However, the Siftei Chachamim [Shabbethai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718)] adds: “That is to say, specifically when he is your neighbor judge him favorably”. In other words, when he behaves like your neighbor. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the terrible things said by Cassif do not allow us to judge him favorably, and they clearly and unambiguously meet the causes for disqualification that seek to protect the state against its destroyers and block their path to being counted among its legislators.

22.       To summarize this section, as noted, Cassif presented the core of his social and political approach in the interview with him and before the Committee, and his extreme, severe and unambiguous statements express dominant, central, core characteristics of his approach. We are concerned with persuasive, clear evidence that constitutes a “critical mass” that indicates support for armed conflict and terror against Israel, and negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The force of the evidence is bolstered by the absence of clear, concrete repudiation of his statements by Cassif.

            In my opinion, all of the above unequivocally suffices to ground the causes for disqualification in sec. 7A in accordance with the criteria and proper interpretation as delineated above and that are long established by this Court.

 

EA 1876/19 In the matter of Balad

23.       Here too, as opposed to the view of my colleagues, I am of the opinion that that there is no room for doubt that the Balad list openly undermines the State of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and openly supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

24.       The evidence presented includes various statements and actions by members of Balad, some from the immediate past. Additionally, the petitioners requesting Balad’s disqualification referred to Balad’s activity in the past, and to the statements and actions of it former head – MK Azmi Bishara – and to the relationship between its activity and its current Knesset members to Balad’s former leader. In addition to all of that, it was argued that the “State of all its Citizens” bill (hereinafter: the bill) that the Balad Knesset members sought to present before the 20th Knesset last June makes it unequivocally clear that Balad expressly denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

            In this regard, and even were I of the opinion that no significant weight should be accorded to the other evidence to which I will refer later, I am of the opinion – like position taken by the President in para. 58 of her opinion, with which I fully concur – that no one can deny that the bill expresses a negation of “nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Presenting the bill crossed the line sharpened in the Tibi case, which distinguished between one who supports a “state of all its citizens” in the sense of achieving civil equality and one who seeks to negate the minimal, core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, after reviewing the opinion of my colleague Justice Mazuz, I would add that, in my opinion, not only does the bill express a negation of “the nuclear characteristics” of the State of Israel, as noted, but even denies the existence of the State of Israel as “the State of the Jewish people in the national sense”. This, in reference to the identity of the state as a place where the Jewish people realizes its right to self-determination, as my colleague so well expressed in his opinion.

            In order to understand the consequences of presenting this bill in regard to examining the disqualification of the list, I will expand somewhat on the prior proceedings in the matter of Balad.

25.       The matter of Balad was addressed in the elections for the 15th Knesset (EA 2600/99 Ehrlich v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee [33] (hereinafter: the Ehrlich case)), and in the elections for the 16th Knesset (the Tibi case), as well as in the elections for the 18th Knesset (the Balad case). Already in the Ehrlich case in 1999 – which addressed the matter of MK Azmi Bishara, who led Balad, along with the matter of the list (when the provisions of the law permitted only the disqualification of a list and not a candidate) – it was made clear that, on their face, Bishara’s statements at the time, declaring that the Jewish people does not have a “right to self-determination”, constituted a denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Indeed, it was ultimately found that Balad’s candidacy should not be disqualified despite coming “dangerously close” to the line that cannot be crossed that is defined in sec. 7A of the Basic Law.

26.       In the Tibi case (in the framework of which the matter of the party was examined in a manner identical to that of Bishara, given the “powerful” connection between them), it was found that the actions attributed to Bishara in regard to the negation of existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and in regard to support for armed struggle were at the heart of its purposes and constitute a dominant objective of its activity that constituted a political potential that was realized in repeated activity and with great force. However, persuasive, clear and unambiguous evidence against Bishara was not found, and thus not against the Balad list, when it was held that Bishara’s approach as to the State of Israel as a “state of all its citizens” “comes dangerously close to the possibility of negating the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state”, but it was not found that the “border had been crossed” (the Tibi case, p. 42). In addition. It was not found that there was sufficient evidence in regard to support of armed struggle, although there was some “doubt” in that regard (ibid.).

27.       Some clarification is required in this regard. In the Tibi case there was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the phrase “a state of all its citizens” that appears in Balad’s platform. It was held that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” can take various forms, and that a purpose that sees Israel as “a state of all its citizens” does not inherently negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Thus, a person who acts to achieve the purpose of “a state of all its citizens” in the sense of guaranteeing equality among citizens is not the same as a person who employs that principle in order to infringe the rationale grounding the establishment of the state and thereby negates the character of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (the Tibi case, p. 22).

28.       The minority was of the opinion that the evidence, taken in its entirety, showed that the expression “a state of all its citizens” served as a codeword for “abolishing Zionism, abolishing the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and abolishing the state as a Jewish state and replacing it with another state, if not more than that” (para. 2(b) of the opinion of Deputy President (emer.) S. Levin), and that striving for “a state of all its citizens” was intended to strip the State of Israel of Zionism and of its Jewish national character (para. D of the opinion of Justice E.E. Levi).

29.       As opposed to that, the majority, as noted, did not find that the meaning of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara “crosses the line” in regard to the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This, after finding that Bishara recognized the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, did not argue for the repeal of the Law of Return, did not deny the centrality of the Hebrew language as the language of the state, and did not oppose the holidays and symbols of Israel (also see: para. 54 of the opinion of President E. Hayut).

            In other words, in the Tibi case, as well, where it was found that striving for the objective of “a state of all its citizens” in regard to Bishara and Balad was close to the disqualifying boundary, a remedy was found in the form of non-negation of the core principles of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The Court reiterated this position that the principle of “a state of all its citizens” in Balad’s platform does not ground a cause for disqualification in the Balad case. There, too, Justice E.E. Levy, dissenting, noted that in his opinion, the vision of Balad in regard to “a state of all its citizens” was nothing but a guise for the establishment of an Arab national state in all the territory of the Land of Israel.

30.       Thus, when examining the expression “a state of all its citizens” in the framework of Balad’s platform in the past, this Court was forced to cast about in order to discover what inhered in the concept and what meaning to give it. Where a doubt was found, the doubt worked in favor of approving the list, in view of the criteria established in regard to disqualifying a list. However, now that Balad has clarified – in the framework of dominant, significant, public and clear political activity – the significance of the expression “a state of all its citizens” for it, and the steps that it is willing to take in order to realize that vision, it can no longer be said that we are concerned with an ambiguous term. Now, following the presentation of the bill, it has been made absolutely, unambiguously clear that for this list “a state of all its citizens” means annulling the principle of return, denying the principle by which the state’s primary symbols reflect the national revival of the Jewish people, and denying the Hebrew language as the primary language of the state. It cannot now be said, by any criterion, that we are not concerned with the negation of minimal, nuclear elements of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as held in the Tibi case.

31.       The fact that the bill was ultimately not brought before the plenum – only because on June 4, 2018 the Knesset presidium decided upon the drastic step of not approving its presentation to the Knesset – cannot be accounted to the list’s benefit, which argues that it is being retaliated against merely because it raised a theoretical “idea”. We are not concerned with just an “idea”, but rather with a concrete act – submitting a bill that sought to ground principles that undermine the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (and also see in regard to expression by means of submitting a bill: the second Neiman case, p. 196). In view of this bill, I also find problematic the claim by the Balad list in its appeal that the requests for disqualification were not based upon a clear, direct statement, its publications, or official notices. What is a bill if not a “clear, direct statement” that expresses the values of the list and the principles that it pursues in the most simple, “clean” manner? What need do I have in looking for publications, official notices and so forth given the submission of a bill that seeks to undermine the most nuclear foundations of the state as a Jewish state? MK Mtanes Shehadeh’s “excuse” in his affidavit (affidavit of March 3, 2019 that was presented to the Elections Committee) that the bill was submitted only to “challenge the Nation State Basic Law and to hold a public debate on the issue” changes nothing in this regard or “kosher” this clear public step. On the contrary, even if the bill was submitted out of a sense of anger and grievance, I do not see how that could act in the list’s favor. Even if the members of the list presented the bill in a moment of rage, the saying goes: “By three things may a person's character be determined: By his cup, by his purse, and by his anger” (Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 68b). Rashi explains there: “In his anger – that he is not too hot tempered”. It is precisely when one is roiled and angry that a person is judged, and not when he is calm and at ease.

32.       Under these circumstances, no weight can even be given to what is stated in the affidavit that Shehadeh submitted to the Elections Committee that he and the members of Balad are committed to the principle of “as state of all its citizens” as reflected in the in Balad’s platform that was examined and approved long ago by this Court.  Balad itself clarified – in its own voice and not in the framework of quotes from newspaper articles that may be given to different interpretations – in the petition that it submitted to the Court (HCJ 4552/18) that the bill was consistent with its platform. In this sense, the claim that Balad now adheres to the platform that was examined and approved long ago – before the true nature of its vision of “a state of all its citizens”, which was recently publicly clarified and expressed as noted by Balad – cannot be accepted.

33.       That being the case, and in view of the background detailed above, I am of the view that there is no alternative but to say that by presenting the bill, and certainly in filing the petition (HCJ 4552/18) by members of Balad in which it was made clear that the bill was consistent with Balad’s platform, the Balad party crossed the line to which it had come “dangerously close” more than once in the past. In this context I would note that presenting the bill was an expression of real, substantial, clear parliamentary activity that, in my view, cannot be dismissed as a one-time or sporadic matter, as is the opinion of my colleague Justice Amit.

            The argument presented by Balad’s attorney that the matter of the bill was not raised before the Elections Committee but first and unexpectedly in the position of the Attorney General submitted to this Court, and that he is therefore unprepared to address it, cannot be accepted. Not only was this matter expressly raised in the framework of the disqualification request presented to the Elections Committee (paras. 17-24 of the Likud faction’s request to disqualify Ra’am-Balad), and not only was it raised in the hearing before the Elections Committee (p. 4 of the transcript of the hearing of the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019), but it was also addressed on the merits by Balad’s attorney, who raised the same claim made in that hearing that he raised before us that this is retribution merely for raising an “idea” (p. 35 of the transcript off the hearing before the Elections Committee of March 6, 2019). Moreover, the Ra’am-Balad list also expressly referred to the matter of the bill in the appeal that it submitted to this Court (paras. 23-25 of the appeal in EA 1876/19).

34.       In any case, beyond the fact that submitting the bill (together with what was stated in the petition) significantly and unambiguously grounds the said cause for disqualification, this bill does not exist in a vacuum. The bill is not the only evidence under consideration, although it would appear to be decisive evidence in and of itself. Additional evidence was presented that when added together points to a collection of evidence and a “critical mass” that demonstrates that we are concerned with a list that has raised the banner of open struggle against the foundations of the State of Israel.

35.       In this framework I would note that I do not believe that the fact that Balad’s activity and members were examined in the past renders addressing them now superfluous. Are we not required to examine the matter of Balad in accordance with the up-to-date material presented to us, which also casts light upon what was presented in the past? When the matter of Balad was examined in the past, the Court had before it the material that had accrued up to that date. Given that additional evidence has accrued in the interim, which might have led the Court to a different conclusion at that time, we cannot continue to rely upon conclusions drawn in the past from the material presented then while ignoring the updated material.

36.       Given the above, an examination of the entirety of the evidence in the matter of Balad and its members shows that this time it has gone too far. Even if in the past, the material presented in regard to it and its members came close to the bounds defined in the Basic Law but did not cross them, today the situation is different. Indeed, this Court found that MK Zoabi’s participation in the Marmara flotilla did not disqualify her from standing for election to the Knesset (the Zoabi case). However, I believe that weight should be accorded to her actions in examining the disqualification of the list of which she is a member (even if not in a “realistic” place), and in view of the additional evidence that has accrued in regard to that list since the Zoabi case. This is also true in regard to the Bishara matter, which was addressed in the past in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case. Only later, as was also noted in the matter of Balad (in which the matter of Bishara was not addressed as he had left the country), it became clear that Bishara was suspected of serious security offenses pursuant to which he was forced to flee the country. Therefore, in examining the current evidentiary foundation in regard to the list in its entirety, weight should also be given to this matter (even though Bishara no longer stands at the head of the party). In view of the above, can one imagine that if the matter of Bishara were examined after new material came to light that pointed to serious suspicions of committing offenses, this Court would rely upon its findings in the Ehrlich case and the Tibi case without examining whether the new evidence added to the material that was examined and remained in “doubt”?

            The actions of those has since been compounded by the criminal-security related activity of MK Basel Ghattas, a member of the party who was convicted in 2017 of smuggling cellphones and other items into a prison in which security prisoners were held, as well as the conviction of another MK who was a member of the party, Said Naffaa, for the offense of contact with a foreign agent in 2014, after meeting with the deputy secretary general of the Popular Front (see the denial of his appeal in CrimA 6833/14 Naffaa v. State of Israel [34]), which was not considered in the past in the matter of the entire party.

37.       Added to all of that was the connection affirmed by Balad to its erstwhile leader Azmi Bishara in the course of the annual convention of the Ra’am-Balad party in Nazereth, when it deemed it appropriate to send him a “blessing”. And note that it was made clear to the Elections Committee that this matter was not denied (pp. 29-32 of the transcript of the Elections Committee hearing of March 6, 2019). By that, the present Balad list also declared that it is the successor of the person who led it in the past. It should be emphasized that we are not concerned only with a relationship with Bishara that justifies disqualifying the list (compare: the Balad case, para. 20), and I am not unaware that of the list’s argument that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of MK Naffaa, who has not been a member of the Balad party since 2010, or the actions of Zoabi, who is in an “unrealistic” place on the list. We are concerned with an aggregation of additional, compounded evidence over the course of years that indicates a significant, persuasive, and unambiguous tapestry in regard to meeting the causes of disqualification. An additional connection to Bishara was also presented in the article in the Ha’aretz newspaper of Aug. 18, 2014, according to which then members of the list – Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi, and Basel Ghattas – met with Bishara in Qatar, which was not denied by Shehadeh (pare. 8 of Shehadeh’s affidavit to the Elections Committee). To all of this is added the current conduct of the members of the list in the form of giving unambiguous, blunt support for terrorist actors who were convicted and incarcerated, whom the current head of the list, MK Shehadeh, refers to as “political prisoners” (article in the Makor Rishon newspaper of Jan. 13, 2019). This is compounded by unambiguous statements in a recorded interview (on Galei Yisrael radio) in the course of which Shehadeh stated in his own words that “every struggle against the occupation is legitimate” and that “we support every popular struggle”.

            Thus, the entirety of the clear, unambiguous evidence – together with the most significant piece of evidence concerning the submission of the bill – shows that the dominant characteristics at the center of the list’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action are directed at infringing protected values. The list vigorously acts to realize its objectives through actions and verbal statements.

38.       Under these circumstances, the list’s argument that part of the evidence concerns persons who are no longer candidates of the Ra’am-Balad list for the elections to the 21st Knesset can be of no assistance. The candidates of the 21st Knesset sought, of their own initiative, to join a list that has a “rich” past as detailed above. We are concerned with people who seek to join an existing list based upon the “reputation” that it has acquired, the ideology that is its banner, its purposes and actions that were expressed on various public platforms, and of course, its supporters. The candidates’ distancing themselves from the action of that list – at least in regard to the matter of the bill that was submitted during the term of the 20th Knesset – cannot be accepted. Beyond the fact that evidence was presented that indicates a real connection to its erstwhile leader Bishara, we cannot countenance the argument that the current members of Balad do not stand behind Balad’s platform that Balad itself declared in the 20th Knesset was consistent with what was stated in the bill that was submitted. The claim that we are concerned with “a new generation” cannot be accepted when it concerns the disqualification of a list regarding which clear, unambiguous evidence was presented regarding the meeting of a cause for disqualification.

39.       According to the position of the Attorney General as expressed before us (in sec. 44 of his written position as well as in the oral arguments – despite the fact that he said absolutely nothing on this matter in the written position presented to the Elections Committee), there is nothing in the bill that would lead to the disqualification of the entire list because we are concerned with a joint list of Ra’am-Balad and not of Balad alone. In my opinion, the Ra’am-Balad list cannot be approved for this reason alone. It is difficult to accept the argument that the existence of a cause for disqualification can be “healed” by joining one list to another in a joint list. In view of the purposes of sec. 7A of the Basic Law, the combining of lists cannot confer “immunity” or a defense to a party that has deviated from the path. This, while undermining the fundamental principles defined in the framework of the Basic Law, is not repaired by adding a party. The Sages taught us the principle: “Woe to the wicked person and woe to his neighbor,” and “Blessed is the righteous person and blessed are his neighbors,” which is derived from the arrangement of the Israelite encampment in the desert. Thus, the tribe of Reuben, which encamped beside the members of Kehat, was punished with them in the dispute with Korach and his followers, while the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, which encamped beside Moses, Aaron and his sons, became great Torah scholars (Numbers 3:29 and Rashi ad. loc.). If that is so for the arrangement of an encampment and the placement of neighbors, all the more so when we are concerned with a party joining with another. Joining together is premised upon a shared ideological, political, and conceptual platform. As the prophet Amos said: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We cannot accept the argument that if there is a cause for the disqualification of the Balad party, the very joining of Ra’am suffices to remedy it. The joining of the Balad party with the Ra’am party does not purify it, but rather it contaminates the Ra’am party that tied its fate with it in a joint list. The “pure” does not purify the “impure”, but rather the “impure” corrupts the “pure”. It would be better were parties to act cautiously when choosing to join parties whose extremist course is on the boundary (and certainly when it crosses the boundary) defined in the Basic Law.

            To summarize, in my opinion, both in the matter of Cassif and in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list, “all else has failed” even according to the strict criterion of my colleague Justice Sohlberg.

40.       In conclusion, my colleagues’ interpretation in regard to the disqualification of a single candidate and in regard to the disqualification of a list on the cause of support for armed struggle against the State of Israel and the cause of denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state render the words of the legislature merely theoretical. The Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 71a) addresses the elements of the offense of an individual – the stubborn and rebellious son, and of a group – the idolatrous city, which have committed certain offenses. However, the Tannaim interpreted the elements of the offenses so rigidly that that the Talmud concludes: “There never was and never will be a stubborn and rebellious son. And why was it written? So that you may expound upon it an receive reward”, and: “There never has been an idolatrous city and there never will be one. And why was it written? So that you may expound and receive reward” (a similar expression also appears in regard to Job, of whom it was said: “Job never existed and was never created, but was a parable” (BT Bava Batra 15a). However, alongside this view we find the view of Rabbi Yochanan, who was of the opinion that these were not merely theoretical matters, and who states in regard to the stubborn and rebellious son, “I saw him”, and in regard to the idolatrous city, “I saw it”. We are concerned with practical matters that were and will be in the future. By analogy, the above is applicable to the matters before us, as well.

            And so I say loudly and clearly: “I saw him,” “I saw it,” and we cannot turn our eyes away from seeing.

 

Justice G. Karra:

            I concur in the opinion of President E. Hayut and with the opinions of my colleagues U. Vogelman, I. Amit and E. Baron on the matter of the inapplicability of the probability test to the cause of disqualification for incitement to racism under sec, 7A(a)(2). I would add that the accumulated critical mass of statements and actions detailed at length in the President’s opinion thoroughly ground the conclusion that incitement to racism is a dominant, firmly rooted, and central purpose of Ben Ari’s doctrine. The escalation of racist statements over the last years leaves no possibility for accepting his artificial explanations, not even to the extent of raising doubt as to the intention and purpose of the statements.

            From among Ben Ari’s racist statements and actions, I would like to spotlight a dark, severe act mentioned in para. 44 of the President’s opinion, that is lost in the large catalogue of his inciteful publications. I refer to the act of tearing up the New Testament and throwing it into the waste basket when Ben Ari was serving as a member of the Knesset in the years 2009 to 2013. It is an act that has nothing to do with incitement against Arabs, but it serves to show us that Ben Ari’s racist worldview, which he has espoused over the course of years, is much broader and deeper than incitement against Arabs, whom he sees as enemies. It would appear that this racism is deeply rooted in hatred of the “other” and the different, per se.

            Approving the candidacy of a person who incites to racism and hatred of the other would taint Israeli democracy, and therefore, a normative statement is required saying that such an inciter must be relegated from the Israeli Knesset.

 

Justice N. Hendel:

  1. I concur in the clear, comprehensive opinion of my colleague President E. Hayut. I would briefly sharpen what I see as the main points in regard to each of the actors – candidates and lists – examined in the present proceedings, regarding which there are disagreements among the members of this panel. I will also present my position on a number of general issues regarding which questions or doubts were raised – the probability test, the consequences of two parties running jointly in regard to the existence of a cause for the disqualification of one of them, and the interpretation of the cause “denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state”.

The relationship between law and elections can be likened to two pillars. One pillar says: “This is democracy’s holiday. An equal vote for every citizen. The people must have its say. The Court does not – and must not – take a stand as to the desired results”. The other pillar says: “Elections without law may distort democracy. Not a day of celebration but of mourning. Bribery, bullying, or a regime takeover of the elections. The answer is the open eyes of the law as written, expressed, and intended. There must be rules even for the smallest details: the timeframe must be strictly observed; the ballot box must be accessible; who can vote and who can be elected. Maintaining the laws is also vital to democracy”. While the first pillar maintains a distance between the law and the elections, the second requires involvement and supervision. Is there a contradiction between the two? I believe that the answer is in the negative, and it is unsurprising. The two pillars sing the praises of democracy together. In other words: there is no contradiction between democracy and the Court’s supervision over the rules. On the contrary, the Court acts to advance democratic principles by virtue of the authority conferred upon it by the legislature.

            Democratic elections are not self-evident. History gives context. In the past, and for a very long period, change of regime was achieved by military coup or the death of the autocratic ruler. Democracy changed the rules. Not power but election. Decisions are made not by the powerful but rather every citizen has equal power. That is the aspiration, and it must strictly be put into practice. It is not a simple task. After all, the voice of the single voter is not, of itself, strong in comparison to the regime. Democracy strives to preserve its character and not lose it in the course of elections. This gives rise to the role of the Court and the proximity of the pillars.

  1. Israeli law establishes when a candidate or a list should be prevented from participating in the elections due to their objectives, actions, and expressions. Section 7 of Basic Law: The Knesset presents the substantive test and the procedures for preventing a list or candidate from participating in elections for the Knesset. This section, and section 63A of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 5729-1969, establish the procedures for this. The substance is defined by three causes for disqualification:

 

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

The procedures are that when the Central Elections Committee for the Knesset Elections prevents the participation of a candidate, the approval of a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court is required. It is not an appeal but an approval proceeding. The law chose to introduce the Court into the proceedings. It is not post facto judicial review but an ex ante decision. For the prevention of the participation of a list or the approval of a candidate of a list – there is an appeals process.

We addressed the tension between the two pillars presented. Each holds great power in our legal system, and thus the sensitivity required in the course of moving between them in practice and in real time. The path chosen by this Court is one of caution and self-restraint before it prevents the participation of a candidate or a list. Doubt acts in favor of the candidate. This is the consistent approach of the case law in election matters, as explained by my colleague the President. It is interesting to turn to another area of law in which doubts wields great power. In criminal law, a person can be convicted if the charge is proved beyond reasonable doubt. The reason for this is the recognition of the regime’s power to taint and punish the individual. As opposed to this, in Knesset elections, the power of doubt lay in a different consideration – the role of the voter in choosing the candidate and the list it prefers. This Court does not eagerly intervene in election matters. On the other hand, the law requires it to do so in the appropriate circumstances. Just as the will of the electorate must be honored, so too the will of the legislature in such matters. The compromise – or more precisely, the proper balance – is to employ the law only to prevent candidacy in exceptional cases in which, for example, the doubt is not of substance and is not rooted in reality. This rule is intended to permit the voter to express its position on the matter within the four cubits of the ballot box. As opposed to criminal law, in which the court establishes facts in regard to the defendant’s acts and intentions – in the present matter, we look not only backward but forward as well: is the candidate or the list, at the time of the elections, expected to act contrary to the causes enumerated in the law if elected – but in the present and not necessarily in the past. We are thus concerned with a certain evaluation in regard to the future.

However, in the exceptional case in which the candidacy of a candidate or a list meets the following criteria: the cause is a dominant characteristic of the list or the candidate; there is clear, unambiguous evidence of the cause; there is active conduct, including expression in the case of a candidate, for realizing the wrongful objectives; there is a critical mass of highly credible evidence (see the detailed description in para. 16 of the opinion of my colleague the President). Only if these conditions are met is there the necessary certainty to justify the result of disqualification. In the background stands the right to vote and to be elected. That underlies the democratic foundation of elections. And note that the right to be elected has direct consequences for the right to vote.

Another aspect of the matter is remorse or a candidate’s recanting an objective or activity related to one of the constitutional causes. The reason is self-evident. The decision is not personal or punitive but rather institutional and preventative. In other words, its purpose is to prevent an inappropriate actor from becoming a member of the next Knesset. Of course, we are not concerned merely with a declarative test. There must be an examination of whether there are grounds to conclude that the declaration is sincere. Or more precisely – that the declaration is not sincere. Of course, there is a possibility that a candidate may not live up to his declarations. This is not a danger that would justify expanding the list of disqualified actors. If a candidate or list does not live up to its expectations, there are “sanctions” and other means for contending with the matter, whether in the course of the Knesset’s term or in the elections for the next Knesset.

3.         Two points to conclude the general sections. The first concerns the dissenting opinions of my colleagues. I have read the opinions of my colleagues Justice N. Sohlberg and Justice D. Mintz. My colleague Justice Sohlberg is of the opinion that no one should be prevented from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesst, while my colleague Justice Mintz is of the opinion that along with Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif and the Ra’am-Balad list should be prevented from participating in the elections for the Knesset. In my opinion, and pursuant to the above, Justice Sohlberg’s approach might lead to the non-disqualification even of candidates who clearly meet the causes for disqualification. This, while making even the strict case-law tests weighed prior to preventing the participation of a candidate or list in the elections more strict. As for the approach of my colleague Justice Mintz, in my view, his approach might lead to over-disqualification of candidates and lists from both sides. It would appear to me that the path taken by the case law in the past and in the present embraces both of the pillars presented above. Disqualification is imposed cautiously and only exceptionally.

            The second point is that of the symmetry test. My colleague Justice Sohlberg presented a statement by MK Michael Eitan in which he asks: “Where is the symmetry?” I agree with this question and would only like to sharpen the point. Symmetry does not have to be expressed in the final result, but rather in the application of equal criteria. Aspiring to symmetry in order to balance the results is a quasi-political consideration that the Court cannot adopt. I will allow myself to say that reading the opinions of my colleagues – of the majority and the minority – shows that the conclusions were based upon a legal approach and the examination of the evidence, and not upon any desire to maintain equally balanced results.

            Armed with these tools, I will conduct an individual examination of the relevant actors – Michael Ben Ari, Ofer Cassif, and the Ra’am-Balad list.

4.         Michael Ben Ari: The relevant cause in the matter of Ben Ari is “incitement to racism”. We are concerned with some forty different statements, most of which were uploaded to the Facebook page of “Otzma Yehudit with Michael Ben Ari”, such that the matters cannot be denied. Indeed, Ben Ari does not deny them. Most of the material dates from the year preceding the elections. My colleague the President presented the relevant statements (paras. 38-41 of fer opinion). It makes for difficult reading. What was presented suffices, and there is no need to present it again, Comparing the statements with the language of the law raises the question of what is the test for “incitement to racism”?

            I will begin with the term “incitement”. Not racism but incitement to racism. The hand or mouth of one and the hearing ear of the other. In other words, we are not concerned with personal views that the candidate keeps to himself. The opinions must be expressed in order to incite to racism. In addition, my colleague Justice M. Mazuz referred to the probability test. In his opinion, that test should not be applied to the causes under sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset. I agree with his conclusion and reasoning. The language does not support the application of such a test, and such is also the purposive interpretation. Such a test would be too speculative and very difficult to apply at the time of the elections. Additionally, the basis of the causes for disqualification is not necessarily the prevention of a real, concrete threat to one of the protected values, but rather clearly expresses not granting legitimacy to lists or candidates who adopt the approaches set out in the causes. In summary, I accept his conclusion that “we are concerned with causes of ‘conduct’ not ‘results’” (para. 2 of his opinion).

            Now to the question of what constitutes “racism”. My colleague the President addressed, inter alia, the aspects of hatred, hostility, persecution, degradation, and humiliation (paras. 25-32 of her opinion). In regard to Ben Ari’s candidacy, I will say: there is no need to establish the minimal threshold for disqualifying a candidate on the basis on incitement to racism. It suffices to find that in this case, the candidate exceeded the threshold by a wide margin. His statements seek to influence conduct. And note that the lack of a need to prove the elements of the probability test does not contradict the fact that the aspiration to influence conduct in practice reinforces the ground for disqualification. In his statements, Ben Ari espouses the denial of civil rights to the Arab public. So in regard to participating in public tenders and so in regard to their ability to live in cities. He supports their collective deportation in certain circumstances, and employs violent imagery in regard to that community, including shooting. The evidence is very substantial, unambiguous, and dominant in his doctrine.

            In his affidavit to the Elections Committee, Ben Ari argues that he is not a racist, in that he accepts that every person – including the Arabs – are created in God’s image. Only then does Ben Ari proceed to the loyalty test. He is not against Arabs because of how they were born, but because they failed the loyalty test. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Arabs are not loyal. That “overwhelming majority” was defined in various statements: from 99% to a few who can be counted on the fingers, and Ben Ari never met a loyal Arab. Thus, they have all become enemies. This is the fallacy at the base of incitement to racism. As President Shamgar held, racism is not just a matter that derives from the biology of the other (EA 2/84 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 11th Knesset [5], 191-192). Racist views can also be examined in accordance with theories, conclusions, and factors that arose after a person’s birth and not upon the DNA that characterizes a group of the population. Not just genetics but epigenetics. Ben Ari did not explain the meaning of the “loyalty test” – what are the criteria of this test, when does one fail it, and how is it that with the exceptions of a very small number of individuals, all Arabs belong to the disloyal group. We are concerned with very severe matters that are not based upon facts but upon a circular conclusion. The results are harsh. An Arab is presumed to be an enemy who must be dealt with. This, by means of denial of rights, deportation, or the possibility of violent treatment. For example, it was stated that anyone who dares to speak against a Jew doesn’t live. He doesn’t live, but rather “a firing squad kills him, he is done away with”; that the “murderers” should not be employed, also in reference to the Arab residents of Israeli cities; that affirmative action should be rescinded in view of the “treasonous” and “murderous” character of Arabs; that Arabs are a “murderous people, a murderous nation”; and that the village from which a terrorist went to an “airport” should be uprooted and its residents “flown” to other countries.

5.         I will clarify the matter from another perspective. One may ask why these particular causes established in the law were chosen. The cause of support for armed struggle against the state is clear and requires no explanation. The cause of denial of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State was intended to defend the existing foundations of the state. As for incitement to racism, we are concerned with a desire to deny the legitimacy of a group. In a varied, multi-group society like that of the State of Israel, this harms the nature of the society. This is striking when we are concerned with some twenty percent of the population. It saddens me to say that reading Ben Ari’s positions – and the reader can read paras. 38-41 of the opinion of my colleague the President – leads not only to racism in the form of humiliation and hatred, but also to severe acts that might undermine social order or create discriminatory law in regard to the foundations of civil rights, including the right to remain a citizen of the state. This is not due to the actions of the group, not due to criminal offenses perpetrated or plans to do harm, but because they do not meet the conception of a proper minority as Ben Ari understands it. By that, I am not finding that he has committed a crime, but there are special requirements in regard to lists and candidates for the Knesset. Particularly in a system in which a representative often represents a specific group, we must make certain that even if he does not fight for the rights of the group, he cannot fundamentally deny the legitimacy of the other group and its right to elementary rights. And all the more so, harm and violence lacks any legitimacy.

6.         The conclusion from all of the above is that this is an unambiguously extreme case. And note well, Ben Ari did not express remorse, but rather embraced his position while explaining that he is not a racist and does not reject Arabs on the basis of their birth. To clarify the picture, let us compare him to Advocate Itamar Ben Gvir and to former candidate Baruch Marzel. It can be assumed that the three share a similar ideology, in that they ran together on the same list. However, this Court refrained from disqualifying Marzel and Ben Gvir. The decision not to disqualify Ben Gvir in these proceedings was unanimous. What difference is there between him and Ben Ari, who was disqualified by an eight-judge majority? It would appear that the tests of the strength of the evidence, its extent, quality, and unambiguity led to that result. But we would note one additional criterion: expressing remorse. Both Marzel and Ben Gvir informed the Court that they intended to act in accordance with the requirements of the law, including the causes for disqualification that it establishes. Even if they behaved differently in the past, they declared that that is how they would conduct themselves. They understood and internalized the qualifying conditions for Knesset candidacy. Ben Ari was not a partner to that choice. He continues to support the views that he expressed. We are not concerned with some technical defect or lack of comprehension. Just as we must respect the manner in which Ben Gvir and Marzel presented their arguments at the moment of truth, so we must respect Ben Ari’s position that justifies his disqualification. My colleagues spoke of how, due to its history, the Jewish people in particular must be sensitive to statements like those expressed by Ben Ari. In my view, we should add that it is not just the history of the Jewish people, but also its faith.  But truth be told, there is no need for that. In these circumstances, there is not even a need to demonstrate the matter by a thought experiment in which Ben Ari would express his views in another country against Jews.

7.         Ofer Cassif: The disqualification request points to two causes that can bar his participation in the Knesset elections. The first is “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and the second is “support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel”. The evidence presented against him relies upon four publications, the central of which is an interview he gave to the Ha’aretz newspaper in February 2019. It would appear that my colleague Justice Mintz addressed both causes together, but there is a difference in the scope of the evidence and in Cassif’s explanations in regard to each cause, which requires that they be addressed separately. My colleague presented Cassif’s case as so clear as to leave no doubt, and according to his approach, there is no possibility of arriving at a different result.

            Below, I will sketch the general outline of why I hold a different view. The question in regard to Cassif, as for every candidate, is whether there is justification for preventing him from being elected as a member of Knesset in view of the causes established in the Basic Law. As I explained above, the matters are examined in a particular period of time, with a view to the future, and in regard to the candidates functioning in the legislature if he be elected. Past statements and actions may serve as the evidentiary foundation in regard to a position in the present and in the future. The purpose is not to punish improper actions and statements, but to ascertain whether the candidate constitutes an exception that justifies barring his participation in the elections. Cassif said things in the past, although not with great frequency and consistency, that would require him to explain why he should not be prevented from participating in the elections. Cassif’s answer to this is clear, consistent, and divided into three parts: one, in regard to the possibility that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, is that he does not support violence, not in the past and certainly not at present. I believe that an examination of the matter, as I will explain, supports that conclusion. Even if Cassif spoke harshly, there is a lack of a foundation proving that he supports violence – certainly the foundation needed to prove that he supports armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

            The second part of his answer concerns the possibility of negating the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, he does not deny that he has made statements in the past against various symbols of the state and against the Law of Return, but he declared that he accepts the platform of his list – Hadash-Ta’al – and does not, in that or any other frameworks, act or call for the annulment of the symbols or the Law of Return. He accepts the parliamentary rules. In other words, not only is this not a case of a dominant purpose, but rather there is no such purpose at all. As I explained above, the Court has consistently granted weight to a change of position and a declaration in regard to an absence of intent to act or express oneself contrary to the causes enumerated in Basic Law: The Knesset. As noted, this consideration, applied mutatis mutandis to other causes, is what allowed the candidacy of Baruch Marzel in the past, as well as that of Itamar Ben Gvir at present. It his unwillingness to follow that path that stands in Ben Ari’s way.

            The third part concerns various statements by Cassif that compare the State of Israel and the members of its government to Nazi Germany. My colleague Justice Mintz gave weight to those statements. We are concerned with shameful statements that do no honor to one who makes them, and certainly not to one who seeks election a member of Knesset. It were better had they never been said, and one hopes that if Cassif is elected to the next Knesset, he will refrain from acting in this manner. However, as my colleague the President noted in her opinion – and this is the third part of Cassif’s response – those statements do not fall within the scope of any of the causes enumerated in sec. 7A, and to my understanding, the Court cannot take them into account in examining the disqualification of a candidate. In this regard, I would note that the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz also referred to Cassif’s statement in his affidavit (para. 13) that he would “not necessarily use those expressions if elected to the Knesset” (emphasis added). According to his approach, the absence of an undertaking by Cassif in regard to his future conduct does not work in his favor. However, and see paras. 12 and 13 of the affidavit, it appears that this statement referred to the shameful statements mentioned above, and not to statements related to the causes enumerated in the law, such that I do not think that this can be held against him in this proceeding.

            In view of the severity of the cause of supporting armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel, it would be proper to present Cassif’s own words as stated in his affidavit to the Elections Committee. He affied that “I have never called for violence, and I am opposed to violence as such against any person”. As my colleague the President noted, Cassif explained to the Elections Committee that “I never supported violence, I always expressed opposition to violence, I belong to a party that has always rejected violence […]” and stated further on that “I rejected, and I reject, and I will reject, and I never even hinted at support for armed struggle or violent struggle at all”. In regard to the definition of the term “terror” as opposed to “guerilla warfare” in all that concerns harm to soldiers, Cassif’s attorney emphasized in the hearing before us that the statements were made in the course of an academic debate on the subject and that one should not infer that he expressed support for harming soldiers from the presentation of his position in the matter:

He said that he has a dispute with the term “terror” even in the UN there is a dispute about this word. He wrote this and teaches his students. The dispute about the Prevention of Terror Ordinance then was a debate. Therefore, what he says about this matter of who is or isn’t a terrorist from an intellectual and academic perspective is debated […] these terms that he employs are not foreign to the Supreme Court and not to the international humanitarian court. Not one word here is a call [to terror] (p. 9 of the transcript).

            Even if one does not agree with the definitions adopted by Cassif, and even if they cause indignation, in the context presented to us they cannot be taken to imply, of themselves and certainly not given the entire collection of statements and explanations, support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. It is sad that his words show, in my opinion, a certain sense of contempt for the lives of IDF soldiers and complacency in regard to many citizens who have lost what was most dear to them in the name of defending the homeland. In such matters, a member of Knesset and a candidate for election as a member of Knesset is expected to act with sensitivity. But there is a gap between such a failing and the existence of a cause to prevent participation in the elections.

            In summation, I would say as follows. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif statements that support armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel or the negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. As noted above, there are four conditions that must be met in order to bar a candidate from participating in the Knesset elections: the cause for disqualification constitutes a dominant feature; the existence of clear, unambiguous evidence of the existence of the cause; activity, including expression, for the realization of the wrongful purposes; a critical mass of highly credible evidence. In my opinion, there is no basis for attributing to Cassif expressions of support for armed struggle by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. He made it clear that he always was and always will be against violence. As for his positions on the symbols of the state and the Law of Return, he declared that he abides his party’s platform. In regard to both causes, the evidentiary foundation is sparse, certainly not unambiguous, and lacks the requirement of dominance or activity for the realization of the purpose. In other words, both independently and cumulatively, the evidentiary foundation against him does not meet the four tests.

8.         Ra’am-Balad: The proceeding in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list focused upon the Balad party. It is argued that the central piece of evidence for disqualifying the list in these elections is the Basic Law: A State of all its Citizens Bill that Balad sought to propose to the 20th Knesset. The bill was submitted to the Knesset presidium, but that body did not approve its presentation before the Knesset.

            The bill was of a general character. For example: “The state is a state of all its citizens, in which the regime is democratic; the state’s regime is based upon the values of the dignity of the person, his liberty and his being an equal among equals”. There is also reference to the language, the symbols and the anthem, which will be in the same spirit. It is argued that the positive implies the negative, that is, that the practical significance of this bill is the revocation of the Law of Return and changing the symbols of the state and its anthem such that they would not express its being Jewish but only democratic. Taking this step carries some weight. It is more forceful than a newspaper interview, for example. It is parliamentary activity that can bear fruit. The list’s attorney argued that the bill was a sort of “gimmick” in response to Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. This argument, in itself, is insufficient. The bill refers to the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish (and democratic) state, and even if some party or other is frustrated as a result of the activity of the government and the Knesset, it is not exempt from the requirements of the Basic Law. However, the submission of the bill must be examined not just on the legal level but on the factual level. To be more precise, the factual level constitutes a central part of the legal examination. Thus, the party’s conduct in regard to the causes under the law must be examined in accordance with the strict rules. From that perspective, the bill, by itself, does not cross the necessary threshold. First, as already stated, one of the conditions is that of dominance in the purposes and active conduct. It was not argued that the bill also appears in the party’s platform. Second, the bill is signed by the Knesset members who served at the time, some of whom are no longer candidates in the current list, and others are place only symbolically. Thus, for example, MK Hanin Zoabi was placed in the 118th spot on the list. In regard to the candidates who appeared before us and who are placed at the top of the list, it turns out that they do not support that position. Their attorney even referred to the bill as a kind of mistake. And again, the matter must be examined according to the relevant tests. It would not appear that the desire to annul the anthem, the law and the symbols is dominant, or that they are actively working in such a manner, in particular in regard to the figures who currently represent the list. On the contrary, those positions are not part of the party’s planned parliamentary activity. Not just remorse, but a lack of devotion to the purpose, and conduct at a very specific time. Were the list continuing in that conduct – since the Law of Return remains in force – the situation might be different. But that is not the situation before us.

            From reading the opinion of my colleague Justice Mintz, it appears that he does not agree with the reasoning of the majority. He expanded upon the subject of the party’s conduct that was addressed in the case law in the past, in regard to previous Knesset elections. Of course, one can be of this or that opinion in regard to decisions rendered in regard to previous Knesset elections, but it does not appear that at present, significant weight should be attributed to conduct that this Court already decided was insufficient to prevent the party’s participation in the elections. Thus, the focus is upon the new material, and that is what I addressed.

            My colleague Justice Mazuz is of the opinion that the term “Jewish state” in the context of Basic Law: The Knesset should be understood as referring to the identity of the state in the national sense. In other words, it does not necessarily refer to a change of the internal content, like the state’s symbols. In my view, it would be incorrect to construe the term “Jewish state” as a test of the right of the Jewish people solely to national existence for three reasons. First, the term “Jewish” is not merely a geographical matter, but an historical one as well. The state’s symbols carry weight in the basic definition of the state. So it is in regard to other states as well. Second, the case law has also adopted this view in the past (see, e.g., EDA 50/03 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [35], 21-22, according to which “the ‘nuclear’ characteristics that shape the minimal definition of the state being a Jewish state…the right of every Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel in which Jews will be the majority; Hebrew is the primary official language of the state; Jewish heritage is a central component of its religious and cultural heritage”). Third, it would appear that practical experience shows that the objections in debates upon negation of the Jewish state focused upon the return to Zion, and not upon questions of general, historical, and religious symbols. Thus, the practical consequences of this distinction are unclear. The primary practical problem concerns proposals to annul the Law of Return, and not merely the changing of the symbols. In any case, it would seem that a construction that includes “internal” characteristics of the term “Jewish” would be more precise, and thus I would take exception to my colleague Justice Mazuz’s distinction. Of course, when I say “internal”, I refer to the most basic matters, but there is no need for elaboration or for a precise delineation.

            A final point. According to the position of the Attorney General, there is significance to the fact that the Ra’am and Balad parties are running together on one list. As opposed to this, I am of the opinion that as a rule, a party that has been tainted by a cause that disqualifies it from participating in the elections cannot cross the hurdle by joining with another party. Such an approach would afford too easy an exemption for a party that should be disqualified simply because it joins with another. In my view, the Attorney General’s approach, according to which weight should be given to the combining of parties – even if this does not grant an “exemption” – is problematic. The reason for this is that it is not clear how to calculate such a factor. There is also the fear that parties might join together so that one will “clean” the other of the cause that has tainted it. It is one thing to recognize remorse, and another to grant a seal of approval due to joining another party. I am of the opinion that if there is a cause for disqualification, then the law requires that the list be barred from running, subject, of course, to restricting disqualification to exceptional cases. Therefore, I did not grant weight to the arguments concerning the relationship between Balad and Ra’am in examining the matters.

9.         The right to vote and the right to be elected are twins, but not identical. In practice, “to vote and be elected” is presented as a single right, when each actually has an independent dimension. This is so, despite the strong connection between them, regarding which it suffices to mention that the right to be elected influences the right to vote. I will demonstrate what the two rights share and what distinguishes them in regard to the issue addressed in these proceedings – the application of sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset.  

            The right to vote focuses upon the identity of the decider and the right to be elected on the question of who is qualified to represent the people, or in our case – who is not qualified to represent them. It would appear that the right to vote places its emphasis upon the individual. The vote of every voter is worth no less that the vote of any other voter, regardless of his status, position, conduct, or statements. Therefore, the criteria for identifying who is entitled to vote are formal. As opposed to this, the question as to who can be elected is not merely formal, but value based. This is how we are to understand the causes that prevent participation in the elections that concern not only support for armed struggle, but also negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and incitement to racism. Its purpose is to define the society and its boundaries. The purpose of the right to vote is to protect the individual, whereas the purpose of the right to be elected is to protect the unity of the nation. Both rights are precious.

***

It was therefore decided, on March 17, 2019, by a majority, in accordance with the opinion of President E. Hayut, not to approve the decision of the Central Elections Committee in the matter of the disqualification of the candidacy of Cassif; to grant the appeal in the matter of the Ra’am-Balad list and rule that it is not barred from participating in the elections for the 21st Knesset; to grant the appeal in the matter of Ben Ari and rule that he is barred from participating in these elections. In addition, the Court unanimously decided to deny the appeal in all that regards the Election Committee’s decision not to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al list, and to deny the appeal in the matter of the non-disqualification of Ben Gvir.

Given this day, 15 Tammuz 5779 (July 18, 2019).

 

 

[1] Mishna Eduyot 5:7 – ed.

[2] Jeremiah 51:5 – ed.

Yesh Atid Party v. Prime Minister

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 3132/15
Date Decided: 
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Abstract: 

The petition challenged the authority of the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry under Basic Law: The Government. The Petitioners argued that the Basic Law does not empower the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister, due to the omission of sec. 33(d), which was part of the prior Basic Law: The Government of 1992, from the current Basic Law established in 2001 (hereinafter: the current Basic Law). The said provision expressly stated that “The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office”. The Petitioner also pointed to sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, which provides for situations in which the Prime Minister may temporarily serve as an acting minister.

 

The High Court of Justice (President Naor, with Deputy President Rubinstein and Justices Joubran and Hendel concurring, and Justice Melcer dissenting) denied the Petition, holding:

 

Per President Naor: Purposive interpretation of the current Basic Law shows that the Prime Minister has the authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. The current Basic Law is silent on the issue of the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as a minister responsible for a ministry. The Basic Law’s silence does not constitute a negative constitutional arrangement that denies the Prime Minister authority for parallel service, but rather constitutes a positive constitutional implication. The silence of the current Basic Law is not intended to deny the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. This interpretive conclusion is required by the purposes grounding the current Basic Law.

 

The Knesset, as a constituent authority, cannot be ascribed the desire to prevent the Prime Minister from serving as a minister. The practice of the Prime Minister appointing himself as a minister has been adopted since the earliest days of the State. It was invoked even after the Basic Law of 1992 entered into force, and even after its repeal and the entry into force of the current Basic Law. The language of the current Basic Law also provides no support for the Petitioner’s approach. The arrangement under sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, which concerns the temporary appointment of an acting minister, does not indicate an intention to deny the Prime Minister authority to appoint himself as a minister in an additional ministry, nor does it indicate any material change in the accepted practice. The provision in regard to serving as a temporary acting minister was also included in the prior Basic Law. It treats of a focused, specific aspect that does not affect the issue of a permanent appointment of the Prime Minister as a minister. Moreover, the full range of the Prime Minister’s authority should be examined from a broad perspective, and in a manner that acknowledges the Prime Minister’s authority to make a permanent appointment, along with other particular powers established by the legislature. In addition, when the Basic Law sought to exclude the Prime Minister from the scope of the term “minister”, it did so expressly.

 

It is difficult to ascribe to the framers of the current Basic Law an intention to create a negative arrangement in regard to the authority of the Prime Minister. In any case, in interpreting Basic Laws, it is not the subjective purpose, but rather the objective purpose of the current Basic Law that is decisive. That purpose requires an interpretation by which the Prime Minister is authorized to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry. One of the objective purposes underlying the current Basic Law: The Government is the Prime Minister’s status as “first among equals” in his government, and as possessing the power to shape his government and assign the roles therein. This is a fundamental concept of our democratic regime, which reflects the constitutional value of the separation of powers.

 

Justice Melcer (dissenting) was of the opinion that Basic Law: The Government does not grant the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry, except in the situation provided for under secs. 24(b) and (c) of Basic Law: The Government.

 

In conclusion, in light of the holding that the Prime Minister possesses the authority to hold additional ministerial portfolios, the Petition was denied by the Court majority, subject to the condition (per Deputy President Rubinstein, Justices Melcer and Hendel concurring) that the Court issue a “warning of voidance” granting the Government a period of eight months for an in-depth examination of the subject of parallel service.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
dissent
Full text of the opinion: 

HCJ 3132/15

 

 

Petitioner:                    Yesh Atid Party led by Yair Lapid

 

                                                            v.

 

Respondents:              1. Prime Minister of Israel

                                    2. Attorney General

                                    3. 34th Government of the State of Israel

                                    4. Deputy Minister of Health

                                    5. Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation

                                    6. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

                                    7. Likud Faction

                                    8. Torah Judaism Faction

 

Attorneys for the Petitioner: Adv. Guy Busy, Adv. Ronen Aviani

Attorneys for Respondents 1 - 6: Adv. Sharon Rotshenker, Adv. Yonatan Berman

Attorney for Respondent 7: Adv. Avi Halevi

Attorney for Respondent 8: No appearance

 

Dates of Hearings: 26 Av 5775 (Aug. 11, 2015); 28 Heshvan 5776 (Nov. 10, 2015)

 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

 

Petition for an order nisi

 

Before: President M. Naor, Deputy President E. Rubinstein, Justice S. Joubran, Justice H. Melcer, Justice N. Hendel

 

Abstract:

The petition challenged the authority of the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry under Basic Law: The Government. The Petitioners argued that the Basic Law does not empower the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister, due to the omission of sec. 33(d), which was part of the prior Basic Law: The Government of 1992, from the current Basic Law established in 2001 (hereinafter: the current Basic Law). The said provision expressly stated that “The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office”. The Petitioner also pointed to sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, which provides for situations in which the Prime Minister may temporarily serve as an acting minister.

The High Court of Justice (President Naor, with Deputy President Rubinstein and Justices Joubran and Hendel concurring, and Justice Melcer dissenting) denied the Petition, holding:

Per President Naor: Purposive interpretation of the current Basic Law shows that the Prime Minister has the authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. The current Basic Law is silent on the issue of the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as a minister responsible for a ministry. The Basic Law’s silence does not constitute a negative constitutional arrangement that denies the Prime Minister authority for parallel service, but rather constitutes a positive constitutional implication. The silence of the current Basic Law is not intended to deny the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. This interpretive conclusion is required by the purposes grounding the current Basic Law.

The Knesset, as a constituent authority, cannot be ascribed the desire to prevent the Prime Minister from serving as a minister. The practice of the Prime Minister appointing himself as a minister has been adopted since the earliest days of the State. It was invoked even after the Basic Law of 1992 entered into force, and even after its repeal and the entry into force of the current Basic Law. The language of the current Basic Law also provides no support for the Petitioner’s approach. The arrangement under sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, which concerns the temporary appointment of an acting minister, does not indicate an intention to deny the Prime Minister authority to appoint himself as a minister in an additional ministry, nor does it indicate any material change in the accepted practice. The provision in regard to serving as a temporary acting minister was also included in the prior Basic Law. It treats of a focused, specific aspect that does not affect the issue of a permanent appointment of the Prime Minister as a minister. Moreover, the full range of the Prime Minister’s authority should be examined from a broad perspective, and in a manner that acknowledges the Prime Minister’s authority to make a permanent appointment, along with other particular powers established by the legislature. In addition, when the Basic Law sought to exclude the Prime Minister from the scope of the term “minister”, it did so expressly.

It is difficult to ascribe to the framers of the current Basic Law an intention to create a negative arrangement in regard to the authority of the Prime Minister. In any case, in interpreting Basic Laws, it is not the subjective purpose, but rather the objective purpose of the current Basic Law that is decisive. That purpose requires an interpretation by which the Prime Minister is authorized to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry. One of the objective purposes underlying the current Basic Law: The Government is the Prime Minister’s status as “first among equals” in his government, and as possessing the power to shape his government and assign the roles therein. This is a fundamental concept of our democratic regime, which reflects the constitutional value of the separation of powers.

Justice Melcer (dissenting) was of the opinion that Basic Law: The Government does not grant the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry, except in the situation provided for under secs. 24(b) and (c) of Basic Law: The Government.

In conclusion, in light of the holding that the Prime Minister possesses the authority to hold additional ministerial portfolios, the Petition was denied by the Court majority, subject to the condition (per Deputy President Rubinstein, Justices Melcer and Hendel concurring) that the Court issue a “warning of voidance” granting the Government a period of eight months for an in-depth examination of the subject of parallel service.

 

 

 

Supplemental Judgment[1]

 

President M. Naor:

Does Basic Law: The Government grant the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a government ministry? That is the question before this Court.

The Proceedings in a Nutshell

1.         The Petition before the Court was filed on May 6, 2015, and concerned the political institution of a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”. On July 7, 2015, after hearing oral arguments, we granted the Petitioner’s request to file an amended petition. On July 12, 2015, an amended petition was filed, additionally requesting orders nisi on the question of the Prime Minister’s authority to simultaneously serve as a minister responsible for a government ministry – a fundamental issue not raised in the original petition. We therefore decided (on July 13, 2015) to split the proceedings such that a partial judgment would be issued in regard to the issue of the institution of  a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”, and the proceedings on the additional issue would continue thereafter. On Aug. 23, 2015, we delivered our partial judgment in which we held that the institution of “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister” was invalid. On Nov. 10, 2015, we heard oral arguments on the issue that now requires our decision, that of the authority of the Prime Minister to serve as a minister.

2.         The Petitioner argued that Basic Law: The Government does not authorize the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister. The Petitioner’s argument was premised primarily upon the omission of the provisions of sec. 33(d), which were comprised in Basic Law: The Government of 1992 (hereinafter: the Basic Law of 1992), from the current language of the Basic Law, as amended in 2001 (hereinafter: the current Basic Law). The aforesaid provision expressly stated: “The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office”. The Petitioner also pointed to sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, which addresses the instances in which the Prime Minister may temporarily serve as an acting minister.

            As opposed to this, Respondents 1 – 6 argued that a situation in which the Prime Minister assumes an additional ministerial role is consistent with the current Basic Law, as well as with customary constitutional practice since the founding of the State.

Discussion and Decision

3.         After carefully reading the arguments of the Parties, and further hearing their oral arguments, I have arrived at the conclusion that the Petition should be denied. In my opinion, purposive interpretation of the current Basic Law leads to the conclusion that the Prime Minister has the authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. Inasmuch as the focus of this matter is the interpretation of the Basic Law, I shall briefly describe the changes introduced in the Basic Law over the years.

4.         Basic Law: The Government was originally established in 1968 (hereinafter: the Basic Law of 1968). That law established the status of the Prime Minister as a minister who is the chief and first among the other ministers, stating that “The Government consists of the Prime Minister and other Ministers” (sec. 5(a) of the Basic Law of 1968; and see Elyakim Rubinstein, Basic Law: The Government in its Original Form – Theory and Practice, 3(2) Mishpat Umimshal 571, 590 (1996) (Hebrew)). This view changed with the establishment of the Basic Law of 1992, as part of a general change in the Israeli system of governance, which focused primarily upon the introduction of direct elections for the Prime Minister by the electorate. As part of that amendment, the status of the Prime Minister under the Basic Law changed to a distinct status, different from that of the other government ministers, and it was established that “The Government is comprised of the Prime Minister and Ministers”  (sec. 3(a) of the Basic Law of 1992). In 2001, pursuant to a decision to repeal the direct election of the Prime Minister, the Basic Law was again reestablished. This is the current Basic Law, which essentially adopts the arrangements of the Basic Law of 1968, inter alia, that the Prime Minister is “first among equals” in his government (Amnon Rubinstein & Barak Medina, Constitutional Law of the State of Israel 834 (6th ed., 2005) (hereinafter Rubinstein & Medina) (Hebrew)). It, too, establishes, in sec. 5(a), that “The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and other Ministers”. The provisions of the aforementioned sec. 33(d), which did not appear in the Basic Law of 1968, is also entirely absent from the current Basic Law.

5.         The current Basic Law is, thus, silent in regard to the authority of the Prime Minister to serve as a minister responsible for government ministry. This Court addressed the significance of that silence, obiter dictum, and without deciding the issue, in HCJ 3002/09 Israel Medical Association v. Prime Minister (June 9, 2009) (hereinafter: the Medical Association case). In that case, my colleague Justice Melcer made several comments in regard to the question of the Prime Minister’s authority to serve simultaneously as a minister – a question that did not directly arise from the petition in that case. His position was that the Basic Law’s silence should be construed as a negative arrangement for two primary reasons anchored in the subjective purpose of the Basic Law: first, the deletion of the said sec. 33(d), which expressly addressed the Prime Minister’s authority also to serve as a minister, and second, the arrangement established for situations in which the Prime Minister may temporarily serve as an acting minister for a period of three months, under sec. 24 of the current Basic Law. President Beinisch disagreed with the position presented by my colleague Justice Melcer. My colleague Justice Rubinstein, who wrote the primary opinion in that case, left the question open, noting that it requires “clarification in the future” (ibid., para. 43).

6.         In my view, the Basic Law’s silence does not constitute a negative constitutional arrangement, but rather a positive constitutional implication (see and compare: Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Constitutional Interpretation 429 (1994) (Hebrew); Aharon Barak, Purposive Interpretation in Law 440 (hereinafter: Barak, Purposive Interpretation) (Hebrew)). An implied meaning can be inferred from the express meaning of the text. Indeed, the implied meaning can be negative – a negative arrangement – meaning that the explicitly established arrangement will not apply to an issue not expressly addressed. But the implied meaning can also be positive, such that the explicitly established arrangement will apply to an issue that is not expressly addressed. That, I believe, is the case before us. The current Basic Law did not seek, by its silence, to deny the Prime Minister’s authority to serve simultaneously as a minister. This interpretative conclusion is required by the purposes grounding the current Basic Law, which I will now address.

Purposive Interpretation of the Current Basic Law

7.         The Petitioner argues that the omission of sec. 33(d) from the current Basic Law indicates a subjective purpose of preventing the Prime Minister from serving simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry. In my opinion, the interpretation advanced by the Petitioner is narrow, and is not appropriate to the uniqueness of the constitutional text. Indeed, the Basic Law must be interpreted “with a broad view” (ibid., 440). Constitutional interpretation “must be generous, not legalistic or pedantic” (ibid.), as is appropriate to the elevated status of the Basic Laws. In any case, in my opinion, this is the purpose that the drafters of the constitutional text intended to achieve.

8.         An examination of the legislative history of the current Basic Law shows that we cannot ascribe to the Knesset, as a constituent authority, an intention to prevent the Prime Minister from serving as a minister responsible for a ministry. This subject was not addressed in the Explanatory Notes of the current Basic Law. It also finds no expression the deliberations of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in preparing the current Basic Law for second and third readings, nor in the plenum debates (see: 15(3) Divrei HaKnesset 3145 (5761), and particularly the comments of the Chairman of the of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Knesset Member Amnon Rubinstein, who pointed out the main changes introduced in the Basic Law, without mentioning the subject we are now discussing (Protocol of Hearing 258 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (Feb. 13, 2001); Protocol of Hearing 264 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (Feb. 20, 2001); ); Protocol of Hearing 266 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (Feb. 26, 2001); ); Protocol of Hearing 268 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (Feb. 27, 2001); Protocol of Hearing 272 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (March 5, 2001); Protocol of Hearing 273 of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee of the 15th Knesset (March 6, 2001)).

9.         My conclusion is reinforced by an examination of the pre-constitutional history of the Basic Law. The pre-constitutional history is the social and legal background of the Constitution, “for it is a well-known axiom that the law of a people must be studied in the light of its national way of life” (HCJ 73/53 Kol Ha’am Co. v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 7 871, 884 (1953) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/kol-haam-co-ltd-v-minister-interior]). The practice by which the Prime Minister is authorized to appoint himself as a minister goes back to the earliest days of the State, well before the establishing of the Basic Law of 1968 (see: 10 Divrei HaKnesset 233 (5716) (the Seventh Government); 23 Divrei HaKnesset 564 (5718) (the Eighth Government); 28 Divrei HaKnesset 92 (5720) (the Ninth Government); 32 Divrei HaKnesset 204 (5722) (the Tenth Government); 37 Divrei HaKnesset 2162 (the Eleventh Government); 41 Divrei HaKnesset 677 (5725) (the Twelfth Government); 44 Divrei HaKnesset 350 (5726) (the Thirteenth Government), and this is not an exhaustive list).

10.       The practice also continued after the establishment of the Basic Law of 1968, although it, too, lacks an express provision in this regard (see: 97 Divrei HaKnesset 3403 (5744) (the Twentieth Government); 12 (1) Divrei HaKnesset 215 (5749) (the Twenty-third Government); 12 (2) Divrei HaKnesset 421 (5750) (the Twenty-fourth Government); 13 (1) Divrei HaKnesset 11 (5752) (the Twenty-fifth Government), and this is not an exhaustive list). Thus, for example, Prime Minister Menachem Begin informed the Speaker of the Knesset of his successfully forming a Government, as follows:

                        To the Honorable Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Yitzhak Shamir

                        Jerusalem.

                       

                        Mr. Speaker,

On 21 Sivan 5737, 7 June 1977, his Honor the President of the State was kind enough to appoint me to form a Government. I respectfully inform Your Honor that, in accordance with section 13 (b) of Basic Law: The Government, I have fulfilled that task, and I will duly present the Government, its composition and the distribution of functions, before the Knesset on 4 Tammuz 5737, 20 June 1977.

 

                        And this is the composition of the Government:

Menachem Begin – Prime Minister, Simcha Ehrlich – Minister of Finance, Aharon Abu-Hatzeira – Minister of Religion, Yosef Burg – Minister of the Interior, Moshe Dayan – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Horowitz – Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Zevulun Hammer – Minister of Education, Ezer Weizman – Minister of Defence, David Levy – Minister of Absorption, Yitzhak Moda’i – Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Gideon Patt – Minister of Construction and Housing, Eliezer Shostak – Minister of Health, Ariel Sharon – Minister of Agriculture.

 

During a brief transition period, the Prime Minister will be responsible for the Ministries of Welfare, Justice, Transportation, and Communications.

 

Respectfully,

M. Begin

(As published in Arye Naor, Begin in Power – A Personal Testimony, 60 (1993) (Hebrew) (emphasis added – M.N.).

 

11.       Needless to say, the said practice has continued to this very day, even following the entry into force of the Basic Law of 1992 (see: 14(1) Divrei HaKnesset 13 (5756) (the Twenty-seventh Government); 15 (1) Divrei HaKnesset 251 (5759) (the Twenty-eighth Government); 15 (3) Divrei HaKnesset 3209 (5761) (the Twenty-ninth Government)), and even after its repeal and the entry into force of the current Basic Law (see: 16 (1) Divrei HaKnesset 124 (5763) (the Thirtieth Government); 18 (1) Divrei HaKnesset 486 (5769) (the Thirty-second Government); Protocol of the 16th session of the 20th Knesset, 19 (May 14, 2015) (the Thirty-fourth Government)). There was good reason for President Beinisch to note that this practice is rooted “deeply in the political tradition of the Israeli system of government”, and that “it is difficult to view the omission of section 33(d) of the former Basic Law: The Government as expressing the legislature’s desire to effect such a significant change in our accepted constitutional governmental regime” (the Medical Association case, para. 2).

12.       I have also found no support for the Petitioner’s approach in the language of the current Basic Law. The arrangement in regard to temporarily serving as an acting minister, under sec. 24 of the current Basic Law, does not, in my opinion, indicate an intention to deny the Prime Minister authority to appoint himself as a minister in an additional ministry. The arrangement in regard to serving as an acting minister is a special arrangement. The reason for limiting the term in that arrangement is related to the fact that serving as an acting minister does not require the Knesset’s consent (see: sec. 24 of the current Basic Law), whereas the Prime Minister’s serving as a minister responsible for a ministry requires that the Knesset express confidence (see: sec. 13(d) of the current Basic Law).

13.       Indeed, the existence of one authority does not deny the other authority:

Even the changes that the legislature effected in the arrangement regarding temporarily serving as an acting minister (now sec. 24 of the Basic Law) do not indicate a material change in the accepted, prevailing view.  This, firstly, because the arrangement in regard to serving as an acting minister was included in the previous version of the Basic law, alongside the aforesaid sec. 33(d); and secondly, because, in any case, this arrangement concerns a focused, specific aspect, and does not, in my opinion, concern the issue of the permanent appointment of the Prime Minister as a minister. Moreover, the overall powers of the Prime Minister must be viewed broadly, in a manner that allows for the existence of the authority of permanent appointment alongside other particular powers, as established by the legislature (the Medical Association case, para. 2 of the opinion of President Beinisch; and see and compare HCJ 6924/00 Shtenger v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 55 (2) 485, 494 (2001) (hereinafter: the Shtenger case)).

            14.       Moreover, when the current Basic Law sought to exclude the Prime Minister from the term “minister”, it did so expressly (see, for example: sec. 22 of the current Basic Law). This, as opposed to the Basic Law of 1992, in which – similar to the provision of the aforementioned sec 33(d) – there were provisions that expressly included the Prime Minister in the term “minister” (see, for example: secs. 41-42 of the Basic Law of 1992, concerning delegation and assumption of powers). The reason for this difference lay in the change to a system of direct election of the Prime Minister. That change led to a need to clarify that the Prime Minister was authorized to act simultaneously as a minister, in view of the change in the Prime Minister’s status relative to the ministers. The current Basic Law, similar to the Basic Law of 1968, includes the Prime Minister among the ministers without the said distinction – thus, as noted, “The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and other Ministers” (sec. 5(a) of the current Basic Law). That being the case, the need for an express provision in regard to the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as a minister responsible for a ministry became superfluous:

We would recall that the Basic Law of 1992 established that “The Government is comprised of the Prime Minister and Ministers”, i.e., the Prime Minister is not generally counted among the ministers. Therefore, it was necessary to clarify that the person serving as Prime Minister may simultaneously serve as the head of a government ministry. Upon return to the parliamentary system in the Law of 1992, there was no longer any need for the said provision of sec. 33(d), inasmuch as the Prime Minister is also included among the ministers (Shimon Shetreet, The Government: The Executive Branch – Commentary to Basic Law: The Government (to be published) (Hebrew); and see, in general, ibid., pp. 233-235 of the manuscript).

15.       It is, therefore, difficult to attribute to the drafters of the Basic Law an intention to create a negative arrangement in regard to the authority of the Prime Minister to serve as a minister. In any case, in the interpretation of Basic Laws, it is not the subjective purpose that is decisive, but rather the objective purpose (see: Barak, Purposive Interpretation, 456). The objective purpose reflects – at a number of abstract levels – the basic concepts, values and purposes that the constitutional text was intended to achieve in a democratic state (see: ibid., 444-445). The objective purpose of the current Basic Law leads to the interpretation according to which the Prime Minister is authorized to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry.

16.       One of the objective purposes grounding the current Basic Law is the status of the Prime Minister as “first among equals” in his government (Rubinstein & Medina, 834), and as having the authority to shape the composition of the Government and the distribution of duties therein. That is a basic concept of our democratic regime, which reflects the constitutional value of separation of powers. In this regard, the words of President A. Barak are apt:

The Prime Minister is a minister (s. 5(a) of Basic Law: The Government). Any law that derives from the status of a minister derives also from the status of the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding, the Prime Minister is a special kind of minister. He is first and foremost among the ministers. This is the case because of several provisions in Basic Law: The Government. First, it is the Prime Minister who forms the Government. The President of the State gives the task of forming the Government to a member of the Knesset (s. 7(a) of Basic Law: The Government). When the Government has been formed by that member of the Knesset, he becomes the Prime Minister (s. 13(c) of Basic Law: The Government). […] Second, the Cabinet owes collective responsibility to the Knesset, but the ministers are personally responsible to the Prime Minister for the offices to which they are appointed (s. 4 of Basic Law: The Government). This is personal responsibility of each minister to the Prime Minister in respect of his carrying out his office as a minister. Third, it is the Prime Minister who conducts the Cabinet meetings (see and cf. s. 16(a) of Basic Law: The Government). Fourth, the resignation or death of a Prime Minister means the resignation of the Government as a whole (ss. 19 and 20 of Basic Law: The Government). Moreover, the Prime Minister has the power, in certain circumstances and with the consent of the President of the State, to bring about the dissolution of the Knesset (s. 29(a) of Basic Law: The Government). Finally, if a minister ceases holding office, or he is temporarily incapable of carrying out his office, the Prime Minister or another minister designated by the Cabinet deputizes for him (s. 24(b) of Basic Law: The Government). It follows that the Prime Minister is a member of the Cabinet, but his status is a special one. He is the head of the Government. It is he who forms it. It is he who decides its composition and who will hold the various offices in it, and it is he that directs its main activities and objectives (HCJ 5261/04 Fuchs v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 59 (2) 446, 461 (2004) (hereinafter: the Fuchs case) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/fuchs-v-prime-minister] (emphasis added – M.N.)).

17.       This purpose derives from the language of the constitutional text, and from the fundamental values of the system (see: Barak, Purposive Interpretation, 447, 449). It also derives from the case law (see: ibid., 448). On more than one occasion, this Court has emphasized the special status of the Prime Minister, and the broad discretion that he is granted in forming his government (see: the Fuchs case, 465; HCJ 5853/07 Emunah – National Religious Women’s Organization v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 62 (3) 445, 476-478 (2007) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/emunah-v-prime-minister] and the references there; also see and compare: HCJ 2533/97 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 51 (3) 46, 58 (1997); the Shtenger case, 492; and see: Rubinstein & Medina, 836).

18.       The Petition before us concerns only the question whether the Prime Minister is authorized to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry. To that, my answer is affirmative. I have not made any decision – one way or the other – in regard to what need not be decided for the instant case: the breadth of the Prime Minister’s discretion in such matters, and the scope of this Court’s intervention.

            Therefore, it is my position that the second part of the Petition should be denied, without an order for costs.

Afterward

19.       Following the above, I reviewed the opinion of my colleague Justice H. Melcer. My position has not changed, and I would like to emphasize several points.

            In my colleague’s opinion, interpretation of the current Basic Law shows that the Prime Minister lacks authority to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry. My colleague basis his argument of the existence of a negative arrangement – which, according to his approach, derives from the omission of sec. 33(d) from the current Basic Law, and from the existence of an arrangement in regard to serving temporarily as an acting minister (sec. 24 of the current Basic Law) – and upon other provisions found in the current Basic Law, such as, the provision that a law may empower “the Prime Minister or a Minister” to make regulations (sec. 37(b) of the current Basic Law), and the provision regarding ministerial responsibility. As stated, I hold a different view. I found no basis for my colleague’s approach either in the language of the current Basic Law or in its purpose. I addressed that in detail, above, and I will not reiterate. But I would emphasize that, in my opinion, interpreting the Basic Law from a broad perspective that is neither legalistic nor pedantic, shows that the authority exists, and that we should not infer a “negative”, but rather an “affirmative”, from the omission of the provision that expressly provided for the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as a minister (sec. 33(d) of the Basic Law of 1992).

20.       I cannot accept my colleague’s argument that this interpretive approach yields practical difficulties. In any case, the vast majority are resolved by our customary interpretive rules and principles (such as, lex specialis derogat lex generali and ejusdem generis). I also do not agree with the statement that the current Basic Law “did not contemplate a situation in which, as a matter of course, the Prime Minister would also serve as a minister responsible for a ministry” (para. 15 of my colleague’s opinion), in view of the pre-constitutional history that I reviewed in my opinion, which serves as a source for ascertaining the purpose (and therefore, I see no need whatsoever to address the status of constitutional custom).

21.       As for comparative law, which my colleague addressed at length, as a rule, it is indeed an important source of interpretive inspiration, and fertile ground for broadening horizons. But such inspiration is not always appropriate. In addition to the need that the legal systems being compared have a common ideological basis and common loyalty to fundamental values, there must also be “nothing in the historical development and social circumstances of the local or foreign system that distinguishes it enough to challenge interpretational inspiration” (Barak, Purposive Interpretation, 452 [English: Barak, Human Dignity as a Constitutional Value, 92 (Cambridge, 2015)). I do not believe that such interpretive inspiration is appropriate to the circumstances of the matter before us, in view of the complex constitutional history and the material differences in the systems of governance. In any case, many of the examples adduced by my colleague in regard to the prevailing trends in Germany and England do not testify to an absence of authority, but rather to a custom of not exercising it. We are, therefore, concerned with the subject of discretion, which – as we should recall – did not arise in the matter before us.

22.       To my way of thinking, some of my colleague’s arguments, although raised in the context of authority, actually concern discretion. Thus, for example, my colleague pointed out that according to the proposed interpretation “the Prime Minister can also fill the roles of all of the ministers” (para. 9 of his opinion, emphasis omitted – M.N.), and he also noted the heavy burden borne by the Prime Minister, which might prevent him from devoting the necessary time and attention to his ministerial tasks (see para 17 of his opinion). My colleague further pointed out that, in certain circumstances, the Prime Minister’s serving as a minister responsible for a ministry might lead to a violation of basic rights (see paras. 38-40 of his opinion). Without expressing an opinion on the merits, these issues do not concern the Prime Minister’s authority to serve simultaneously as a minister, but rather the question of discretion in exercising that authority. As I stated above, it is not my intention to address issues that were not raised by the petition before us, and decide what does not require decision.

23.       I will now turn to the opinions of my colleagues Deputy President E. Rubinstein and Justice N. Hendel, and especially to their conclusion. My colleagues concurred with my conclusion that the Petition be denied inasmuch as the current Basic Law did not intend to deny the Prime Minister’s authority in principle to serve simultaneously as a minister. However, my colleagues held that, along with denying the Petition, we should issue a “warning of voidance” in the sense that if the currently prevailing situation does not materially change within eight months, it may be appropriate to revisit the question of authority and the exercise thereof. My colleagues arrived at this result in light of their conclusion that an extreme deviation from the margin of reasonableness in exercising the authority could color it in the future “with the colors of a deviation from authority”. In other words, my colleagues held that a “warning of voidance” would be appropriate in that the possible flaws that they identified in the area of discretion might justify a future finding that the Prime Minister is not authorized to serve in additional ministerial roles to a certain extent (see para. 10 of the opinion of my colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein, and para. 3 of the opinion of my colleague Justice N. Hendel).

24.       My colleagues’ discussion of discretion, and the question whether flaws in the area of discretion might justify a future conclusion of lack of authority is one that deviates from the framework of the arguments raised before us in this petition. My colleagues did not suffice with a discussion of the issue of discretion. They went on to craft the remedy they propose for the petition, in view of the theoretical conclusions they reached in regard to discretion. In this regard, I would like to emphasize that the Parties did not raise any arguments in regard to the subject of discretion. The Respondents were not afforded an opportunity to argue this point. They were not afforded an opportunity to address the remedy of a “warning of voidance”. The Petitioner also made it unequivocally clear that its arguments were focused exclusively upon the subject of authority (the attorney for the Petitioner stated in the course of the hearing: “My arguments are only in regard to authority. In light of the amendment, the Prime Minister lacks authority to serve in additional ministries” (p. 2 of the protocol of Nov. 10, 2015). In any case, the Petitioner did not argue that flaws in regard to discretion might lead to a lack of authority.

25.       In my view, there is no room for addressing arguments that were not heard, and issues that were not raised by the Parties. Therefore, I do not believe that it was appropriate to consider questions in regard to discretion, and it was certainly not appropriate to grant relief in the form of a “warning of voidance” that was not requested, and regarding which the Respondents were not afforded an appropriate opportunity to respond. For my part, I refrain from expressing any opinion on subjects that were not raised before us. According to my approach, it is preferable to hold that “we will cross that bridge when we get to it” (see and compare: my opinion in CA 11120/07 Simhoni v. Bank HaPoalim (Dec. 28, 2009); my opinion in CA 11039/07 Eliahu Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Avner Road Accident Victims Insurance Association Ltd., (July 6, 2011); CA 1326/07 Hammer v. Amit, para. 2 of my opinion (May 28, 2012) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/hammer-v-amit]).

            I have, therefore, refrained from expressing any opinion in regard to a petition or forms of relief that are not before the Court in the procedural framework as established.

 

Justice H. Melcer:

1.         After reviewing the opinion of my colleague President M. Naor, I am unable to concur with her position or proposed result.

            In my view, it would have been appropriate to issue an order nisi in this petition for the purpose of examining the issue whether Basic Law: The Government permits the Prime Minister, in normal circumstances (that are not addressed by sec. 24(b) and (c) of the said basic Law), to serve – alongside his high office – as a minister responsible for a ministry (and accordingly, appoint a deputy minister for himself). In my view, pursuant to the order nisi, if the Respondents could not present justifying arguments, it would have been appropriate to make the order absolute in regard to all the issues, and prohibit such a double role for the Prime Minister.

2.         I set out the basis for my above approach in a broad comment that I wrote in HCJ 3002/09 Israel Medical Association v. Prime Minister of Israel (June 9, 2009) (hereinafter: the Medical Association case). That case concerned a petition challenging the continued service of Knesset Member Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who, on April 6, 2009, had been appointed to serve as Deputy Minister of Health, with the status of Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister. In our judgment in that case, we held that the said institution has no grounding in Basic Law: The Government. However, in light of the historical background, and in view of the quasi-reliance that had been created, we denied that petition, but made it clear that such a situation could not be repeated in the future, and we therefore issued a “warning of voidance” (see: para.41 of the opinion of my colleague (then) Justice E. Rubinstein, who wrote the primary opinion in that case, in which President D. Beinisch and I concurred).

            In the Medical Association case, I raised a possible reason for the “warning of voidance”. I presented the question whether, due to the rescission of the provision in the previous Basic Law: The Government (which was based upon the concept of direct, personal election of the Prime Minister in direct, equal, national general elections by secret-ballot), and which expressly permitted the Prime Minister to serve as a minister responsible for a ministry, we could not say that the provisions of the current Basic Law (established March 7, 2001) prohibited such parallel service (except under the circumstances of secs. 24(b) and (c) of Basic Law: The Government, and that the affirmative provisions of those sections implied a negative conclusion in regard to other situations), and that inasmuch as, in any case, the Prime Minister could not serve as a minister, as noted, he could not appoint a deputy for himself in that capacity (hereinafter: the new interpretation). In this regard, I listed a number of interpretive and constitutional considerations, inter alia, from comparative law, that support the new interpretation, while noting that there are a few reasons justifying the practice that had been followed until that time, by which the Prime Minister occasionally served as a minister responsible for a ministry (hereinafter: the old interpretation). In conclusion, I expressed the opinion that even if the new interpretation may appear preferable, the constitutional system should be allowed to internalize this alternative, and either conform to it or respond to it. I added in this regard:

What is required here is that if the constituent authority is of the view that the said interpretation should not be accepted, then it will surely know how to express its position – either by clarification or amendment of the relevant Basic Law (ibid., para. 6(b) of my opinion).

            President D. Beinisch opposed my said approach, although noting that my examination was: “comprehensive and interesting”, and “raises new – and perhaps appropriate – thought about our system”. However, she was of the opinion – on the basis of an examination of former case law and practice – that the change that I pointed out required express reference in the Basic Law, that she believed was lacking (ibid., para. 2 of her opinion).

            As opposed to this, my colleague (then) Justice Rubinstein responded to my opinion as follows:

It would seem to me that, at present, we remain in the framework of the existing constitutional custom, which was not rescinded by the current Basic Law, and which was approved by the Knesset. Therefore, no one questioned the Prime Minister’s fulfilling additional ministerial roles. Deciding the questions raised by my colleague was left, by him as well, for a later date. However, as for myself,  I find the approach that my colleague  proposed to be persuasive on its face, but we do not live in an ideal world, and it requires future examination, as the Chinese proverb goes: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (ibid., para 43 of his opinion).

3.         Merely six years have passed, and the problem has again arisen before us in all its ramifications, as in presenting his new government before the Knesset, on May 14, 2015,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assumed the roles Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Health, Minister of Communications, and Minister of Regional Coordination, and thereafter, appointed deputy ministers in the Ministry of Health (Knesset Member Yaakov Litzman), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Knesset Member Tzipora Hotoveli), and the Ministry of Regional Coordination (Knesset Member Ayoob Kara).

4.         In the framework of the petition filed by the Petitioner challenging the above conduct, we decided, on July 13, 2015, that the proceedings would be separated such that a partial judgment would be given in the matter of the institution of a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”, and that the examination of the other issue, concerning the Prime Minister’s authority to serve simultaneously as a minister responsible for a ministry, would continue thereafter.

5.         On Aug. 23, 2015, after hearing the arguments of the Parties’ attorneys, we issued a partial judgment in which we held that the institution of a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister” no longer has legal force. Pursuant to that judgment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ceased to serve as Minister of Health, and the Deputy Minister of Health, Knesset Member Yaakov Litzman, was appointed Minister of Health on Sept. 2, 2015.

6.         Thereafter, on Nov. 10, 2015, we heard arguments on the second issue that had remained pending. On that question, I arrived at the conclusion that it would appear that, under normal circumstances, the Prime Minister lacks authority to serve as a minister responsible for a ministry, alongside his high office, inasmuch as not only is the new interpretation that I presented in the Medical Association case preferable, but the changes since introduced to Basic Law: The Government require the conclusion that it is the only possible interpretation.

            I will, therefore, now present the reasoning. My arguments will be set out as follows: In Chapter I, I will consider the interpretation of the constitutional text from within. In Chapter II, I will present the theory of implied constitutional interpretation, and the tools and elements that compose it and which will serve me thereafter. In Chapter III, I will address the relevant constitutional and case-law history. In Chapter IV, I will proceed to an examination of the constitutional values that ground my approach, as well as the imports to be learned from comparative law in this matter. In the course of these chapters, I will, where appropriate, refute the counter arguments presented by the Respondents. In Chapter V, I will examine the power of the constitutional custom that, as argued, applies to this matter. Finally, in Chapter VI, I will present a summary and conclusions. In view of the fact that after writing my opinion, I received the opinions of my colleagues, and the afterward written by my colleague the President, I will complete my examination with a brief afterward.

            I will now, therefore, present my arguments in order – first things first, and last things last.

Chapter I: Interpreting the Constitutional Text from Within

7.         Basic Law: The Government, and our other Basic Laws, as well, are chapters of our future Constitution. Their interpretation is based, first and foremost, upon their written text, on the assumption that we are treating of a formal constitution, and not an unwritten constitution, which has different rules of design and interpretation. In interpreting the text of a formal constitution (hereinafter: the express constitution), significance must be attributed to the express meaning of the written text, but also to its implied meaning (hereinafter: the implied constitution) (see: Prof. Aharon Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, 1-6 (to be published in 45 (3) Mishpatim (2016) (hereinafter: Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution). The said interpretive framework is delimited: on the one hand, it does not treat of an “open fabric”, like an unwritten constitution that is often influenced by constitutional customs and conventions (see the references in fn. 20 of Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution), while on the other hand, it does not address the constitution as a code, which is assumed to be comprehensive. This is especially true in our case, where the constitutional project has not yet been completed. Therefore, alongside the constitutional norms that can be derived from the express provisions of the Basic Law, we can also draw additional rules from what may be learned or inferred “between the lines”, as if it were written there – in President Barak’s metaphoric language – “in invisible ink” (see: HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chairwoman of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685, 703 (2004) (hereinafter: the Hadash Faction case); see and compare: Laurence H. Tribe, The Invisible Constitution (2008) (hereinafter: Tribe); Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live Ny (2012) (hereinafter: Amar).

            This approach is also essentially consistent with Jewish heritage in regard to the relationship between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, upon which I will not expand here.

8.         I will, therefore, commence with an examination of the relevant, express provisions of the current Basic Law: The Government, and their implications for the matter before us. In so doing, I will refer to the current text of Basic Law: The Government, while, inter alia, bearing in mind the constitutional principle that Basic Law: The Government, as such (like every Basic Law) is undated (for the implications of this, see: CA 6821/93 United Mizrahi Bank Ltd. v. Migdal Cooperative Village, IsrSC 49 (4) 221, 560-561 (1995) per Justice M. Cheshin [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/united-mizrahi-bank-v-migdal-cooper... (hereinafter: the Mizrahi Bank case). Thereafter – in view of the arguments of the Parties’ attorneys and the position of my colleague the President – in Chapter III, I will separately address the influence of the vicissitudes in the “history” of Basic Law: The Government, and the case law that addresses it and its interpretation (and compare: HCJ 4031/94 B’Tzedek v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 48 (5) 1 (1994)).

            I will, therefore, now turn to a survey of the said provisions from the perspective of a jurist examining and interpreting the various provisions of an express constitution from within.

9.         Section 1 of Basic Law: The Government states as follows:

                        What the Government is

  1. The Government is the executive authority of the State.

This provision is of great significance, in that it presents (as a heading of the section) the substance of the collective body. On the basis of this section, the Government (as opposed to the Prime Minister) is considered the Executive Branch of the State (see: Shimon Shetreet, The Government: The Executive Branch – Commentary to Basic Law: The Government, 100, 235 (to be published) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Shetreet, The Executive Branch)). In this regard, our form of government differs, for example, form that of the presidential system of the United States (where the President is the Executive Branch). This fundamental principle must be borne in mind, inasmuch as in the hearing of Nov. 10, 2015, the State Attorney’s representative affirmed, on behalf of respondents 1-6, that according to the legal approach that she asserted, the Prime Minister can also fill the roles of all of the ministers (p. 5 of the protocol). That approach deprives sec. 1 of Basic Law: The Government of all meaning, as it does for sec. 5 of the Basic Law: The Government, which I will address in the following paragraph. It is worth noting in this regard that although, in his book, Prof. Shetreet supports leaving the old interpretation in place (inter alia, in accordance with the quote cited in para. 14 of the opinion of my colleague the President), he is of the opinion that a situation in which the Prime Minister is responsible for a only a few ministries “is inconsistent with the spirit of the Basic Law, according to which the Government, in its entirety, constitutes the Executive Branch” (Shetreet, The Executive Branch, p. 235).

10.       Section 5 of Basic Law: The Government states:

                        The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

            From this provision we learn several things:

(a)        The collective body (the Government) comprises two elements: the Prime Minister, on one hand, and the Ministers, on the other (on the meaning of “other Ministers”, see subsec. (d), below). It would thus appear that each element of this definition stands on its own, and when it was necessary to view them in common, the framers referred to them as “Government members”. See sec. 5(f) of Basic Law: The Government, which instructs as follows:

The number of Government members, including the Prime Minister, shall not exceed 19, unless the Knesset has expressed confidence in the Government, or has decided to approve the addition of Ministers to the Government, by a majority of at least seventy Members of the Knesset.

            Here we should note that according to the approach presented by the Respondents, according to which the Prime Minister is also a minister, it would have been sufficient to say: “The number of Ministers shall not exceed 19”. Moreover, according to the approach asserted by the attorney for Respondents 1-6, the Prime Minister can himself assume all the roles of the ministers, such that sec. 5(a) would be a dead letter.

(b)        The term employed for the person who heads the Government is “Head of the Government” [Rosh HaMemshala] and not Head of the Ministers or First Minister.[2] I emphasize this because in England, from which we originally drew our constitutional system (see; the Mizrahi Bank case, p. 280; Amnon Rubinstein & Barak Medina, Constitutional Law of the State of Israel, vol. 1: Basic Principles 17 (6th ed., 2005) (Hebrew)), the role of the Prime Minister developed as a “constitutional convention” that was based upon an institution that came to England from France, where, after the death of Louis XIV (in 1715), the first person termed Premier Minister or Principle Minister was appointed. Pursuant to that, the English Sir Robert Walpole, who was appointed to a parallel position in Great Britain in 1722, was termed Premier Minister, and is thought of as the “First Prime Minister of England”, although his official ministerial title was “The First Lord of the Treasury” (see: Lord Robert Blake, The Office of Prime Minister 6 (1975); Rodney Brazier, Ministers of the Crown 5 (1997) (hereinafter: Brazier); Leopold O. Hood Phillips and Jackson Hood, Constitutional and Administrative Law 358-360 (8th ed., 2001) (hereinafter: Hood Phillips); A.W. Bradley and K.D. Ewing, Constitutional and Administrative Law 969 (14th ed., 2008) (hereinafter: Bradley)).

(c)        We would here note that, over the course of years, the British Prime Minister also assumed various ministerial roles (as, for example, Churchill in WWII; however, the last to do so in Britain were Clement Attlee, who also served as Minister of Defence during the first 17 months of his tenure (which continued from July 27, 1945 until Oct. 26, 1951), and Harold Wilson, who also took charge of the Department of Economic Affairs in 1967 – see: Brazier, p. 81 fn. 81, and Bradley, p. 970). This practice was not foreign to the English constitutional culture, inasmuch as the office of prime minister – as noted – developed from the role of a regular minister to whom the other minsters were subject. Formally speaking, to this day the British Prime Minister also carries the titles of First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service (even though that government agency was disbanded in 1981), but this anomaly can be explained by the fact that it is only by virtue of these titles, and British tradition, that the British Prime Minister (under the relevant laws) can receive a salary and a pension (see: Hood Phillips, 309).

            To complete the picture, I would further note that in the area with which we are concerned, even the British “constitutional convention” has been moving in the direction of the new interpretation, and the constitutional rule is now stated, with typical British understatement, as follows:

No Prime Minister, however, is likely to burden himself with another department nowadays (Brazier, p. 81).

            Moreover, in practice, in England (following the tenure of Harold Wilson as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970), and in Canada (following the tenure of Jean Chrétien as Prime Minister from 1993 to 2003), the view that has developed is that, in principle, the Prime Minister serves only as the conductor of an orchestra, and as a rule, he should not also serve as one of the musicians (see: Harold Wilson, The Labour Government 1964-1970: A Personal Record (1971); Jean Chrétien, My Years as Prime Minister 33 (2010)). This is also the accepted model in Japan in regard to the status of the Prime Minister (see: Peter Gourevitch, Domestic Politics and International Relations, in Handbook of International Relations 309 (Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse & Beth A. Simmons eds. (London: Sage, 2002).

            A similar approach would appear to be expressed in Israel – even in the title of the position (Head of the Government), which embodies a departure from the classic British concept under which the holder of the office is merely “first among equal (ministers)” – primus inter pares. This is also how the matter was interpreted by the Committee for the Examination of the Office of the Prime Minister (whose members were: Yossi Kuchik (chair), Yael Adorn, Prof. David Dry, Prof. Gideon Sapir, and Adv. Dror Strum), which, in its discussion of sec. 5 of Basic Law: The Government, expressed the following opinion:

We are not concerned with a first-among-equals model, but rather with a model of a prime minister who holds a different, preeminent role in relation to his ministers (Committee Report of April 2012, p. 28).

(d)       As noted, the Respondents seek to rely on the wording “The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and other Ministers”, and their emphasis of the word other, indicating that Prime Minister is also a minister. That may be a possible understanding for certain matters (for example, in regard to salary and pension – see: sec. 36 of Basic Law: The Government, and compare the English practice described in ss. (c), above), but I read the emphasis of the word other otherwise.

            In my opinion, what we should infer from sec. 5(a) of Basic Law: The Government is that the framers sought to emphasize that the ministers are different (other) than the Prime Minister – the latter characterized as being sui generis, while the remaining ministers are “other ministers”.

            The interpretation advanced by the Respondents is a two-stage statement: At the first stage, they infer from the fact that sec. 5(a) of Basic Law: The Government speaks of “other ministers” that the Prime Minister is also a minister. At the second stage, they seek to apply every provision of Basic Law: The Government that mentions a minister as referring to the Prime Minister, as well, unless the constitutional text expressly states otherwise (see, for example: secs. 22(a), 24(a) and 31(a) of Basic Law: The Government). In my opinion, this approach suffers from two flaws:

(1)        It “stretches” the “broad” approach to constitutional interpretation (adopted in HCJ 6924/00 Shtenger v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 45 (2) 485 (2001)) beyond what is legitimate, as constitutional interpretation – even if “broad” – must follow the middle path, faithful to the “constitutional spirit”, and be understood to all, without casuistry (and compare: “We the people” of the American Constitution, and see: Amar and Tribe; and Bruce Ackerman, We the People: Foundations (1991); Bruce Ackerman, We the People: Transformations (1998); Bruce Ackerman, We the People: The Civil Rights Revolution (2014); James E. Fleming, Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution: For Moral Reading and Against Originalisms, Chap. 7, Fidelity to Our Living Constitution: Honoring the Achievements of We The People (2015).

(2)        It deviates from the subject, inasmuch as the question is not whether the Prime Minister can be considered a minister at certain times and for specific purposes, but rather whether the Prime Minister can serve as the minister responsible for a government ministry alongside his said high office (on the distinction between the two concepts, see, for example: sec. 5(c) and 26(2) of Basic Law: The Government). According to my approach, the conclusion to be drawn in this regard, both from the express constitution and from the implied constitution (as I will demonstrate below), is negative, inasmuch as sec. 5(a) of Basic Law: The Government should be read as follows: “The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and others (who are) Ministers”.

            This approach is specifically expressed in many of the provisions of Basic Law: The Government (in Chap. III, concerning the relevant constitutional history, I will separately address the significance of the fact that the current wording of sec. 5(a) of Basic Law: The Government was found in the original Basic Law: The Government, was then changed in Basic Law: The Government of 1992, and returned to its original wording in Basic Law: The Government in 2001).

            I will demonstrate this presently.

11.       The conception of the uniqueness of the status and role of the Prime Minister gains additional weight to that presented above in sec. 5(b) of Basic Law: The Government, which states as follows:

The Prime Minister shall be a member of the Knesset. A Minister need not be a member of the Knesset [the Deputy Prime Minister, when one is appointed, must also be a member of the Knesset – see: sec. 5(d) of Basic Law: The Government] (emphasis added – M.C.).

            Moreover, sec. 5(c) of Basic Law: The Government, immediately following sec. 5(b), emphasizes and establishes:

A Minister shall be in charge of a Ministry; there may be Ministers without Portfolio.

            It would appear that, here, the term “minister” does not include the Prime Minister, inasmuch as complementary to and separate from what is established in sec. 5(c) of Basic Law: The Government, the provision of sec. 25(a) of Basic Law: The Government informs us that the Prime Minister is in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office. Therefore – by virtue of sec. 25(a) – a deputy minister appointed by the Prime Minister is titled: “a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office”.

12.       A conclusion similar to that presented above can also be inferred from the special responsibility provision at the end of sec. 4 of Basic Law: The Government (“a Minister is responsible to the Prime Minister for the field of responsibility with which the Minister has been charged”), which precedes the provision of sec. 5(c) of Basic Law: The Government. This is the personal responsibility of each and every minister to the Prime Minister in regard to the fulfilling of his role as a minister (see: HCJ 5261/04 Fuchs v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 59 (2) 446, 461 (2009) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/fuchs-v-prime-minister]). The said instruction thus makes it clear why, in general, the Prime Minister cannot serve as a minister responsible for a ministry, inasmuch as in such a case, whence the ministerial responsibility to him?

13.       The approach presented here is also required by the separate declaration of allegiance of the Prime Minister, as such, as opposed to that of all the other ministers, as such, under sec. 14 of Basic Law: The Government. That wording is not appropriate to a prime minister who is also a minister, and indeed, on May 14, 2015, the Prime Minister, Knesset Member Benjamin Netanyahu, only made a declaration of allegiance as a Prime Minister, and did not make  additional declarations of allegiance in his capacity as Foreign Minister, Minister of Health, Minister of Communications, and Minister of Regional Coordination (on the importance of the wording of the declaration of allegiance, see: HCJ 400/87 Rabbi Meir Kahane v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 41 (2) 729 (1987)).

            Moreover, the provision regarding an acting prime minister, in sec. 16(b) of Basic Law: The Government, does not provide an arrangement for an acting minister in a ministerial position held by the Prime Minister. This, too, would appear to show that such doubling-up is impossible.

14.       The Respondents’ approach is also contradicted by the provision of sec. 37(b) of Basic Law: The Government, which establishes:

A law may empower the Prime Minister or a Minister to make regulations in a matter decided by agreement (emphasis added – M.C.).

            Under the Respondents’ approach, the above “or” is apparently superfluous, inasmuch as they read “Minister” as including the Prime Minister, and it is, therefore, mystifying why, under their approach, the section is worded as it is.

15.       The Respondents’ approach also raises serious practical difficulties, as I will explain in detail:

(a)        Section 42(b) of Basic Law: The Government instructs as follows:

The Knesset may, at the request of at least forty of its members, conduct a session with the participation of the Prime Minister, pertaining to a topic decided upon; requests as stated may be submitted no more than once a month.

            (Section 45 of the Knesset Rules sets out the special arrangements that apply to such sessions).

            The reason for the provision is clear – to require the Prime Minister to appear before the Knesset in regard to a matter of importance to the public agenda, provided that the conditions of sec. 42(b) of Basic Law: The Government are met (see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch, pp 517-518).

            Alongside this provision, sec. 42(c) of Basic Law: The Government states:

The Knesset, and any of the Knesset committees within the framework of their tasks, may obligate a Minister to appear before it, and may obligate a Deputy Minister to appear before it, by means of, or with the knowledge of, the Minister who appointed him (emphasis added – M.C.).

            (For the interpretation of the section, see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch, p. 518).

            Now, when the Prime Minister also serves as a minster responsible for a ministry, can the Knesset, and any of its committees, obligate the Prime Minister to appear before it in his capacity as a minister, and not in accordance with the procedure established under sec. 42(b) of Basic Law: The Government? I would think that the answer must be in the negative, inasmuch as sec. 42(b) would appear to be a lex specialis for the Prime Minister. Thus, clearly, Basic Law: The Government did not contemplate a situation in which, as a matter of course, the Prime Minister would also serve as a minister responsible for a ministry, and therefore, sec. 42(b) of Basic Law: The Government is not only exclusive and exhaustive, but it also does not treat of a situation of the kind a double role that is the subject of this proceeding.

(b)        Neither Basic Law: The Government, nor The Government Law, 5761-2001, provides any provision concerning the voting of a prime minister who is also a minister responsible for a ministry. How, therefore, should his vote be counted? Once, or in accordance with the number of his ministerial appointments, in addition to his vote as Prime Minister? This is only because such a situation was not foreseen as a general possibility, and was not provided for by the framers and the legislature. Yet, such votes can be of critical importance for the Government, in the Ministerial Committee for National Security, and in other ministerial committees (the Attorney General addressed this matter in Directive no. 1.11.01 of Dec. 1, 1985, which was last updated in May 2015, in which he arrived at the conclusion that the number of votes in the Government is equal to the number of members of the Government, and are apportioned as one vote for each member of the Government).

(c)        Let us assume, for example, that the Prime Minister assumed the post of Minister of the Economy. As such, he is supposed to serve as a member of the Judges’ Election Committee for Labour Court Judges (see: sec. 4(b) of Basic Law: The Judiciary, and sec. 4 of the Labour Courts Law, 5729-1969). In such a case, would he serve under the Minister of Justice, who is meant to serve as chair of the Committee? Once again, it would appear that the law provides no solution for such a situation, inasmuch as the legislature’s assumption was that such a double role was not normally possible (the situation created by the operation of sec. 24(b) of Basic Law: The Government is different and resolvable due to its temporary nature under sec. 24(c) of Basic Law: The Government, which makes it possible to postpone the sessions of the Elections Committee for a period of up to three months, or by a transfer of authority under sec. 31(b) of Basic Law: The Government).

16.       To all the above provisions, we should add the sections in Basic Law: The Government that treat of the appointment of deputy ministers and their removal from office (secs. 25 and 26 of Basic Law: The Government), which condition the appointment upon the action of “the Minister in charge of the office” and the consent of the Prime Minister (as well as the approval of the Government), while in a case of termination by the Prime Minister, it is contingent upon prior notice of that intention to the Government and the minister who appointed the deputy minister. This, too, would seem to lead to the conclusion that the Prime Minister and the minister in charge of the ministry cannot usually “merge” into one personality.

17.       Up until now, I have presented various provisions of Basic Law: The Government that indicate that serving as Prime Minister is inconsistent with serving as the minister in charge of a government ministry. I will now attempt to show “the crooked from the straight”, inasmuch as Basic Law: The Government sets out exceptions to the rule cited at the outset, and this demonstrates that the Prime Minister can serve as the minister in charge of a ministry only in the framework of those exceptions. These provisions must be narrowly construed, and we must conclude in their regard that expressio unius est exclusio alterius (see: the opinion of my colleague the President in HCJ 10017/09 Dolev Foundation for Medical Justice v. Government of Israel (May 25, 2010) (hereinafter: the Dolev Foundation case), and my opinion in HCJ 2944/10, HCJ 8692/11 Avraham Kuritzky v. Labour Court (Oct. 13, 2015), and the petitions for a Further Hearing on that judgment (HCJFH 7730/15; HCJFH 7649/15) which were dismissed on Feb. 13, 2016; a further discussion of this principle will be presented in Chap. III).

            The provision under discussion is that established under sec. 24(b) of Basic Law: The Government, stating:

Should a Minister be temporarily incapable of discharging his duties, the Prime Minister or another Minister appointed by the Government will discharge his duties.

            Section 24(c) of Basic Law: The Government completes the said arrangement, stating:

The period of tenure of an Acting Minister under subsection (b) will not exceed three months.

            The two provisions, taken together, show that when a minister ceases to serve, or is incapable of discharging his duties, the default arrangement is that the Prime Minister assumes his duties (see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch, p. 362) for a period that shall not exceed three months, and without a need for Knesset approval, which would otherwise be required (but see sec. 10(b)(6) of The Government Law, 5761-2001, which requires that, in such a case, the Government publish notice of the appointment of an acting minister in the Official Gazette).

            From this we can infer that, in addition to his high office, the Prime Minister also holds a a potential office – to serve as an acting minister for a period of three months (if the Government has not decided otherwise) in place of a minister who has ceased or is temporarily unable to carry out his duties. Beyond that, it would appear that he cannot serve as a minister in charge of a ministry, inasmuch as such parallel service in other circumstances lacks grounding in Basic Law: The Government, as we held in regard to a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister” (the section that expressly authorized this in the past in the previous Basic Law: The Government was, as noted, rescinded, the consequences of which I will further address at greater length in Chapter III, below).

            At this point we should note that even recently (while this Petition was pending), the authority established under sec. 24(b) of Basic Law: The Government was employed twice: Once, after the Minister of the Economy, Knesset Member Aryeh Makhlouf Deri, resigned from that post on Nov. 1, 2015, and again after the Minister of the Interior, Knesset Member Silvan Shalom, resigned from his post on Dec. 24, 2015. Then, the Prime Minister assumed their places when their resignations went into effect (in addition to his then being Prime Minister, as well as the minister in charge of the following ministries: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Communications, and the Ministry of Regional Cooperation).

            This serves to show that further authority lacking statutory grounds should not be added to the potential authority imposed by law as a solution for the exigencies that may arise from time to time, which, not to mention,  places a burden upon the Prime Minister in the case of its (generally unforeseen) occurrence.

            In this regard, we hear the echo of Jethro’s warning to Moses:

The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you, you cannot do it alone (Exodus 18:17-18).

18.       A partial summary up to this point leads, in my opinion, to the conclusion that the express constitution (Basic Law: The Government) does not grant the Prime Minister authority, as such, to serve simultaneously as a minister in charge of a government ministry, except in the situations set out is secs. 24(b) and (c) of Basic Law: The Government (serving as an acting minister in place of a minister who has ceased or is temporarily unable to carry out his duties). The question remains whether the implied constitution, to the extent that it exists, might change that conclusion. I will focus on that question and what derives therefrom, below.

19.       My colleague the President sets out from a different point of departure than mine. She is of the opinion that the current Basic Law is silent on the question of the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as the minister in charge of a ministry in addition to his high office, as opposed to the view that I expressed, according to her analysis, in the Medical Association case in which, in her opinion, my position was that the silence of current Basic Law should be understood as a negative arrangement. According to her approach, the Basic Law’s silence does not represent a negative constitutional arrangement, but rather a positive constitutional implication, in the sense of the distinctions proposed in the writings of Prof. A. Barak (see paras. 5 and 6 of her opinion). Moreover, according to her opinion, we are not concerned with a question of authority, but rather a question concerning the Prime Minister’s broad discretion in forming a government (which, as we know, can be challenged separately on the grounds of unreasonableness and disproportionality, particularly when the quantity becomes a matter of quality).

            Thus, both my colleague and I agree that an implied meaning can be inferred from the express meaning of the constitutional text, but while I am of the opinion that we are concerned with a negative arrangement, my colleague the President is of the opinion that we are concerned with a positive implication. Thus, she holds the view that the explicit arrangement established in the Basic Law can also apply to a subject that is not expressly addressed by it, and in her opinion, that is the case before us (this approach must still answer the question of why the constitutional implication deviates from the three-month period established in sec. 24(c) of Basic Law: The Government). My colleague the President’s interpretive conclusion is required, under her approach, by the purposes grounding the current Basic Law, and by the customary practice in this regard. We are, therefore, in disagreement not on the very existence of the theory of implication, but rather on its application to the matter before us and its scope. I will, therefore, dedicate a few preliminary remarks to this subject before proceeding to examine the disagreement on its merits.

Chapter II: The Theory of Implied Constitutional Interpretation

20.       Implication theory has respectable philosophical, linguistic (in the field of pragmatics), logical, and legal roots (see: Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution).

            I will now present two examples that illustrate the need for implication theory and its consequences – as a negative arrangement or a positive implication:

(a)        Grice, who developed the foundations of pragmatics, gives the following case as an example:

A philosophy professor is asked by one of his students to write a letter of recommendation for a teaching position; in his recommendation, he writes that the student has good command of English and that he has regularly attended classes. It seems that we should have no difficulty in inferring from this, by implication, that the professor does not think much of the student’s philosophical abilities. This meaning – a poor opinion of philosophical ability – is not learned directly from the language of the professor’s statement; it is implied from the context in which it was made (see: Paul Grice In the Way of Words 33 (1989); the above example is taken from its presentation in Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, p. 2 [English: Aharon Barak, On Constitutional Implication and Constitutional Structure, in Philosophical Foundations of Constitutional Law, David Dyzenhaus & Malcolm Thorburn, eds. (Oxford, 2016)]).

(b)        In his book (cited in para. 7, above), Professor Amar analyzes the procedure for the impeachment of the President of the United States under the American Constitution. The impeachment proceedings are conducted before the Senate, but while the person who generally presides over Senate sessions is the Vice President on the United States, the Constitution provides that when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. The reason is obvious – the Vice President has an interest in the result of the proceedings. However, the Constitution does not comprise special provisions for impeachment proceedings in regard to the Vice President, which are also conducted before the Senate. Is it conceivable that the Vice President would preside over the Senate at his own trial? The implied answer requires that we adopt an arrangement similar to that applying to the impeachment of the President, and we thus employ the doctrine of positive implication (see: Amar, pp. 5-13).

21.       We should note that the legislature’s “silence” can sometimes be understood in other ways. Sometimes, that “silence” constitutes a lacuna. At other times, the “silence” represents refraining from taking a stand on a legal issue, while leaving the matter to normative systems external to the express law (see: HCJ 4267/93 Amitai – Citizens for Good Governance and Moral Integrity v. Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, IsrSC 47 (5) 441, 457, 475 (1993)).

In light of the fact that the matter before us was already addressed in the past incarnations of Basic Law: The Government, we are not faced with a lacuna or a desire to refrain from taking a stand (compare: HCJ 2458/01 New Family v. Approvals Committee for Surrogate Pregnancies, IsrSC 57 (1) 419, 439 (2002)), but rather one of two possibilities: a “negative arrangement” or a “positive implication”, even if we are concerned with a chance omission. To which category must we assign the subject of the petition, and what tools will help us reach the correct conclusion? On the basis of these questions, we shall ground our conclusion.

22.       No one would appear to disagree in this regard that the internal and external context is decisive. In a constitutional environment, the internal context relies upon the wording, the structure of the constitution as whole, and upon the purposes of the constitution. The external context comprises the circumstances external to the language of the constitutional text. These extend, inter alia, to the constitutional and case-law history, constitutional values, and comparative law (see: Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, pp. 23 and 28; Stephen Breyer, Making Our Democracy Work, xii-xiv (2010)). Beyond that, the overall rationality is of great importance (see: Asa Kasher, Gricean Inference Revisited, 29 Philosophica 25 (1982)), or as my colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein put it: “Common sense is also a member of the club” (see, for example: CrimFH 5852/10 State of Israel v. Shemesh, para 12 (Jan. 9, 2012); CrimA 6833/14 Nafa v. State of Israel, para. 68 (Aug. 31, 2015); CA 5884/08 Kfar Vitkin v. National Insurance Institute, para. 14 (Aug. 26, 2010)).

23.       By means of the above criteria, I will try to show that the matter before us indeed concerns a negative arrangement (and not a positive implication), and that the recent constitutional developments in in Israel and abroad, as well as our fundamental constitutional values, require this conclusion. Here it is apt to note that according to the approach of Prof. Barak in his aforementioned article:

Constitutional change may directly change the implied meaning by an explicit statement that alters it. Constitutional change may also change the implied meaning indirectly, inasmuch as adding constitutional text results in an interpretive conclusion that negates the existence of an implied meaning or that changes its content (Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, p. 14, fn 84).

            Such changes indeed took place in the context before us, and those changes transformed the new interpretation from merely preferable to the only interpretation that is now correct.

            I will now proceed to describe this in an orderly fashion.

 

Chapter III: The Relevant Constitutional and Case-Law History

24.       The relevant constitutional and case-law history would appear to support my approach. I will review it below, while relating to the Parties’ arguments:

(a)        The current Basic Law: The Government (Basic Law: The Government, 5761 Sefer HaHukim 158; above and hereinafter, the current Basic Law: The Government) was established by the Knesset on March 7, 2001, and applied to the elections and the formation of the government as of the elections for the 16th Knesset. It repealed the previous Basic Law: The Government (Basic Law: The Government, 5753 Sefer HaHukim 214; above and hereinafter: the previous Basic Law: The Government), which was established by the Knesset on March 18, 1992, and which was premised upon the concept of direct, personal election of the Prime Minister.

            Section 33(d) of the previous Basic Law: The Government clearly and unambiguously stated as follows:

                        The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office.

(b)        The same Basic Law included another provision (sec. 36 of the previous Basic Law: The Government), which addressed a special case – an acting Minister – and it, too, authorized the Prime Minister to serve as a minister, establishing as follows:

(a)        Should the Minister cease to serve, be absent from the country, or be temporarily incapable of discharging his duties, the Prime Minister or another Minister appointed by the Prime Minister will discharge his duties until the Minister resumes his regular duties or until the appointment of his replacement; the Prime Minister will give notification to the Government and to the Speaker of the Knesset regarding the appointed acting Minister, and the Speaker of the Knesset will give notice to the Knesset.

(b)        The period of tenure of an Acting Minister who ceased to serve as stated under subsection (a) will not exceed three months. At the end of that period, the Prime Minister, with the approval of the Government, may appoint a Member of Knesset as a Minister to the position vacated by the Minister as aforesaid, for a period not to exceed one year, and his appointment shall not require approval of the Knesset.

(c)        Without any prior discussion of the matter in the Knesset plenum or the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the current Basic Law: The Government entirely omitted the provision of sec. 33(d) of the previous Basic Law: the Government, and established that: “The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office”. It also changed the arrangement in regard to an acting minister, establishing, in sec. 24, as follows:

a) Should a Minister, except for the Prime Minister, be absent from the country, the Government can charge another Minister to take his place. The Acting Minister will discharge the Minister's duties, in all or in part, as determined by the Government.

(b) Should a Minister be temporarily incapable of discharging his duties, the Prime Minister, or another Minister appointed by the Government, will discharge his duties.

(c) The period of tenure of an Acting Minister under subsection (b) will not exceed three months.

            From the affirmative statement of this section, which positively states that the Prime Minister can serve as an acting minister under the conditions established in the section, it would appear that we can learn – as I showed in para. 17, above – a negative statement in regard to other situations, particularly after the repeal of the former section that permitted simultaneous service even under normal circumstances. (For a detailed discussion of the significance of an omission in the course of amending a Basic Law, including the inference expressio unius est exclusio altrius, I refer, without further discussion, to the Hadash Faction case, the Dolev Foundation case, as well as to HCJ 869/92 Nissim Zvili v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the Thirteenth Knesset, IsrSC 46 (2) 692, 706-707 (1992), in which (then) Justice A. Barak inferred a negative arrangement from the absence of any mention of a certain situation in the law, and ruled that in such a case:

                        In any case, a judge cannot compensate for what the legislature did not address.

            Prof. Goldsworthy, one of the great researchers in the field of constitutional implication theory, expressed the opinion that similar weight should be given to the framer’s decision to omit sections from the constitution (as in the case of sec. 33(d) of our previous Basic Law: The Government) as to the drafting of existing sections, their boundaries, and the structure of the constitution (see: Goldsworthy, Constitutional Implication Revisited, 30 Queensland L.J. 9, 21 (2011). As for a constitutional situation like that before us, he states the following:

When the provisions of a legal instrument expressly cover only some instances of a potentially broader class, it is usually more plausible to infer that its limited coverage was deliberate, and to ascribe to it an implication that it excludes members of the class not expressly covered. That implication is expressed by the maxim expresio unius est exclusio alterius.

Judges are surely bound not only by the framers’ ends, but by the means they selected to achieve those ends. That is why it has been said that the framers’ decisions to omit provisions from the Constitution are entitled to as much respect as their decisions to include provisions. Otherwise a constitution is just a set of abstract objectives, which the judges can choose to implement in any way they think fit (ibid., p. 24).

25.       The Respondents try to explain that sec. 33(d) was included in the previous Basic Law: The Government but omitted from the current Basic Law: The Government because, following the move to direct election of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister constituted an institution materially different from other ministers, whereas, upon the repeal of direct elections, he returned to being merely “first among equals”. Therefore, according to their approach, the framers returned to the formulas they had adopted in the original Basic Law: The Government, according to which – under this approach – the Prime Minister is one among the ministers (thus in sec. 5(a) of the current Basic Law: The Government, and thus in the sections addressing delegation and assumption of powers – now secs. 33 and 34 of the current Basic Law: The Government).

            Unfortunately, this explanation does not answer the questions I raised in regard to this proposition in Chapter I (in the context of the interpretation of Basic Law: The Government from within). For example, how is this compatible with the personal responsibility of a minister in charge of a ministry to the Prime Minister (the end of sec. 4 of Basic Law: The Government). Moreover, this approach of the Respondents ignores the dramatic significance for the matter before us that must be afforded to the amendment of Basic Law: The Government of March 11, 2014 (Sefer HaHukim 2440 of 17 Adar II 5774 – March 19, 2014, p. 346) in regard to an expression of non-confidence in the Government, as I shall presently explain.

26.       In the said amendment (hereinafter: the Governance Amendment), the framers adopted the concept of full constructive non-confidence, which the proposers of the Amendment “imported” from the German and Belgian constitutional law systems, with certain changes (before that, we had a partial constructive non-confidence approach, by which the initiators of a no-confidence motion were not required to propose an alternative Government, or express confidence in it, but rather only propose a potential formateur, who might form a new Government, and pass a no-confidence motion against the reigning Government by a majority of the members of the Knesset (see: Basic Law: The Knesset (Enhancement of Governance) (Amendment) Bill, Hatzaot Hok HaKnesset 512 of 15 Av 5773, July 22, 2013, pp. 46-47; the statement of the Legal Adviser to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in its session of Nov. 25, 2013, at p. 29; on the history of the no-confidence apparatus in Basic Law: The Government, also see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch, 380-386)).

            The current wording, which comprises full constructive non-confidence, establishes as follows, under sec. 28(b) of the current Basic Law: The Government:

An expression of no-confidence in the Government shall be by means of a resolution of the Knesset, adopted by a majority of its Members, to express confidence in another Government that has announced its basic lines of policy, its composition and the distribution of functions among the Ministers, as stated in section 13(d). The Government is constituted when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it, and the Ministers shall thereupon assume office.

            This is a “mirror image” of the provisions of sec. 13(d) of the current Basic Law: The Government, which provide as follows:

When a Government has been formed, it shall present itself to the Knesset, shall announce the basic lines of its policy, its composition and the distribution of functions among the Ministers, and shall ask for an expression of confidence. The Government is constituted when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it, and the Ministers shall thereupon assume office.

            In view of the above provisions, if the Respondents’ proposition is correct, then after the establishment of full constructive non-confidence in the Governance Amendment, it should be sufficient – for the purposes of sec. 28(b) of Basic Law: The Government – that the initiator of a no-confidence motion name only a proposed alternative prime minister (who would also serve as the minister in charge of the other ministries, inasmuch as Respondents 1-6 declared, as noted, that, according to their approach, the Prime Minister can fulfil the roles of all the ministers (see para. 9, above)). We have thus – by means of the approach of Respondents 1-6 – returned to the former constitutional situation, under which it was sufficient that 61 Members of Knesset join together to topple the Government, and propose a potential prime minister, and the purpose of the Amendment will be frustrated.

            It would seem superfluous to say that we should not interpret the composition of an existing Government that receives the Knesset’s confidence differently from the formation of a proposed alternative Government in the course of a no-confidence vote under the Governance Amendment. Thus, the entire scaffolding upon which the Respondents built their arguments collapses, and the new interpretation stands alone and is as the necessary result.

            We should note that in German constitutional law – from which, as noted, we drew the principles of the concept of full constructive non-confidence – the interpreters arrived at a similar conclusion (in the German post-war period, as since the days of Chancellor Conrad Adenauer (in the 1950s and thereafter) the German Chancellor has not assumed the role of a minister in charge of a ministry). I will address this in Chapter IV.

27.       Moreover, in the framework addressed in this chapter, we consider not only changes introduced to the Basic Law, but also constitutional case law. Therefore, we should recall that, as the Petitioner noted in the hearing, objections against the Prime Minister’s serving as a minister in charge of an ministry were raised even before the Medical Association case, in petitions filed by (then)[3] Adv. Yariv Levin and the Movement for Quality Government in Israel against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (HCJ 7375/06 and HCJ 9617/06 respectively). The petitions challenged Prime Minister Olmert’s serving as Minister of Welfare, and the petitioners argued that such parallel service was not legally possible under Basic Law: The Government, and that the such service was improper from a practical point of view due to the great importance of the Welfare portfolio.

            In his petition, (then) Advocate Levin argued, inter alia:

Can it be argued that this is a “negative arrangement” that prevents the Prime Minister from serving simultaneously as a minister? To the best of the Petitioner’s knowledge, this question has not yet been addressed by this Court. However, the Petitioner is of the opinion that a situation in which the Prime Minister holds a portfolio in addition to his role is undesirable, and inherently poses a situation of conflict of interests between his role and responsibility as Prime Minister, and the interests of the ministry of which he is in charge. This is so due to the nature of the job of the Prime Minister, which requires that he see “the big picture” and in many cases, decide upon the relative priorities among the interests of different government ministries. Clearly, it would be difficult for the Prime Minister to carry out this function when he must make such a decision in regard to a ministry over which he is in charge. Therefore, the Petitioner is of the opinion that there is good reason for the express provision of section 24 of Basic Law: The Government in regard to placing a government ministry in the hands of the Prime Minister by means of a temporary appointment, as opposed to the absence of such a provision for a permanent appointment. It would seem that even the legislature was of the opinion that a situation in which the Prime Minister also serves as a minister in a government ministry is not the desirable, appropriate situation for the proper functioning of the ministry and the government as a whole (pp 15-16 of the above petition in HCJ 7375, para. 44(c)).

            A preliminary hearing was held in those petitions on Jan. 29, 2007 (before President D. Beinisch, Deputy President E. Rivlin, and Justice D. Cheshin), during which the Government informed the Court that a Minister of Welfare would soon be appointed. Therefore, a brief judgment was issued that very day, in the following language:

In light of the State’s notice that a Minister of Welfare will soon be appointed, and at the suggestion of the Court, the Petitioners withdrew their petitions while reserving their arguments. The petitions are dismissed.

            Thereafter, on March 19, 2006, a Minister of Welfare was indeed appointed (Knesset Member Yitzhak Herzog).

            It would appear that the said sequence of events and the above quote speak for themselves. This chapter has thus proven that even the constitutional and case-law history lead to the conclusion that, in general, simultaneous service by the Prime Minister as a minister in charge of a ministry is prohibited.

            In the following chapter, I will show that even the relevant constitutional values and inspirations from comparative law all lead to the same conclusion.

 

Chapter IV: The Underlying Constitutional Values, and the Implications of Comparative Law for the Matter before Us

28.       In his book (above, para. 7), Professor Amar, one of the great constitutional jurists in the United States, and one of the developers of the theory of constitutional implication there, explained that a constitution should not be read literally, but rather faithfully to its framers and its beneficiaries (the citizens), and that this should be accomplished in light of the constitutional values that ground it. He writes in this regard (ibid., p. 6):

The key that unlocks the door is the simple idea that no clause of the Constitution exists in textual isolation. We must read the document as a whole. Doing so will enable us to detect larger structures of meaning — rules and principles residing between the lines. For example, although no single clause explicitly affirms a “separation of powers,” or a system of “checks and balances,” or “federalism,” the document writ large does reflect these constitutional concepts. This much is old hat.

            (Further on, he argues that it is sometimes possible to infer an implied meaning contrary to the explicit text of the Constitution, in which regard I agree with the opinion of Prof. Barak, who is of the view that that would be going too far, inasmuch as the implied meaning – even as analytically defined – cannot contradict the explicit meaning (see: Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, pp. 6 and 16)).

            I will now turn to an analysis of the relevant constitutional values, which all lead to the understanding that the Prime Minister cannot generally serve as a minister in charge of a ministry.

29.       What are those fundamental values underlying the existing Basic Laws that lead to the conclusion that the Prime Minister cannot generally serve as a minister in charge of a ministry? We are concerned with three such principles:

A.        The concept of checks and balances, and the principle of the separation of powers, which instruct us that the Prime Minister is precisely what his title states – no more and no less. The comparative law sources of inspiration are: Prime Ministers of Common Law countries, and more recently – following our adoption of the German apparatus of full constructive non-confidence – the status of the German Chancellor, developing a model of a “Democratic Prime Minister”, is worthy of note.

B.        The principle of legality, which holds that, as a rule, every governmental act requires legal authorization, without which there is no authority (as opposed to this, an individual may do anything, unless his liberty or rights have been lawfully restricted).

C.        Subservience of the institutional Basic Laws to the basic rights anchored in the value-based Basic Laws (Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation), and all that derives therefrom.

            I will now elaborate and explain.

A.        The Concept of Checks and Balances and the Principle of the Separation of Powers

30.       Various models have been developed in the democratic world – some more successful and some less – in regard to the person who stands at the head of the Executive Branch. In Israel – with the exception of the period of direct election of the Prime Minister – the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the public, but rather by the Knesset by means of a vote of confidence or no-confidence in the Government formed (after establishing a coalition). In this regard, the election of the Israeli Prime Minister is similar to that of the German Chancellor (see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch, p. 26), and to the procedure for electing the Prime Minister in England and most other Common Law countries. Thus, we can examine the models that determine the status and functions of the prime ministers of those countries, and draw inspiration in regard to the matter before us.

31.       As I showed in para. 10(c) above, the British Prime Minister serves, at the very least, as the conductor of an orchestra, and therefore, over the last decades, he does not, as a rule, assume any additional role of a minister in charge of another government ministry. This rule was the result of the development of British constitutional convention and the tremendous burden borne by the prime minister of a modern state, as well as in consideration of the need that the prime minister appear “neutral” in regard to the ministries, and decide the disagreements that arise among them without any personal involvement.

32.       In Germany, too – which unlike England, has a formal constitution – most constitutional interpreters are of the opinion that the new German constitution (established after the Second World War) does not permit such parallel roles. The matter arose for discussion there after Chancellor Konrad Adenauer also served as Foreign Minister in the years 1951-1955 (the matter was not challenged then in court), although it should be noted that since 1955, the practice was not repeated.

            In his book, Prof. Roman Herzog, who served as President of the German Constitutional Court and later as President of Germany, expresses the view that (by virtue of article 64 of the German Constitution) the German chancellor cannot serve as a minister in charge of a government ministry, as he must present to the German President “the list of his Ministers”, and he cannot include himself in that framework. Moreover, the chancellor is not supposed to trespass the boundaries of the Government, which is the Executive Branch (this reason is similar to the opinion of Prof. Shetreet that was cited above in para. 9) (see: Herzog, in Manuz/Durig. Grundgesetzkommentar, Band 1, May 2008, Art. 64 GG, para 1-7).

            A similar (if less decisive in regard to legality) view is expressed by Prof. Busse, who is of the opinion that the reason for the said position is that the chancellor must be “neutral” among his ministers and among the various ministries (see: Busse, in Berliner, Kommentar zum Grundgesetz, C art. 4 GG, p.10 et seq.).

            Prof. Schenke holds a view similar to that of Prof. Busse, but according to his approach, the reason is the burden borne by the chancellor (see Schenke, in Bonner Kommentar zum Grundgesetz, December 2014, Art. 64 GG, P.59 et seq., fn 134).

            Despite differences in nuance in their views, all the German scholars are united in the view that the model of the German chancellor is one of a “Democratic Prime Minister”. This model yields the following rules:

  1. The prime minister must always be conscious of the principles of democracy, and delineate the government’s policy for his ministers, while remaining “neutral” among them.
  2. The prime minister must avoid institutional conflicts of interest in his relationship with the various government ministries.
  3. The prime minister must perform optimally, such that the burden he bears not impair his ability to duly carry out his duties, and not impair the necessary relationship between authority and responsibility.

33.       A similar constitutional approach has also developed of late in the United States, expressed both in the written constitutions of the states and in constitutional implication, by which the principle of separation of powers must be enhanced and applied even to the personal separation between the holders of different offices (see: Steven G. Calabresi & Joan L. Larsen, One Person, One Office: Separation of Powers or Separation of Personnel?, 79 Cornell L. Rev. 1045, 1047 (1994)).

            In this regard, the authors write as follows:

[t]wo hundred years of American history have added their gloss, and today we largely understand the separation of powers to include a one person, one office codicil. Unwritten traditions disfavor plural office holding of any kind. These traditions, together with the Incompatibility Clause itself, now form a vital part of America's structural “Constitution” (ibid., pp. 1047-1048).

            Further on, they add:

These facts make clear that the rule of one person, one office is fast becoming the constitutional norm in America…America has progressed from a separation of powers to a separation of institutions to a separation of personnel (ibid., p. 1155).

34.       In view of the above comparative law sources, it can be said that even our concept of the prime minister, in accordance with Basic Law: The Government, should be conceived in light of the model of a “Democratic Prime Minister” who is a “conductor” of an “orchestra of ministers” (but is not one of them). In this regard, we should strictly ensure that conduct under the color of the current Basic Law: The Government not indirectly lead to the regime introduced by the former Basic Law: The Government, which approached, to some degree, a “presidential model”. Here we should note that “parallel tenure” also raises political science problems in the current regime, inasmuch as it “sends a message” both to serving ministers and to the opposition that they have a “chance”, so to speak, to be appointed to vacant offices, and this presents a latent impairment of their independence (see and compare: the statement of Advocate Sigal Kogut in the session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Oct. 21, 2013, concerning the Governance Amendment (pp. 13-14)).

35.       In our context, we should also bear in mind that the prime minister carries a burden that is unlike almost any other in the world. In addition to his tasks under Basic Law: The Government and the Government Law, 5761-2001, he is responsible for, runs and directs the National Security Council in accordance with the National Security Council Law, 5768-2008, he is responsible for the General Security Service under the General Security Service Law, 5762-2001, as well as in charge of the Mossad, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Biological Institute. In addition, the prime minister is granted direct powers, inter alia, under the Secret Monitoring Law, 5739-1979, the Archives Law, 5715-1955, the Administrative Courts Law, 5752-1992, the Government Companies Law, 5735-1975, the Jerusalem Development Law, 5748-1988, the Statistics Ordinance [New Version], 5732-1972 (by virtue of which he is in charge of the Central Bureau of Statistics), and he is responsible for the implementation of the Anti-Drugs and Alcohol National Authority Law, 5748-1988 (see: Shetreet, The Executive Branch  p. 312).

            Thus we find that adding to the functions of the Prime Minister – who is already overburdened by law -- not on the basis of statutory provisions as above, but by his additional appointment as a minister in charge of government ministries (and here not one, but four!) impairs governance and goes to the very root of authority, as no person on earth, as gifted as he may be, can simultaneously perform so many tasks. Moreover, it is only natural that, under such circumstances, the deputy ministers who were appointed by the Prime Minister, were, in practice, granted the status of “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”, an institution that we abolished in our Partial Judgment.

            The above phenomenon also leads to an improper separation between authority and responsibility. My colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein warned of such situations in the past in his article Basic Law: The Government in its Original Form – Theory and Practice, 3(2) Mishpat Umimshal 571, 589-590 (written in memory of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin), and saw them as “an absolutely improper situation from both a legal and public point of view”, which “empties the concept of responsibility of any material content” (ibid., p. 590).

            In his book Making Our Democracy Work (2010), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Prof. Stephen Breyer, asserts that in such situations, it is the role of the Court to put things right in order to allow democracy to function, as is required by the Constitution, and as is expected of leaders by the citizenry.

 

B.        The Legality Principle

36.       The legality principle states that an administrative authority has only the powers granted it by law (see: HCJ 5936/97 Dr. Oren Lam v. Mr. Ben Tzion Dal, Director General of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, IsrSC 53 (4) 673 (1999) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/lam-v-dal] (hereinafter: the Lam case); HCJ 1405/14 Prof. Shimon Slavin v. Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Health (Aug. 7, 2014) (hereinafter: the Slavin case); HCJ 6665/12 E-CIG Ltd. v. Director General of the Ministry of Health (Dec. 12, 2014) (hereinafter: the E-CIG case)).

            According to the approach presented by Prof. Itzhak Zamir in his book The Administrative Authority, vol. 1, 73 (2nd expanded ed., 2010) (Hebrew), the said principle derives from the very nature of democracy, stating:

Democracy grants sovereignty to the people. It is the people who grant the Government, and every other administrative authority, whatever authority they hold. It does so by means of laws. The powers that the law grants an authority are all the powers that the authority has. Thus, the law is not only the source but also the limit of every function and every power of every authority.

There are two aspects to the principle of legality in administrative law: the principle requires that every administrative act first be authorized by law, and second, be in accordance with the law [ibid., p. 73; and also see: CA 1644/04 Ramle Municipality v. Banks’ Clearing House Ltd., IsrSC 60 (3) 330 (2205); and see: Daphne Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, vol. 1, chap. 4 (2010) (Hebrew)].

            From a constitutional perspective, this principle has a number of exceptions, the most important of which for the matter before us is that which may legitimate an administrative action when, and only when, the action is required by constitutional implication, and the constitution does not expressly deny such authority (see: Barak, On Implication in a Written Constitution, pp. 18-19).

37.       In the matter before us, even the Respondents agree that after the repeal of sec. 33(d) of the former Basic Law: The Government, the Prime Minister does not have express authority generally to serve as a minister in charge of a ministry, as well, while on the other hand, as I believe I have adequately explained above, such authority is not only not required by any constitutional implication, but rather it is contrary to constitutional implication, inasmuch as we are concerned with a negative arrangement. It also impairs the principle of separation of powers. Moreover, even according to the alternative view – which holds that there is a positive implication – under the circumstances, it does not have the power to overcome the legality principle, nor does it fall within the exception to the principle. Moreover, the arrangement implied by analogy deviates from the original constitutional arrangement (which is restricted to situations of necessity, and limited to a period of only three months).

 

C.        The Subservience of Institutional Basic Laws to Basic Rights

38.       Basic Law: The Government (like the other Basic Laws) is a chapter in Israel’s constitution, pursuant to the approach delineated by the “Harrari Decision”.[4] As such, it is integrated with the other institutional Basic Laws (Basic Law: The Knesset and Basic Law: The Judiciary), from which we derive the principle of the separation of powers, as well as with the value-based Basic Laws (Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation), which ensure the individual’s basic rights (from which the various subsidiary rights are derived).

39.       Under sec. 11 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and sec. 5 of Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, all governmental authorities are required to respect the rights granted by these Basic Laws. Thus, the prime minister and the government must respect, inter alia, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which were recognized as constitutionally protected subsidiary rights that are of sufficient importance to void a law repugnant to them, insofar as the violation does not meet the requirements of the Limitation Clause (see: HCJ 5239/11 Avneri v. Knesset (April 15, 2015) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/avneri-v-knesset]).

            To continue the description and analysis, we would note that in the current Government, the Prime Minister also assumed the position of Minister of Communications, which is the only ministry for which he did not appoint a deputy minister.

This comprises two flaws:

(a)        As the head of the Executive Branch, the Prime Minister’s serving as Minster of Communications would appear to violate the separation of powers, inasmuch as the modern world views the communications media as a kind of fourth branch. This conduct presents an improper return to the days when the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office was in charge of the electronic media, and the matter was viewed as impairing democracy. It also ignores the fact that laws were passed to ensure the independence of the Public Broadcasting Authority, as well as of the Second Authority, which supervises private radio and television broadcasting.

(b)        The matter violates freedom of the press as a basic right without meeting the requirements of the Limitation Clause. In this regard, I would recall that from early on the press and journalists are not subject to, and do not require any material licensing for their occupation (see and compare: HCJ 5627/02 Saif v. Government Press Office, IsrSC 58 (5) 70, 76 (2004) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/saif-v-government-press-office]); HCJ 10324/07 Shurat HaDin v. Government Press Office (July, 1, 2008); the Slavin case; the E-CIG case; also see: Yisgav Nakdimon, Journalist's Privilege, 165-174 (5773-2013); Shiran Yaroslavsky-Karni & Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler, Regulating the Confidentiality of Journalistic Sources in Israel, 77 (Policy Papers 104 – Israel Democracy Institute, 2015) (Hebrew)).

40.       The above example is just one of many situations that could result from double roles, and I will not, therefore, provide further examples. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we now live in a “global village”, I deem it proper to refer to additional comparative law material, and the lessons learned therefrom. I shall do so in the following subchapter.

 

Additional Parallels from Comparative Law

41.       An examination of other democratic states in regard to a prime minister serving as a minister in charge of a ministry reveals that this is unacceptable in countries (like Australia and Denmark) in which there is no express authority (in the constitution) (as opposed to New Zealand and Poland, for example, where the constitution includes an express provision as we had in sec. 33(d) of the former Basic Law: The Government), for reasons similar to those that I presented above for prohibiting such a dual role. I would, however, note that in Nigeria, the head of the Executive Branch, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari (who is titled “President”) recently appointed himself (Sept. 2015) Minister of Energy (due to the turmoil in the world energy market), without express constitutional authority, but the matter led to a constitutional crisis that has not yet been resolved.

42.       The Respondents attempted to offer two replies to these arguments:

(a)        The Prime Minister’s appointment as a minister in charge of the ministries he assumed was ratified by the Knesset in voting confidence in the Government when it was presented by the candidate for prime minister.

(b)        The practice of the prime minister serving as a minister in charge of a ministry is a constitutional custom that should be recognized as valid.

            With all due respect, these arguments are unfounded, as I shall explain.

 

A Vote of Confidence by the Knesset cannot validate an Absence of Authority

43.       The accepted view in constitutional and administrative law is that a Knesset decision is not a law, and therefore, it cannot deprive this Court of its authority to review the constitutionality of the reviewed conduct in a case of deviation from authority (see: HCJ 157/63 Buchsbaum v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 18 (1) 115, 131 (1964); and see: Baruch Bracha, Administrative Law, vol. 1, 244 (5747) (Hebrew)).

            We should note that it was held in the past that an absence of authority could be remedied by means of a law (see; HCJ 243/52 Bialer v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 7 424 (1953)), however that holding was the subject of severe scholarly criticism (see: Hans Klinghoffer, On Emergency Regulations in Israel, in Haim Cohn (ed.), Pinchas Rosen Jubilee Volume, 86 (1962) (Hebrew); Benjamin Akzin, The Bialer Decision and the Israeli Legal System, 10 HaPraklit 113 (5714); on the entire issue, also see: Amnon Rubinstein & Barak Medina, Constitutional Law of the State of Israel, vol. 2, Government Authorities and Citizenship, 947 (2005); and recently: HCJ 4374/15 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Prime Minister, paras. 123 and 128 of the opinion of my colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein (March 27, 2016)).

            It should be further noted that, in any case, today, even ratification by means of legislation is not of decisive effect, inasmuch as a law can now be voided for repugnance to the Limitation Clause. However, there is some significance to a Knesset decision, as in consideration of the decision, the result will be one of relative voidness, which will prevent the annulling of actions taken prior to the declaration of voidness by the Court.

            44.       I will now proceed to examine whether the Respondents’ “last line of defense”, regarding the constitutional practice followed in the past, justifies their approach.

 

Chapter V: Rejecting the Argument that Constitutional Custom can authorize the Double Role

45.       The Respondents argue that prior to the various iterations of Basic Law: The Government, during the period it was in force, and after the entry into force of the current Basic Law: The Government, it was the constitutional practice that, from time to time, the prime minister also served as a minister in charge of various government ministries. That, in their opinion, is sufficient to sanction the said conduct.

46.       With all due respect, the Respondents do not accurately portray the legal situation in this regard. Where there is a written constitution, a constitutional custom does not have the power to add to the provisions of the constitution and create ab nihilo. A constitutional custom can, at most, lead to the ignoring of a constitutional provision that has become a dead letter due to lengthy disuse: see: Richard Albert, Constitutional Amendment by Constitutional Desuetude, 62 Am. J. of Comp. Law 641 (2104), where the author writes in this regard:

Statutory desuetude occurs when some combination of the sustained non-application of a law, contrary practice over a significant duration of time, official disregard and the tacit consent of public and political actors leads to the implicit repeal of that law. By analogy, constitutional amendment by constitutional desuetude occurs when an entrenched constitutional provision loses its binding force upon political actors as a result of its conscious sustained nonuse and public repudiation by preceding and present political actors [ibid., p. 644].

            To this end, the author cites with approval the approach of Prof. David Law, who referred to such constitutional provisions that have come to be ignored due by custom as “Zombie provisions” which “endure in a formal sense but are for all intents and purposes, dead” (see: David S. Law, The Myth of the Imposed Constitution, in Denis J. Galligan & Mila Versteegs (eds.), Social and Political Foundations of Constitution, 239, 248, 250 (2013); and see: Prof. Shimon Shetreet, Custom in Public Law, in Itzhak Zamir (ed.), Klinghofer Volume on Public Law, 375, 399 (1993) (Hebrew)).

47.       The decisive proof that the above is correct can be found in the Partial Judgment in regard to the institution of “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”, which we invalidated even though it was a constitutional custom.

            This applies here a fortiori, in view of both the repeal of sec. 33(d) of the former Basic Law: The Government, and the multiplicity of ministerial positions that the Prime Minister currently holds, which testify that we are on a slippery slope on which the increased quantity becomes qualitative and nullifying (and compare: HCJ 910/86 Ressler v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 42 (2) 441 (1988) [English: http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files_eng/86/100/009/Z01/86009100.z01.pdf]); HCJ 5016/96 Horev v. Minister of Transportation, IsrSC 51 (4) 1 (1997) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/horev-v-minister-transportation]); HCJ 3267/97 Amnon Rubintein v. Minister of Defence, IsrSC 52 (5) 481 (2001) [http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files_eng/97/670/032/A11/97032670.a11.pdf]; HCJ 6427/02 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset, IsrSC 61 (1) 619 (2006); HCJ 6298/07 Ressler v. Knesset (Feb. 21, 2012) [http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/ressler-v-knesset]); HCJ 6051/08 Rosh Pina Local Council v. Minister of Religious Services (May 8, 2012)).

            Moreover, in the past, the claimed constitutional custom was invoked (usually by prior declaration) for a limited period, whereas in the case before us, there was no undertaking by the Respondents to terminate the situation, as was the case, for example, in HCJ 7375/06 and HCJ 9617/06, above, and in the example cited by my colleague the President in para. 10 of her opinion.

            We have thus arrived at the summation and conclusion stage, which will briefly be presented in the following chapter.

 

Chapter VI: Summary and Conclusions

48.       What follows from all the above is:

(a)        Interpreting the constitutional text from within shows that the current Basic Law: The Government provided no basis for the possibility of the prime minister serving as a minister in charge of a ministry (and needless to say, appointing deputy ministers for himself, as such), while simultaneously serving as prime minister.

(b)        The theory of implied constitutional interpretation, and the indicators that serve to uncover the said implication, lead to the conclusion that we are not concerned with a negative arrangement in regard to serving in double roles, nor with a positive implication that would permit it. This can be derived from the constitutional history of the amendments to Basic Law: The Government, and was also echoed in the arguments of the Petitioners who first raised this matter before the Court, as well as in prior case law. In addition, the constitutional values grounding these matters, and the lessons learned from comparative law, all lead to the same understanding. Moreover, even if we were concerned with a positive implication, the present situation deviates from the “model arrangement” established under sec. 24 of the current Basic Law: The Government, which is limited to a period of only three months.

(c)        A constitutional custom does not have the claimed power to maintain the conduct challenged in the Petition.

(d)       The above conclusions are based, inter alia, on:

            (1)        The appropriate status of the prime minister in accordance with the current Basic Law: The Government, under which he is meant to act as a “Democratic Prime Minister”, and as a “conductor” of an “orchestra of ministers” (and not as one of the musicians);

            (2)        The burden borne by the prime minister by virtue of his statutory duties, and the need to ensure his “neutrality” in regard to the ministers and the ministries so as not to find himself in an improper institutional conflict of interests.

(e)        The above conclusions are supported by the principle of the separation of powers and by the legality principle, and are required by the necessary subservience to such basic constitutional values as freedom of the press.

49.       In the United States, the above truths were already clear in 1789, when President George Washington thought fit to observe:

The impossibility that one man should be able to perform all the great business of the State, I take to have been the reason for instituting the great Departments, and appointing officers therein, to assist the supreme Magistrate in discharging the duties of his trust [30 Writings of George Washington, 333-334 (May 25, 1789) (John C. Fitzpatrick ed., 1939)].

            Our own sources predate that in saying: “If you grasp a lot, you cannot hold it; if you grasp a little, you can hold it”.[5] Our leaders would do well to act accordingly.

 

Chapter VII: Responses and Comments to my Colleagues’ Opinions

50.       I have just received the opinions of my colleagues Deputy President E. Rubinstein, Justice S. Joubran, and Justice N. Hendel, as well as the additional comments that my colleague the President wrote in response to my approach and the positions of my colleagues. These important matters require comment, and I will do so briefly.

51.       My colleagues share the President’s view that Basic Law: The Government, in its current form, does not deny the Prime Minister authority to serve simultaneously as a minister in charge of a ministry. However, my colleagues Deputy President E. Rubinstein and Justice N. Hendel, and to a certain degree, my colleague Justice S. Joubran, as well, are of the opinion that the bounty of portfolios currently held by the Prime Minister could possibly lead to a situation of unreasonableness that could result in an absence of authority.

52.       After carefully reading all the above opinions, I have not changed my view that we are already confronting a situation of lack of authority, for the many reasons that I set out above. But in view of the position of my colleagues, I am willing to concur in the approach of Deputy President E. Rubinstein, which my colleague Justice N. Hendel also supports, that the Petition be denied subject to issuing a “warning of voidance” to the Respondents (as we did in the Medical Association case).

            My colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein takes the view that the prime minister’s serving in the additional role of a minister (Minister of Defense, or Minister of Foreign Affairs, or any other ministry that requires his special attention) is possible in terms of authority and discretion, inasmuch as it is not unambiguously prohibited by the current Basic Law: The Government, and has precedent. My colleagues Justices N. Hendel and S. Joubran ask that we not take a decisive stand on the issue of the number of ministries that a prime minister may hold, inasmuch as the Petition concerns the prime minister’s authority to serve as a minister in charge of a ministry, in addition to his role as prime minister, and not the reasonableness of his appointment to a number of government ministries. However, they, too, are of the opinion that the scope of the use of that authority may justify this Court’s intervention in the future. Therefore, my colleague Justice N. Hendel thought as I that it would be proper to issue an order nisi in the Petition, and he is even willing to issue a “warning of voidance”, as proposed by my colleague the Deputy President.

53.       In light of the above – and due to the need to express the overall consensus of the different opinions – I am willing, in the alternative, to join in the approach of my colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein that we issue a “warning of voidance” to the Respondents. A similar consensus approach was adopted in CFH 3993/07 Jerusalem Assessment Officer v. Ikafood Ltd. (July 14, 2011), in which my colleagues (then) Justices M. Naor and E. Rubinstein and Justice S. Joubran joined in the operative result proposed by my colleague Justice E. Hayut, without retracting their principled opinions in regard to the matter before the Court in that case.

            I would further note that some sub-constitutional support can be found for the approach of my colleague the Deputy President in the provision of sec. 8 of the Service in the Military Reserves Law, 5768-2008 (enacted before the decision in the Medical Association case, and prior to the recent amendments to Basic Law: The Government). The said provision assumes the possibility that the prime minister will also serve as Minister of Defense, and establishes as follows:

8. (a)    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 6 and 7, in emergency circumstances and being convinced that State security requires it, the Minister [the Defense Minister – H.M.], with the approval of the Government, may –

(1)        Order the call-up of any reserve soldier for reserve duty, as established in the order, at a time and place indicated in the order, to report and serve in reserve duty for as long as the order remains in force;

(2)        Authorize, by order, a calling-up officer or appointee, to call up a reserve soldier to report and serve as aforesaid in paragraph (1).

(b)       (1)        If the Minister is convinced that, due to the urgency of the matter, a reserve soldier must be called up for service under subsection (a) before it is possible to obtain Government approval, he may, with the consent of the Prime Minister, issue a call-up in emergency circumstances without the said approval. If the Prime Minister is serving as Minister of Defense, he shall consult with the Deputy Prime Minister, if one has been appointed;

            (2)        If the Minister acted under the provisions of paragraph (1), he will immediately notify the Government, and it may approve the call up with or without changes, or not approve it. If the Government approve the call up for service, it will be deemed to have been approved in advance by the Government in accordance with the provisions of subsection (a). Such a service call-up shall terminate seven days after its issuance, unless approved by the Government before then.

(c)        As soon as possible, and no later than 48 hours from its issuance, an order in accordance with subsections (a) or (b) will presented by the Minister for the approval of the Committee, which may approve it with or without changes, not approve it, or bring it before the Knesset. Such an order will terminate after 14 days of the day of its issuance, unless approved by the Committee or by the Knesset before that [emphasis added – H.M.].

            I also find it appropriate to note – in regard to the orchestral conductor model that I mentioned earlier – that there are a few conductors who, in addition to conducting, also play one (and only one) instrument along with the orchestra, but these are a very rare exception that actually testifies to the rule.

54.       My colleague Justice N. Hendel is of the opinion that in the interim – while the “warning of voidance” is in force – the constituent authority can amend Basic Law: The Government, and state its opinion on the matter. I do not reject that approach, and I even expressed a similar view in the Medical Association case. I also agree that the call to the constituent authority to frame the basic structure of the Israeli regime in Basic Laws is not to be understood as an order. However, his further holding that, in any case, we do not have the authority to order the legislature to legislate should be restricted to certain exceptions (see: Aharon Barak, The Constitutional Right to Protection and the Duty to Respect It (to be published in 17 Mishpat uMimshal) (Hebrew); Ronen Poliak, The Court and the Duty to Legislate (paper presented at the conference in honor of the retirement of Supreme Court President (Emeritus) Asher Grunis, not yet published (Hebrew)).

15.       My colleague the President is of the opinion that we should not issue a “warning of voidance”, inasmuch as such relief was not requested, and the Respondents were not granted an appropriate opportunity to respond to it. To that my colleague the Deputy President responds:

“Woe is me because of my Creator [yotz’ri] and woe is me because of my evil impulse [yitzri]”,[6] but remaining silent would, in my view, render our decision as a sort of “certificate of approval” for the existing situation, which is not our intention. “Let me speak, then, and get relief” (Job 32:20) legally speaking, and perhaps also do some good. In any case, if the matter arise again, we will happily hear the arguments of the parties.

            In this regard, I add my voice to that of my colleague the Deputy President. There are two reasons for this:

(a)        If, for example, the parties do not raise a relevant legal provision, would our judgment ignore its existence and its consequences for the petition (while denying it), even if only in regard to the future? In my opinion, the rule should be similar in regard to unreasonableness or disproportionality that appears to be revealed before us.

(b)        In HCJ 7311/02 Association for Support and Defence of Bedouin Rights in Israel v. Beer Sheva Municipality (June 22, 2011) (hereinafter: the Association for Support case), the Court majority (Justices A. Procaccia and S. Joubran, Justice M. Naor dissenting) issued an order absolute that appeared to deviate from the order nisi granted in the petition.

That result was grounded, inter alia, upon the reason that the order absolute could be viewed as a “small part” comprised by the general “whole” of the original order nisi.

Without expressing a conclusive opinion as to the disagreement that arose in that regard in the Association for Support case, the matter before us follows that one a minore ad maius, as even here we are concerned with a “small part”, and moreover, here we are denying the Petition, subject to a “warning of voidance” regarding which – if the matter remains unchanged – the Petitioners can file a new petition in the future, and the rights of the Respondents are reserved for the future proceeding. That is also what we did in the Medical Association case, and the concatenation of events that led to the – unanimous – Partial Judgment shows this to be an appropriate approach.

 

Conclusion

56.       In closing, I believe it fitting to recall the lesson taught us by Rashi in his commentary to Genesis 18:2 (parashat VaYera), in explaining the reasons for three visiting angels appearing before our Patriarch Abraham, by citing Genesis Rabba 50:2:

                                    One angel cannot carry out two missions.

 

 

Deputy President E. Rubinstein:

1.         Is the Prime Minister permitted to hold one or more ministerial portfolios in addition to serving as Prime Minister? This is the burning question at the heart of the disagreement between my colleague the President and my colleague Justice Melcer. The Petitioner basis its argument that it is prohibited on the change in Basic Law: The Government that omitted the “historical” provision that permitted a prime minister to serve as a minister (the old sec. 33(d)), and the provision regarding a “temporary” acting minister (the current sec. 24). The Respondents are of the opinion that the world continues to spin on its axis, as it always has, the omission is of no consequence, and the current practice is not contrary to law. I will put the cart before the horse and say that, in my opinion, the current situation tends toward the position of my colleague the President, and thus would appear to rest on unsound footing if it were considered in terms of reasonableness, inasmuch at that might lead to an absence of authority, as my colleague [Justice Melcer] argues. I will not now set matters in stone, as we have not heard arguments on this aspect, but I would I would apply – and sooner rather than later – the “warning of voidance” issued in HCJ 3002/09 Israel Medical Association v. Prime Minister (2009) (hereinafter: the Medical Association case), in regard to the institution of a “Minister with the status of a Minister” (para. 41 of my opinion), as I shall briefly explain.

2.         My colleague the President presented the history of the subject, and arrived at the conclusion that the current silence of the Basic Law, as opposed to the previous situation “does not constitute a negative constitutional arrangement, but rather a positive constitutional implication” (para. 6), from a broad view of the pre-constitutional history that preceded Basic Law: The Government, constitutional history, and longstanding practice. In her opinion, the arrangement regarding a temporary acting minister does not preclude the “established” authority. In accordance with her approach, the objective purpose of the matter, which may be learned, inter alia, from the history, requires a fundamental view that a prime Minister is also authorized to serve as a minister in charge of a ministry.

3.         As opposed to this, my colleague Justice Melcer is of the opinion that the seeds of the present stage were planted in his opinion in the Medical Association case, reached fruition in our Partial Judgment, and in place of the “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister” that has passed form the world, a redeemer has come to the Ministry of Health in all its glory. In the Medical Association case, my colleague expressed the opinion that the Prime Minister could not serve as a minister in charge of a ministry, except for a temporary period (under the said sec. 24), and in any case, could not appoint a deputy minister. My opinion in regard to that comment was, as my colleague noted, that the matter should be examined in the future, and “as the Chinese proverb goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (para. 43 of my opinion). In a wide-ranging survey of Israeli and comparative law, my colleague expressed the view that the very legal assumption (to which I would add: even if it is only theoretical in a rational reality) that the prime minister can fulfill the roles of all the ministers (as stated in response to a question posed to the Respondents’ attorneys in the hearing before us in this case), empties all content from the provisions of the Basic Law in regard to the nature of the Government as an Executive Branch (sec. 1), and in regard to the status of the prime minister in relation to the ministers (sec. 5(a)), as the prime minister, by his title and function, is not a “minister” like the others ministers, not “first among equals”, but holds a special status that is unlike that of a minister who is “in charge of a Ministry” (sec. 5(c)). My colleagues brings various proofs, which for the sake of brevity, I will refrain from repeating. As opposed to our colleague the President, he is of the opinion that our matter presents an implied negative arrangement, rather than a positive implication, and in his view, the omission of sec. 33(d) from Basic Law: The Government in its current form expresses a negative arrangement, in accordance with the provision in regard to full constructive non-confidence in sec. 28(b) of the current Basic Law. In his view, according to the fundamental values of our system, the heavy burden borne by the prime minister, and the legality principle, the “prime minister is the conductor of an orchestra”, and not one of the musicians. He is of the opinion that the customary practice that had been followed until now was limited in time, and in any case it should be declared void, as was the case of a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”.

4.         My colleague the President replies that the pre-constitutional history that reflects the purpose does not support my colleague Justice Melcer’s position in regard to authority, and that we are, therefore, concerned with discretion, which is not part of the Petition and does not require our decision (such as the subject of the burden borne by the Prime Minister due to the large number of ministries for which he is responsible).

5.         Which path shall the interpreter choose? Two decades ago I wrote an article, which was also cited by my colleague Justice Melcer, called “Basic Law: The Government in its Original Form – Theory and Practice, 3(2) MISHPAT UMIMSHAL 571 (5756) (Hebrew), which was later reprinted in a slightly revised form in my book Paths of Governance and Law, 79 (5763-2003) (Hebrew). The article was written shortly after I completed seven-and-a-half years of service as Government Secretary in four governments, and included some of the lessons learned in the course of those years. In the meantime, for seven years I sat at the Government table as Attorney General (February 1997 until the end of 2003), and further lessons were learned, which did not change the main conclusions. In that article, I wrote at length about the “game of portfolios”, under the title “Responsibility: Distortion and Impropriety”, and gave examples of anomalous situations in the government that I will not revisit here (see my book at pp. 97-98). Among other things, here is what I wrote (p. 98 of the book):

Another type of impropriety, less in the formal sphere (but eventually, there as well) and more in substance, was reflected in the Prime Minister’s holding portfolios like the Ministries of Religion and Interior over an extended period, which prevented true ministerial administration of the ministries, and emptied the concept of responsibility of all material content…The above focuses attention on questions of the culture of governance and respect for the rule of law – a subject that, first and foremost, requires internalizing the values and principles in governmental practice, and is primarily an educational process to which it is doubtful that attention is being paid.

            What was thus some decades ago, has grown before our very eyes. Today, the Prime Minister also holds the portfolios of the Ministries Foreign Affairs, Economy, Communications, and Regional Development. Even according to the approach of my colleague the President, which would indeed appear to reflect the objective and subjective intents, to which I shall return, I would say that it is clear that we are concerned with an unhealthy process of problematic exercise of authority, even if the intentions are good and the exigencies substantial. The apparent theoretical possibility of multiple portfolios itself raises concerns. My longstanding opinion, as quoted above, is that in such a situation there is “impropriety, less in the formal sphere (but eventually, there as well) and more in substance…” (emphasis added – E.R.). The question is, even assuming authority, can “distortion and impropriety” (as the chapter heading of my article) in the exercise of authority eventually lead to an absence of authority? This is not a legal impossibility. As Justice Mishael Cheshin stated in HCJ 1730/96 Sabih v. Commander of IDF Forces, IsrSC 50 (1) 353 (1996), there can be a situation of “an unlawful decision…that is not supported by proper discretion, a decision that is tantamount to one made in deviation from authority” (emphasis added; also cited by Justice Mazuz in HCJ 6745/15 Khalid Abu Hashia v. Military Commander of the West Bank (2015) para. 16).

6.         I find myself confronting a dilemma. The reality, which has expanded before our very eyes since the filing of the Petition, is one in which the Prime Minister holds no fewer than four additional ministerial portfolios for an extended period, as opposed to the brief transition period permitted by the Basic Law, and shouts concern. It may be that the situation partly derives from real political exigencies of one type or another, but clearly, even if this is proper from a formal perspective, it is materially improper. Are we not approaching the “red line” where unreasonableness translates into an absence of authority? Can one person, no matter how talented – and there is no doubt as to the Prime Minister’s talents – who is “the busiest of the busy, the quintessence of busy” (see para. 23 of our Partial Judgment in this Petition) properly attend to such a bounty of roles, each of which, or at least the great majority of which, require the maximal attention of a “full-time position” and more – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry of Communication, and the Ministry of Regional Cooperation? Is the public receiving the service it deserves from a minister? It would appear to me that even the Prime Minister – who is more knowledgeable than any other – would not say so, no matter how good and fit the civil servants who bear the day-to-day burden. It is, therefore, highly doubtful that the answer to the question could be in the affirmative. Indeed, there have been various precedents, particularly in regard to a single, important ministerial role, in our nation’s history – particularly in regard to the Ministry of Defence during the tenure of David Ben Gurion as the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense (and Levy Eshkol, as well (until 1967), Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and for brief periods, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir), and the second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs. It may be that we should not preclude this possibility, even though times have changed, as have the burdens associated with each of these ministries – which is certainly the case in regard to the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking from my own personal experience in those Ministries. In terms of what is desirable, my colleague Justice Melcer is correct in bringing examples from other important governments throughout the free world in which the prime minister is the “conductor of an orchestra” but does not also play one of the instruments. We are thus confronted with the question of how to address a situation in which the Prime Minister amasses portfolios, whatever the considerations may be, not merely for a brief transition period, but rather “for the duration”.

7.         In this regard, I cannot but recall the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law Moses, upon seeing him sit in judgment “from morning until evening” (Exodus 18:13), saying “…What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” (18:14). He then warns Moses: “…The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (18:17-18). He, therefore, offers the advice: “You shall also seek out from among the people capable men who fear God, trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain. Set these over them as chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (18:21).  Some see Jethro as the first organizational consultant, at least in Jewish law. How appropriate these words are for the situation before us. Jethro’s warning to Moses is not only about his own strength, but also about the influence upon the people, as Rashi notes in regard to the words “too heavy for you”: “Its weight is greater than your strength”. All of administrative theory in one chapter.

8.         Here, then, is the dilemma: The Petitioners limited their petition to the question of authority, rather than to that of reasonableness. Therefore, as noted, the issue of reasonableness was not argued before us at all. It is, therefore, problematic to justify the present use and implementation of the theory of unreasonableness evolving into a lack of authority in regard to so sensitive an issue.

9.         In the framework of this petition, it would appear that the old legal situation – supported by my colleague the President – must prevail at present. As opposed to my colleague Justice Melcer, I do not believe that the omission of the authorizing provision reflects the legislative intent of the constituent legislator. From my acquaintance with the system, I am of the opinion that we are concerned with an incidental omission of what seemed self-explanatory, as it had been the practice since the 5th of Iyyar 5708[7] that the prime minister fulfilled an additional ministerial role. I would, therefore, not currently view it as a negative arrangement, even though one may certainly be drawn in that direction when confronted with so long a train of ministries coupled to the Prime Minister’s engine, and perhaps I would not say so decisively if we were concerned with only one important ministry, and no more. I will not presume to enter into the lofty debate on “implication” of one sort or another. In simple terms, I think it very difficult to assume that anyone in the Knesset thought that the door to an additional ministerial portfolio was closed before the prime minister, and history also presents an “objective purpose”, and thus the opinion of my colleague the President. As opposed to this, I doubt that any of the legislators gave any thought to the possibility of a “slippery slope” of an abundance of portfolios, even as matter of common sense. In total, I am of the opinion that we must follow the legal approach of my colleague the President. However, and without setting matters in stone, I must add a clear warning of voidance in regard to “unreasonableness that evolves into a lack of authority”. I believe it necessary that this Court, dedicated to the desire for good governance, give notice of this possibility with a view to the not-so-distant future. As for myself, I am of the opinion that our duty to the lawfulness of the regime requires that we state that if the existing situation remains materially unchanged for a period of – let us say – some eight more months, and is again brought before us for judicial review, the arguments will, of course, be heard with an open heart, but the issue will be ripe for the full review that was not carried out in this petition.

10.       As brevity is appropriate following the fine words of my colleagues, I will not go on at length, but will reiterate that while authority appears to exist at present, it verges upon descending into unreasonableness that evolves into a lack of authority, and therefore I believe a “warning of voidance” is appropriate, and better that the situation be corrected earlier, so that it be reasonable, in one way or another, for proper governance. For the present, I concur with my colleague the President.

11.       In view of the opinion of my colleague Justice Hendel, I would add: there is justice to his comment (paras. 4 and 5) that a subject that is left largely ambiguous in the current Basic Law: The Government should be clarified legislatively. This also derives from the growing number of tasks placed upon each ministry (see para. 6 of my opinion). This also has consequences for governance and democracy, and in light of his experience and acquaintance with the many responsibilities at his doorstep, the Prime Minister is certainly the first to know this. I say this in the simple terms of the limits of human ability when confronted with mountains of decisions, even beyond the potential questions of conflicts of interests, in order to avoid reaching the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. As Deputy President M. Cheshin wrote in CA 1761/02 Antiquities Authority v. Mifalei Tahanot Ltd., (2006) para 57, in regard to the implementation of the doctrine of relative voidness, “We should recall and observe: common sense and human wisdom are our best and most loyal friends. We will always have them in our quiver, and in interpreting the law and rendering judgment, we will always hold them in our grasp in order to see whether or not they are nodding in assent”.

12.       Finally, my colleague Justice Hendel noted (para. 5) the importance of legislation in Jewish law (or perhaps we should say – the importance of the clarity of legislation), and cited Rabbi A.I. HaKohen Kook in regard to the power of the nation in the absence of a monarchy in Israel – or if you like, the power of democracy. I cited this in my article Jewish Monarchy versus Dina DeMalkhuta: On Judge Dr. Gershon German’s Book “King of Israel: Permanent Sovereignty in light of Halakha and the Status of Knesset Legislation in Halakaha”, 22 Mekhkarei Mishpat 489, 494-493 (5766-2006) (Hebrew). Rabbi Kook’s ideas were further developed by Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, one of the leading Zionist rabbinic scholars, editor of the HaTorah veHaMedina anthologies that addressed questions of statehood upon the founding of the State of Israel (see their reprints in BeTzomet HaTorah veHaMedina (Rabbi Y. Shaviv, ed.) (5751), and additional references in my article, and see the lecture of Prof. A. Edrei upon receiving the Zeltner Prize (March 22, 2016)). Democracy is a wonderful idea. Its implementation, and the prevention of its paralysis or disintegration will be achieved, inter alia, by a system of laws that enables its translation to a working reality, despite exigencies and difficulties, By this judgment, we hope to contribute to that effort.

13.       Lastly, I cannot avoid addressing my colleague the President’s comment in regard to a “warning of voidance”. “Woe is me because of my Creator [yotz’ri] and woe is me because of my evil impulse [yitzri]”, but remaining silent would, in my view, render our decision as a sort of “certificate of approval” for the existing situation, which is not our intention. “Let me speak, then, and get relief” (Job 32:20) legally speaking, and perhaps also do some good. In any case, if the matter arise again, we will happily hear the arguments of the parties.

 

Justice S. Joubran:

1.         I have read and reread the opposing opinions of my colleagues President M. Naor and Justice H. Melcer, and although the reasoning of my colleague Justice M. Melcer is enlightening, I concur in the opinion of my colleague the President.

2.         As my colleague the President explains, the practice of the prime minister serving simultaneously as a minister is an accepted practice in the Israeli governmental system (see paras. 9-11 of her opinion. And see HCJ 3002/09 Israel Medical Association v. Prime Minister, para. 2 of the opinion of President D. Beinisch (June 9, 2009)). I agree with her approach according to which the absence of an express provision granting this authority to the prime minister does not constitute a negative arrangement, but rather a quasi-positive constitutional arrangement. Without following the rich and enriching path of my colleague Justice H. Melcer, it would seem to me that viewing the omission of the authority in the amended Basic Law: The Government (of 2001) as a negative arrangement would require the concrete, knowing consideration of the legislature of the consequences of the change brought about by the amendment’s silence (see and compare: HCJ 43/16 Ometz – Citizens for Proper Administration and Social Justice in Israel v. Government of Israel, para. 70 of my opinion (March 1, 2016)). This, in particular, when we are concerned with a significant constitutional change that alters a practice deeply rooted in the Israeli system.

3.         However, in my opinion, the scope of the exercise of this authority is what might justify the intervention of this Court, particularly when we are concerned with an authority that is implied rather than express. While, in the past, the prime minister indeed served as a minister – as the Respondent detailed in Appendix R/7 of its response – this generally concerned serving in one, or at most two ministries – generally the Foreign Ministry and /or the Ministry of Defence. In the few instances in which the prime minister served as the minister responsible for three or more ministries, it was only for a limited time, rather than permanently. Thus for example, from the example cited by my colleague the President in para. 11 of her opinion, we can see that then Prime Minister Menachem Begin served as a minister responsible for the Ministries of Welfare, Justice, Transportation and Communications for a “brief transition period”. In practice, that period indeed continued only for a few months – four in total – from June 20, 1977 until Oct. 24, 1977.

4.         In my view, the present situation challenged in the petition, in which the Prime Minister is responsible for a number government ministries for an unlimited period – without express authority under the Basic Law – is problematic. At present, in addition to his broad authorities as first among equals, the Prime Minister also exercises the authorities of several ministries of no insignificant influence. Great, exceptional power is concentrated in his hands, such that in practice, his governance is “governance by the Prime Minister”. I would note that I am doubtful that such a situation is appropriate in a democratic regime. To that one might add doubts as to the effective performance of the government when one person amasses ministries, particularly when that person is, as my colleague the Deputy President noted, “the busiest of the busy” (see: Shimon Shetreet, The Government: The Executive Branch – Commentary to Basic Law: The Government 235 (to be published) (Hebrew)).

            These fears only increase in view of the fact that the authority is implied rather than express. This is so because, by nature, the borders of implied authority are unclear and are more susceptible to interpretation – a characteristic that, in my opinion, requires greater care in its exercise so it not result in a lack of authority. Similarly, my colleague the Deputy President was of the opinion that while there is authority, the situation threatens to degenerate into one that is unreasonable to the point of an absence of authority. However, as my colleague the President pointed out, we are concerned with a petition challenging the Prime Minister’s authority to serve as a minister in addition to his role as Prime Minister, and not with the reasonableness of his serving as a minister in charge of a number of government ministries. I am of the opinion that such authority – although only implied – indeed exists, and therefore, I see no need to broaden the scope of review at this time.

5.         In light of all the above, I concur in the opinion of my colleague President M. Naor.

 

Justice N. Hendel:

1.         On Aug. 23, 2015, a partial judgment was given in this petition, in the framework of which this panel held that the institution of a “Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister” lacked validity, and we ordered that Yaakov Litzman, who then served as Deputy Minister of Health with the status of a minister, cease to serve in that position within 60 days (hereinafter: the Partial Judgment). We are now concerned with another aspect of the petition, regarding the question of the Prime Minister’s authority to serve simultaneously as a minister in his own Cabinet.

            On May 14, 2015, the Knesset voted confidence in the 34th Government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who had decided to retain four government ministries in his own hands: the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Communications, Health, and the Regional Cooperation. Pursuant to the Partial Judgment, the Ministry of Health was entrusted to Yaakov Litzman. Various ensuing developments led to the transfer of the Economy portfolio to the Prime Minister, such that at the time of this writing, the Prime Minister continues to fill four permanent ministerial positions. The Petitioner argues that Basic Law: The Government does not permit the Prime Minister to serve as the minister of a government ministry in parallel to his role as Prime Minister, regardless of the size of the ministry, the scope of his activities, or the number of portfolios (hereinafter: parallel service). Therefore, the Petitioner asks that we invalidate Netanyahu’s status as a minister in each of the four ministerial positions that he holds.

            A disagreement has arisen among my colleagues on this issue. According to the view of my colleague President M. Naor, the silence of Basic Law: The Government should not be deemed a negative arrangement that denies the Prime Minister authority for parallel service. On the contrary, the objective purpose of the Basic Law – as well as the practice’s deep roots in Israeli political tradition – show that the legislative silence creates a “positive constitutional implication”, and extends the general provisions regarding the appointment of ministers to the Prime Minister, as well. This view was joined by my colleagues Deputy President E. Rubinstein and Justice S. Joubran, each in his own way. As opposed to them, my colleague Justice H. Melcer is of the opinion that there is no avoiding the conclusion that Basic Law: The Government does not authorize the Prime Minister to serve simultaneously as a minister in charge of a government ministry. In his view, an analysis of the various provisions of the Basic Law shows that the prime minister is not deemed a minister, and thus the general arrangements that apply to other ministers cannot be applied to him. In view of the constitutional history and the fundamental principles of the legal system, such as the separation of powers and the legality principle, the Basic Law’s silence in the matter should be viewed as a negative arrangement.

            After reviewing the material, I am of the opinion that we are concerned with a complex, multifaceted issue. Therefore, were my opinion accepted, we would hereby issue an order nisi instructing the Respondents to explain their position, if only in order to allow for its thorough, comprehensive examination. However, this suggestion was not accepted by my colleagues. On the merits, I have decided to concur in the result arrived at by my colleague the President that the petition, in its present aspect, be denied. However, in my view, we should not suffice with a binary analysis of the status of parallel service. In other words, as I shall further explain, the answer in regard to this practice should not take the form of a red light or a green light, inasmuch as the factual circumstances may lead to a different conclusion in appropriate circumstances. In order that my position be understood properly, some expansion is necessary. At this point, I will state in a nutshell that my answer to the question of the legality of parallel service is rather a yellow light.

2.         Before addressing the implications of the concrete factual foundation, I will preface in stating that my conclusion that the petition be denied requires that we contend with two significant legal hurdles. The first and primary one is the omission of the express authorization provision that previously appeared in sec. 33(d) of Basic Law: The Knesset (1992), which stated: “The Prime Minister may also function as a Minister appointed over an office”. The current Basic Law, which was established in 2001, repealing its predecessor, does not comprise a similar provision, which would seem to indicate an intention to deviate from the prior arrangement, and deny authority for parallel service. However, the State’s attorney, Adv. Sharon Rotshenker, supplied a convincing response to this argument, explaining in the hearing that the omission should be viewed against the background of the broader revisions of Basic Law: The Government over the years. As she explained, the original Basic Law: The Government of 1968 also did not comprise an express authorization, as there was no need. As opposed to that, the Basic Law established in 1992 adopted the direct-election system, by which the prime minister was directly elected by the public. Due to that change, which introduced a material distinction between the prime minister, who was elected by the public, and the other government ministers, there was a need for the express anchoring of the prime minister’s parallel authority to wear a ministerial hat. However, upon the repeal of direct elections and a return to the old parliamentary system in the current Basic Law, the prime minister and his ministers once again stand on an identical normative plane. Therefore, express authorization for parallel service is no longer required. As a result, the omission should not be viewed as intending a negative arrangement. On the contrary, it reflects the idea that “what was”, prior to the short-lived transfer to direct elections, is “what will be”.

            As noted by my colleague the President (para. 8 of her opinion), this conclusion is supported by the fact that there was no reference whatsoever to the subject of parallel service either in the Explanatory Notes of the current Basic Law, or in the course of the its establishment by the Knesset. Inasmuch as we are concerned with a political practice that is nearly as old as the State, the argument that the legislature sought to uproot it offhandedly, without any consideration of the objectives and consequences of such a step, is far from convincing, particularly when there is an acceptable alternative explanation for the omission.

            The second hurdle is that of constitutional implication theory, which, according to my colleague Justice H. Melcer, shows that Basic Law: The Government intended to create a negative arrangement in regard to the matter before us. However, over and above the general complexity of implementing this theory – even in the American legal system where it was born – the following point is salient to its dismissal. My colleague compared the relationship between the constitutional text and its inferred interpretation to the relationship between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. This comparison is, indeed, useful in explaining the doctrine, but precisely for that reason, and against the background of the accepted practice of Israeli political tradition, it serves to detract from the weight of the doctrine in the matter before us. In other words, the lack of harmony and congruence between the Oral Torah – i.e., the apparent constitutional implication – and the existing custom raises the question whether that Oral Torah is actually an appropriate interpretation of the Written Torah that is Basic Law: The Government, or whether we are concerned with an error by the decisors in understanding the legislative language. Indeed, my colleague impressively described the inherent problematics of the prime minister serving as the minister of a particular ministry – whether due to an erosion of the principle of the separation of powers, or the possible violation of basic rights, or due to various aspects of “practical perception” in regard to the status of a regular minister, and the problem that arises when he is also the prime minister. However, in my opinion, a long road separates a finding that parallel service is undesirable and concluding that there is a constitutional arrangement that prohibits it. In this sense, the existing practice by which prime ministers served as ministers in their governments provides a significant indication that the flaws pointed out by my colleague do not cross the threshold of illegality, and do not translate into a constitutional restriction upon parallel service. And note that I am not arguing that custom “overrides” a constitutional provision. On the contrary, in the spirit of the analogy to the Oral Torah, I believe that it would be appropriate to apply the Talmudic principle that “when any law is unclear before the court and you do not know what is right, go and see what the public does, and act accordingly” (Jerusalem Talmud, Peah 7,5). In the absence of an express provision in the matter – as we see from the disagreement among my colleagues – custom, even if not obligatory, may shed light on the situation and show us the law. That being so, and without taking a stand de lege ferenda, I cannot concur with the opinion of my colleague that the Prime Minister lacks authority to serve as a minister, regardless of the circumstances.

3.         The Petitioner chose to put all its eggs in the basket of lack of authority, and refrained from raising arguments against the manner of the Prime Minister’s exercise of discretion. The Petitioner’s attorney made this unequivocally clear in the hearing on Nov. 11, 2015, responding to a direct question that “I am arguing only in regard to the issue of authority”. That being the case, we could end the discussion of the petition at this point, in view of the holding that the appropriate interpretation of the arrangements under Basic Law: The Government, as a whole, point to there being authority, in principle, for parallel service.

            However, in light of the fundamental aspects of the issue, and in view of the partial factual grounds presented to the Court, I believe it proper to devote a few words to the grounds of reasonableness and proportionality, so that the result I reached – denial of the petition – not create a mistaken impression in regard to my reasons, and the full legal picture as I understand it. As I stated, in the context of this petition I held that the Prime Minister has the authority, in principle, to serve simultaneously as a minister in his Government. However, as I shall explain, that does not comprehensively permit parallel service. The extent and scope of the parallel service influences its reasonableness, and an extreme deviation from the margin of reasonableness may color it in the future with the colors of a deviation from authority (on the fine line between reasonableness and illegality, particularly in view of the implied nature of the authority for parallel service, also see paras. 5 and 9 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein, and para. 4 of the opinion of Justice S. Joubran).

            Clearly, we cannot countenance a situation in which a prime minister appoints himself as a minister in all the government ministries, and effectively sit alone at the government table. Such a step would render the institution of the government devoid of all content. Even if, formally speaking, each such ministerial appointment would be valid, the final result would be unacceptable. That would also certainly be the case if the prime minister were to take responsibility for ten ministries. As opposed to this, some would argue that parallel service in one government ministry, in accordance with the longstanding practice, is firmly within the margin of reasonableness. Between these two extremes there is a gray area for which we cannot establish a hard-and-fast numerical formula. In any case, it is clear that the quantitative aspect is significant for the reasonableness of parallel service.

            Along with the number of ministries that a prime minister wishes to run, there is also considerable significance – from the perspective of reasonableness – to their quality, for example, the scope of activity involved in their regard, their centrality to the work of the government, and the extent of their influence upon basic rights. This is so in two aspects. First, it can influence the force of the legal problems involved in parallel service, such as the fear of institutional conflicts of interest among the various roles of the prime minister, harm to the status of the government as an independently functioning body, or a possible erosion of basic rights. Second, an analysis of reasonableness must also attribute importance to more practical considerations. The prime minister bears heavy responsibility for the security and welfare of the citizenry of Israel, and he fulfills a long list of roles by law. There are grounds to fear that adopting an additional heavy burden, in the form of a number of government ministries with a broad scope of activity, will impair his ability to dedicate himself to the tasks he faces, and require that he allocate his resources in a manner that is neither optimal nor efficient. This fear grows as the ministerial burden increases – both quantitatively and qualitatively.

            Even the most capable person, with the best intentions, is subject to the limits of time that we all share, and which cannot be modified or expanded. In this regard, it is worth recalling the Biblical story already mentioned by some of my colleagues: When Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, saw that Moses sat alone in judgment, he said to him “What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” […] The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exodus 18:13, 17-18). Moses accepted this criticism, proceeded to appoint additional judges, and no longer bore the burden of cases alone. The Hebrew expression “wear yourself out” [“navol tibol”, literally “wither away”] is borrowed from the plant world, but is true in regard to a person, and even to a person serving as a leader (see and compare the commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Exodus 18:18). Thus we find that even if it is hard to establish the limits of ability, there can be no doubt that such limits exists, and it would be best to take that into account both for the good of the country and of the leader.

            In summary, the parameters of the dispute set by the Petitioner do not make it possible for us to examine the reasonableness of the Prime Minister’s serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Economy, Communications, and Regional Cooperation, and therefore we cannot make a finding as to whether that might constitute a deviation from authority. In any case, this is not the time for such a decision.

            In view of the problems presented by parallel service – particularly against the background of a multiplicity of hats with vast authority, and the responsibility and burden assumed by the Prime Minister – it would seem that the time has come to issue a “warning of voidance” in regard to the unclear legal future of this practice (see Liav Orgad and Shai Lavie, Judicial Directives: Normative and Empirical Assessment, 34 Tel Aviv University Law Review 437, 447-449 (2011) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Orgad & Lavie). In other words:

The Governmental regime must consider that this judgment, even if it did not result in judicial intervention due to the background described, is a warning sign for the future. What the average person cannot accept as logical and reasonable, and that has another solution, should be resolved in the proper way, that is fair to all and that realizes the spirit of the law [HCJ 3002/09 Israel Medical Association v. Prime Minister, para 41 of the opinion of Deputy President E. Rubinstein (June 9, 2009) (hereinafter: the Medical Association case)].

            This is how this Court acted in the Medical Association case, when it explained that the institution of a deputy minister acting as a minister “is an institution that is approaching the end of the road”, and that there is no alternative to appointing a “minister in all its ways and means” (ibid.). As may be recalled, the warning given in that matter became an order in the Partial Judgment in this petition. In this case, we cannot hold that the Government must act in a specific way, such as the absolute rejection of parallel service, inasmuch as – as I noted above – the margins of reasonableness and proportionality may justify less comprehensive arrangements. In addition, here we are giving the authorities an opportunity to consider a legislative amendment that would arrange the matter of parallel service by filling in what is lacking, and not merely by relating to the existing law. In these ways, the issue of parallel service differs from that of the status of a deputy minister, regarding which the warning of voidance comprised a clear directive in regard to the desired action – absolutely annulling the institution. Nevertheless, there is more in common than what divides: in both cases it became clear that the conditions for granting operative relief had not yet ripened, the questions in regard to the legality of the practice could lead to future judicial intervention, and therefore it is appropriate that we grant the governmental authorities an opportunity to develop a balanced arrangement.

            I therefore concur with the position of my colleague Deputy President E. Rubinstein that “if the existing situation remains materially unchanged for a period of – let us say – some eight more months, and is again brought before us for judicial review […] the issue will be ripe for the full review” (para. 9 of his opinion). While the arguments of my colleague Justice Melcer do not, in my opinion, lead to a conclusion that the Basic Law entirely prohibits authority for parallel service, they ground and reinforce a cause of unreasonableness to the extent that, in certain circumstances, the unreasonableness of parallel service may be tantamount to a deviation from authority. Therefore, it is appropriate that we follow the course set in the Medical Association case, and issue a warning of voidance.

4.         Another significant reason for my decision is to be found in the general conception of the proper status of legislation in the State of Israel. In his book The Dignity of Legislation, New Zealand scholar Jeremy Waldron – one of the leading thinkers in the areas of political philosophy and the philosophy of law – argues that, normatively and conceptually, the institution of legislation should be viewed as a “dignified mode of governance and a respectable source of law” (p. 2). In his opinion, in view of the permanent lack of societal agreement on certain issues, decision-making by means of an elected body is “not just an effective decision-procedure, it is a respectful one” (ibid., p. 158). This is the case because it respects the existence of different views about the “truth” (even if it may be absolute), and grants them all equal standing.

            For my part, I would like to take the idea of “dignified” legislation in a different direction. The dignity of legislation can be viewed, to some extent, like a promissory note. Recognition of the dignity of legislation raises expectations for corresponding conduct by the legislature, i.e., recognition of the importance of its exercise of the decision-making process, and anchoring its decisions in clear, detailed legislation. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson – one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President – addressed the vital need for establishing rules, regardless of their content, noting:

Whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not, is really not of so great importance. It is much more material that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is that there may be an uniformity of proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the Speaker, or captiousness of the members. It is very material that order, decency and regularity, be preserved in a dignified public body [Thomas Jefferson, A Manual of Parliamentary Practice, Sec. I (2nd. Ed., 1812)].

            While this refers to the need for establishing a legislative procedure, it also points to the importance of establishing clear procedures that do not allow for fleeting caprice or changing needs, but rather provide for clear, dignified decisions upon the relevant questions.

            Other thinkers who have addressed the characteristics of legislation, among them Joseph Raz – a prominent philosopher of law, ethics and politics – have pointed to the basic need for creating clear legislation that enables people to plan their conduct intelligently:

All laws should be prospective, open, and clear. One cannot be guided by a retroactive law […] The law must be open and adequately publicized. If it is to guide people they must be able to find out what it is. For the same reason its meaning must be clear. An ambiguous, vague, obscure, or imprecise law is likely to mislead or confuse at least some of those who desire to be guided by it [Joseph Raz, The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality (1979)].

            If that is the case in regard to ambiguous law, then absolute silence – which leaves the public and the courts in a fog – is all the more problematic. The disagreement among my colleagues on the question of interpreting the legislative silence in regard to parallel service, including the position that entirely rejects the authority, testifies to the importance of an explicit arrangement of the matter. In fact, in the matter before us, this is of even greater importance inasmuch as the issue of parallel service affects the foundations of the structure of the Israeli regime, and requires an in-depth examination of the relationship between the prime minister and the institution of the Government. As Israel approaches its 68th birthday, we can expect that the process of the development and maturing of Israeli law will lead to a clear, lucid institutionalization and arrangement of the structure, powers and relationships of the governmental authorities.

5.         I would add that Jewish law emphasizes the practical importance of legislation, and the need for establishing clear, detailed arrangements for guiding the public, and particularly the Executive authority. Thus, the Torah requires that a King of Israel “when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law […] and it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life […] keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them” (Deut. 17:18-19; and see Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzva 503).

            “Translating” this into 21st century language shows us that Jewish law ascribed great importance to creating a detailed, obligatory legislative framework, for reasons similar to those noted by Jefferson: the need to ensure that the Executive Branch not act on the basis of passing whims, while exploiting its great power, but rather subjugate its discretion to transparent, clear, uniform rules. In effect, the requirement that the king always have the entire Torah with him, in all its 613 mitzvot – and not, for example, just the Ten Commandments – demonstrates that loosely anchored principles are insufficient. The Executive must be provided with detailed legislative protocols that define its path. Of course, the requirement that the king read the Torah all the days of his life shows the need for the Executive to internalize the legislative procedures.

            Another aspect of Jewish law relates to the role of the Knesset. About a hundred years ago, Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook – later the Chief Rabbi – established the rule that “because the laws of the realm also relate to the general situation of the public, in the absence of a king, those legislative rights revert to the people as a whole”. Rabbi Kook explains that the elected representatives of the people – which, I would add, now means the Knesset – fulfil the role of the king (Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, Responsa Mishpat Kohen, 144, para. 15 (Hebrew)). The requirement that the king write and read the Torah, and keep it with him, thus emphasizes the “duty” of the Knesset not only to protect the rule of law, but also to establish it in appropriately detailed arrangements that will guide the public.

            Of course, the gap between the ideal and the real is unavoidable, and any expectation of the immediate, full arrangement of every matter in primary legislation is unrealistic – certainly in view of modern reality. However, the State of Israel is nearly seventy years old, but we have not yet been provided with a comprehensive legislative arrangement of the regime, the various governmental authorities and the relationships among them – as we see from the matter before us. Although I do not agree with the result that my colleague Justice H. Melcer reached, his thorough and enlightening opinion highlights the current deficiency, and demonstrates the ambiguity created by the silence of the constituent authority on an issue of primary importance. An examination of the current Basic Law: The Government shows that there is appropriate attention to detail in some matters. Thus, for example, the eligibility rules for ministers are defined (sec. 6), the number of ministers in the Government is limited (sec. 5(f)), there are arrangements for the termination of ministerial tenure and for replacing a minister (secs. 22-24). However, the above discussion demonstrates that, to a large extent, primary issues are absent. Can the prime minister serve as a minister? Can he serve as the only minister? Is there a minimum number of ministers?  Answers to these questions can be supplied by general legal doctrines, as we have done in the matter of this petition. However, as we approach the span of a life (Psalms 90:10), it would be fitting that the State address the matter of parallel service in clear, express legislation.

            I would emphasize that this is particularly so in regard to the matter at hand – delineating the fundamental character of the Executive Branch, including such basic elements as defining the status of the prime minister, and the relationship between him and the members of the Government. It is but proper that the fundamental structure of the Israeli regime be given express, coherent constitutional expression, rather than be created by ad hoc judicial precedents that are not founded upon the express directives of the Knesset.

6.         Indeed, as this Court has repeatedly explained, we do not have the authority to order the legislature to legislate (HCJ 4491/13 Academic Center for Law and Business v. Government of Israel, para. 48 of the opinion of President A. Grunis (July 2, 2014)). However, calling upon the legislature – or more precisely, upon the constituent authority – to anchor the fundamental structures of the Israeli regime in the Basic Laws is not an order. On the contrary, it is “judicial advice” intended to improve, advance and clarify the constitutional core (see Liav & Orgad, pp. 441-445) in an attempt to achieve a delineation  of a reasonable, balanced arrangement that will limit the gray area, and thereby lessen the extent of judicial intervention in regard to the matter of parallel service.

            There is nothing new in our holding in regard to the possible connection between extreme unreasonableness and deviation from authority, as the matter is well-founded in the case law. In this sense, implementing the warning of voidance relies upon a legal analysis of the issue. Along with this, we should emphasize that the warning does not order the legislative arrangement of the matter of parallel service. It is motivated by the desire to limit judicial intervention, and expresses both respect for the legislative institution (in the spirit of Waldron, cited above), and the value of mutual respect among the authorities – constituent, legislative, and executive. Exposing the warning signals that light up, permits the Knesset and the Government to make a timely choice of a course of action that may render future judicial intervention unnecessary.

            To state it more concretely, my opinion is that it is possible to contemplate judicial intervention in regard to the subject of parallel service on the basis of the quality and quantity of the ministries held by the Prime Minister, on the basis of unreasonableness that translates into a lack of authority. In the absence of an express constitutional arrangement, there is a vacuum that, as a rule, leads to a broadening of the Court’s discretion. In view of the importance of the issue of parallel service, we may have no choice but to conduct future judicial review of the matter. However, from my perspective, it would be better if the Knesset were to express its view, as comprehensively as possible, in order to clarify the legal situation, reduce the need for future review, and at the very least, reduce its scope. Thus, for example, an arrangement that would expressly address not only the general authority for parallel service, but also the number and nature of the portfolios that a prime minister may hold, and the conditions therefor, would contribute to directing the practice, and to governmental stability and development.

7.         Lastly, I would like to respond briefly to the opinion of my colleague President M. Naor (paras. 23-25 of her opinion), who is of the opinion that it would not be appropriate to issue a warning of voidance, and that an examination of the subject of the exercise of discretion, as opposed to the existence of authority for parallel service, deviates from the arguments presented in this petition. I will begin with the practical aspect. Even had a warning of voidance not been issued – and precisely because the ground of reasonableness was not addressed before us, as my colleague rightly emphasized – it would be possible to file a new petition focused upon this point immediately following the rendering of this judgment. That being the case, the warning of voidance serves as a kind of “stay of execution” before future petitioners, as it grants the Government a period of eight months for an in-depth examination of the issue of parallel service, including the possibility of addressing it in the Basic Laws, as I emphasized above.

            From a legal perspective, we should bear in mind that there are two aspects to the ground of reasonableness (see Margit Cohen, Unreasonableness in Administrative Law: Comparative Aspects and Some Normative Comments, in Theodor Orr Volume 773, 792, Aharon Barak & Ron Sokol eds. (2013) (Hebrew); for a different approach, see Itzhak Zamir, Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions: From Practice to Theory, 15 Mishpat Va’asakim 225, 262 (2012) (Hebrew)): one, sometimes referred to as “the new reasonableness”, requires that an authority weigh all the relevant considerations deriving from the purpose of the law, and only them, and grant each one its appropriate weight. However, there is another aspect to reasonableness, which might be termed “classic reasonableness”, and which is the central to the matter at hand. In referring to this aspect, the case law already stated sixty year ago “that the matter of reasonableness is actually but one of the forms of deviation from authority” (CA 311/57 Attorney General v. Dizengoff and Associates Ltd., IsrSC 13 1026, 1037 (1959)). That is the case where clearly extreme unreasonableness is concerned, which clashes with the objective of the relevant law and its purpose.

            It is true, as the President noted, that the Petitioner chose not to relate to the ground of reasonableness, including its classical aspect. Of course, it is its right to “bet the house” and argue that the Prime Minister is not authorized, in any case, to serve as a minister – an argument that was even accepted by my colleague Justice H. Melcer. However, we cannot ignore the fact that various arguments presented by the Petitioner – for example, the burden upon the Prime Minister, or the possible harm that parallel service presents to the principle of the separation of powers and the independent status of the Government – have direct impact upon the subject of reasonableness, at least in its classical sense. In practice, both sides related to the hypothetical possibility that the Prime Minister might chose to hold all the ministries – a subject that is certainly relevant to a consideration of the ground of reasonableness. Therefore, even though I found that the Petitioner’s arguments were insufficient to deny the authority for parallel service, it is appropriate to examine their potential weight in regard to the interpretation of the scope of the authority, such that it be consistent with the demands of reasonableness. Therefore, we are left no choice but to say that arguments that were considered in this Petition in regard to the interpretation of the silence of Basic Law: The Government in regard to parallel service underlie the warning of voidance. “Two hundred includes one hundred”, and the remedy of absolute denial of parallel service also comprises the remedy of partial denial, for the same reasons and upon the same grounds: the difficulties in realizing it, which may have consequences for the interpretation of the Basic Law.

            In summary, the ground of reasonableness was not directly raised before us, and therefore, I will not express an opinion as to the concrete, factual grounds that are the subject of the petition. Nevertheless, a principled, theoretical analysis of the issue leads me to the conclusion that we should not erect a wall separating reasonableness from authority, and that the issue of reasonableness constitutes a part of the examination of the question of authority. In my view, issuing a warning of voidance advances the full examination of the subject of parallel service, and is desirable form the perspective of the relevant bodies – from the Government to the constituent authority.

8.         In conclusion, I concur with my colleagues President M. Naor, Deputy President E. Rubinstein, and Justice S. Joubran that the petition should be denied, subject to a warning of voidance, as stated in the opinion of the Deputy President, with which Justice Melcer concurred in his alternative position.

 

Decided by a majority opinion, against the dissenting opinion of Justice Melcer, to deny the petition by reason of the fact that the Prime Minister has the authority to hold additional ministerial portfolios. This, subject to the position of Deputy President Rubinstein and Justices Melcer and Hendel in regard to a “warning of voidance”.

Given this 5th day of Nissan 5776 (April 13, 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

[1] This is a supplemental judgment following a partial judgment given on Aug. 23, 2015, “hereby granting an order absolute on the first head of the order nisi, viz., that the institution of ‘Deputy Minister with the Status of a Minister’ has no legal validity … I therefore recommend that we hereby grant an order absolute that Rabbi Litzman cease to serve as Deputy Minister of Health within 60 days from today (recess days inclusive). Of course, he can be appointed to serve as Minister of Health with all its legal ramifications” (per E. Rubinstein DP, S. Joubran, M. Melcer, N. Hendel JJ concurring, M. Naor P concurring with the holding, but dissenting as to the wording of the order absolute, being of the opinion that “I would not prevent Knesset Member Litzman from serving as a regular deputy minister, and not in accordance with the criteria established in the outline … If my opinion were accepted, we would permit Knesset Member Litzman to give notice within 60 days of whether he chooses to be a minister, or whether he chooses to be a deputy minister in the regular sense – without the outline that grants him special status relative to other deputy ministers – or whether he prefers to withdraw entirely”).

[2] Translator’s note: The term “Prime Minister”, employed as the English equivalent of the Hebrew term Rosh HaMemshala does not reflect the literal meaning of the Hebrew term, which is “Head of the Government”.

[3] Trans. note: Yariv Levin was elected to the Knesset in 2009, and was appointed Minister of Public Security and Minister of Tourism after the 2015 elections.

[4] Trans. note: On Israel’s constitution and the Harrari Decision, see: CA 6821/93 United Mizrahi Bank v. Migdal Cooperative Village: http://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/united-mizrahi-bank-v-migdal-cooper....

[5] Translator:  TB Rosh HaShana 4b; Yoma 80a.

[6] Translator: see, e.g., TB Berakhot 61a. The rabbinic proverb is equivalent to the saying “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t”.

[7] Translator: The date of Israel’s independence.

Jabotinsky v. Weizmann

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 65/51
Date Decided: 
Saturday, July 21, 1951
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

The High Court will not issue an order of mandamus against the President of the State directing him as to the method of carrying out his duties under section 9 of the Law of Transition, 1949. Such a matter is not justiciable.

               

By section 11(d) of the above-mentioned Law "The Government which receives a vote of no-confidence from the Knesset, or which has decided to resign, shall immediately tender its resignation to the President of the State, but it shall continue to exercise its functions pending the constitution of a new Government in accordance with the provisions of this Law." Section 9 provides that "after consultation with representatives of the party groups in the Knesset, the President of the State shall entrust a member of the Knesset with the task of forming a Government." The Government having resigned on February 14, 1951, following upon a vote of no confidence, the President held consultations with the representatives of the parties and entrusted the Prime Minister with the task of forming a new government. When the latter declined to do so, the President notified the Speaker of the Knesset that as a result thereof and of the consultations he had held, he had reached the conclusion that pursuant to section 11(d) of the Law of Transition the Government which had resigned must remain in office until the formation of a new Government after general elections.

 

The petitioners, members of the Knesset, contended that under section 9 it was the duty of the President, once one member had declined to accept the task of forming a new government, to entrust it to any other of the remaining 119 members of the Knesset, before concluding that it was necessary to hold general elections. They applied for an order of mandamus.

               

Held: The President although in a sense the highest public officer in the State, is not semble a "public officer" for the purposes of that part of section 7 of the Courts Ordinance, 19401), which empowers the Supreme Court. sitting as a High Court of Justice to give orders to public officers in connection with the execution of their duties. Notwithstanding that the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 43 of the Palestine Order in Council, 19222), "to hear... matters necessary to be decided for the administration of justice", is wider than that conferred by section 7, it does not extend to the subject of the petition, which raises a matter that is not amenable to judicial determination and decision, but is one affecting the executive and political, and not the ministerial, powers of the President.

 

Joint Anti-Fascist Committee v. Attorney-General of the United States (71 S. Ct. 673) referred to.

               

The Attorney-General appeared at the hearing of the petition to object to the issue of the order nisi by virtue of his powers under section 6 of the Law of Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance, 1934, which gives him the right to intervene in any matter pending before "any civil or criminal court" if it appears to him that the rights of the Government of Israel are involved or that it is necessary to do so in the public interest.

               

Held, overruling an objection to his appearance, that the High Court is a "civil court" within the meaning of section 6, and that rule 4 of the High Court Rules, 1947, which provides that an application for an order nisi will be heard ex parte, does not bind the court to hear the application in the presence of the petitioners alone. The very nature of the petition justified the intervention of the Attorney-General at the present stage in the proceedings.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
Full text of the opinion: 

H.C.J  65/51

 

 

JABOTINSKY AND KOOK

v.

WEIZMANN

 

 

 

In the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice.

[July 20, 1951]

Before: Smoira P., Dunkelblum J., Cheshin J., Agranat J., and Silberg J.

 

 

 

            Administration of Justice - Limits of judicial power - Failure by President of State to perform statutory duty as to formation of new Government - Not justiciable - Mandamus - Application for order nisi - Intervension by Attorney-General.

           

                The High Court will not issue an order of mandamus against the President of the State directing him as to the method of carrying out his duties under section 9 of the Law of Transition, 1949. Such a matter is not justiciable.

               

                By section 11(d) of the above-mentioned Law "The Government which receives a vote of no-confidence from the Knesset, or which has decided to resign, shall immediately tender its resignation to the President of the State, but it shall continue to exercise its functions pending the constitution of a new Government in accordance with the provisions of this Law." Section 9 provides that "after consultation with representatives of the party groups in the Knesset, the President of the State shall entrust a member of the Knesset with the task of forming a Government." The Government having resigned on February 14, 1951, following upon a vote of no confidence, the President held consultations with the representatives of the parties and entrusted the Prime Minister with the task of forming a new government. When the latter declined to do so, the President notified the Speaker of the Knesset that as a result thereof and of the consultations he had held, he had reached the conclusion that pursuant to section 11(d) of the Law of Transition the Government which had resigned must remain in office until the formation of a new Government after general elections.

 

                The petitioners, members of the Knesset, contended that under section 9 it was the duty of the President, once one member had declined to accept the task of forming a new government, to entrust it to any other of the remaining 119 members of the Knesset, before concluding that it was necessary to hold general elections. They applied for an order of mandamus.

               

                Held: The President although in a sense the highest public officer in the State, is not semble a "public officer" for the purposes of that part of section 7 of the Courts Ordinance, 19401), which empowers the Supreme Court. sitting as a High Court of Justice to give orders to public officers in connection with the execution of their duties. Notwithstanding that the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 43 of the Palestine Order in Council, 19222), "to hear... matters necessary to be decided for the administration of justice", is wider than that conferred by section 7, it does not extend to the subject of the petition, which raises a matter that is not amenable to judicial determination and decision, but is one affecting the executive and political, and not the ministerial, powers of the President.

 

                Joint Anti-Fascist Committee v. Attorney-General of the United States (71 S. Ct. 673) referred to.

               

                The Attorney-General appeared at the hearing of the petition to object to the issue of the order nisi by virtue of his powers under section 6 of the Law of Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance, 1934, which gives him the right to intervene in any matter pending before "any civil or criminal court" if it appears to him that the rights of the Government of Israel are involved or that it is necessary to do so in the public interest.

               

                Held, overruling an objection to his appearance, that the High Court is a "civil court" within the meaning of section 6, and that rule 4 of the High Court Rules, 1947, which provides that an application for an order nisi will be heard ex parte, does not bind the court to hear the application in the presence of the petitioners alone. The very nature of the petition justified the intervention of the Attorney-General at the present stage in the proceedings.

 

English case referred to:

(1)        The Parlement Belge; (1879-80), 5 P.D. 197.

 

American cases referred to:

(2)        U.S. v. Aaron Burr; (1807), Robertson's Rep., I, 121.

(3)        Bandini Petroleum Co. v. Superior Court; 52 S. Ct. 103.

(4)        Allen-Bradley Local No. 1111 ect. v. Wisconsin E. R. Board; 62 S. Ct. 820.

(5)        Tennessee Pub. Co. v. American National Bank; 57 S.Ct. 85.

(6)   Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. Attorney-General of the United States; 71 S. Ct. 673.

(7)        Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth; 57 S. Ct. 461.

(8)        David Muskrat v. United States; 1911, 31 S. Ct. 250.

(9)        Mississippi v. Johnson; (1867), 4 Wall. 475, L. ed. 437.

(10)      McCulloch v. Maryland; (1819), 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L. ed. 579.

 

S. Fishelev for the first petitioner.

R. Nohimovsky for the second petitioner.

H. H. Cohn, Attorney-General (with Naomi Salomon) intervening.

 

SMOIRA P., giving the judgment of the court.

 

            This is an application for an order nisi against the President of the State, requiring him to appear and show cause why he should not call upon a member of the First Knesset1) to form a new government and, if he fail, why one member after another should not be called upon until one of them finally succeeds in constituting a government which will enjoy the confidence of the Knesset. The petition is based upon an expression of no-confidence by the Knesset on February 14, 1951, in the government headed by Mr. Ben-Gurion, and upon the submission to the President of the government's resignation on the same day.

            The following facts are set out in the petition.

           

            The Prime Minister submitted the resignation of the government to the President on February 14, 1951, and on February 18 and 19, 1951, the President held consultations with the representatives of the various parties in the Knesset. On February 21, 1951, the Prime Minister visited the President and on February 25, 1951, the President sent a letter to the Prime Minister which concluded as follows:

           

            "...I have decided, before invoking the final remedy - the remedy of elections - to request you to make a further effort to reach a stable and satisfactory solution, within the framework of the present Knesset, and to form a new government which will enjoy the support of the majority of its members.

           

            I know that this will not be easy to achieve in the present situation, but I am convinced that it is my duty to request it of you.

           

            I would ask you to inform the other parties with whom you will consult of my request, and to convey to them my hope that they will cooperate with you so that a stable and satisfactory arrangement may be reached. I pray that you may succeed."

 

            The Prime Minister, in his reply to the President's letter of February 27, 1951, wrote:

           

            "If, Mr. President, you see any prospect of the formation of a government which will enjoy the confidence of a majority of the Knesset, it is for you to approach the representatives of any of the parties which voted against the present government. If any one of them succeed in forming a government, I shall gladly hand over my office to him with my sincere good wishes for success in his task.

           

            If this should not be possible and the majority of Mapam Herut. the United Religious Front, the Communists and the General Zionists1) who voted against the government, are unable to form a government, even for a period of transition, then section 11(d) of the Law of Transition, 1949, will come into operation. This obliges the present government, of which I have the honor to be the head, to remain in office until the formation of a new government, after elections."

 

            On March 5, 1951, the President sent a note to Mr. Yosef Sprinzak, the Speaker of the Knesset, in which he wrote, inter alia : -

           

            "After reading the reply of Mr. Ben-Gurion and as a result of the consultations with representatives of the parties in the Knesset, I have reached the conclusion that the government which resigned should remain in office in accordance with the Law of Transition until the formation of a new government after the elections."

 

            On March 21, 1951, the petitioners requested an interview with the President. They were informed that his state of health did not permit him to receive them and on March 28, 1951, the petitioner, Eri Jabotinsky, sent a letter to the President's private secretary in these terms: -

           

            "We wished to try and convince the President that it is his duty to impose upon one of the members of the Knesset the task of forming a government which would function until the convening of the Second Knesset but which would in the meantime enjoy the confidence of the present Knesset. I do not think there is any point in stating my grounds to the President here. The majority of them are known from the debates in the Knesset and from the press - in particular Ha’aretz. The Law of Transition lays down the President's duty in this matter in clear terms. The letters of the President to Mr. Ben-Gurion and to the Speaker of the Knesset also show clearly that the President has not yet imposed the task of forming a government upon any member of the Knesset and that after his failure with Mr. Ben-Gurion, he discontinued his efforts. These points are all well known. As far as the political arguments which we wished to raise in our conversation with the President are concerned, his state of health will no doubt prevent him from considering them in the period permitted by the present circumstances.

 

            In view of the impossibility of discussing the matter fully with the President I am now considering bringing the case at the beginning of next week before the Supreme Court - the only body which can determine the legality of the position. I would ask you to convey to Dr. Weizmann that, in so doing, I have no intention of offending him personally in any way whatsoever. I have long been of opinion that our Supreme Court should gradually become the final arbiter in constitutional questions affecting the State. The seriousness of the matter now in issue and the need for its legal clarification create the opportunity for the Supreme Court to enter upon this task."

 

            On April 16, 1951, the petitioners lodged this application. They submit that the President of the State had no authority to approach the Knesset directly on a political or legal-constitutional question. Their main contention is that the President has contravened the provisions of section 9 of the Law of Transition, 1949, in that for a lengthy period of more than two months he has failed to discharge his legal and constitutional duty of imposing upon one of the members of the Knesset the task of forming a new government.

 

            The petition also contains the following submissions:

           

            The President infringed the rights of the Knesset when, without first finding out whether the member whom he called upon would accept the task, he charged that member of the Knesset with the task of forming a new government and did not see fit to charge any of the other 119 members of the Knesset with the same task.

           

            In consequence of the failure of the President to fulfill his duty, a situation has been created which is inconsistent with the law of the State. In addition, the government which has resigned - which is in fact continuing to function without enjoying the confidence of the First Knesset - is an illegal government. It is the duty of the President, no matter what the consequences may be, to bring about the formation of a new government which will enjoy the confidence of the Knesset. The present situation destroys parliamentary and democratic rule and violates the principle of the collective responsibility of the government towards the Knesset. If the same government in which the Knesset has no confidence, continue functioning, then the Knesset will he given no opportunity of expressing again its lack of confidence. It has done so once and no new vote will add anything. As a result, the government which has resigned has in fact the full power of doing what it likes, untrammeled by law or the opinion of the Knesset.

           

            The petitioners do not see a remedy for the situation in the fact that July 30, 1951, has been fixed by law as the date for the elections to the Second Knesset. They submit that for a period of approximately five months - until the formation of a new government after the elections and the convening of the Second Knesset - an illegal situation will continue.

           

            The Knesset cannot force the President to discharge his legal and constitutional duty. It is only the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, which can order the President to charge a member of the Knesset with constituting a new government.

           

            This is a summary of the petition.

           

            The Attorney-General, having learned of the presentation of this petition, appeared on the day of the hearing and asked leave, in terms of section 6 of the Law of Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance, 1934, to submit his arguments in the matter since it appeared to him that the rights of the Government of Israel were involved and it might be injurious to the public interest to hear the petition in his absence.

           

            He raised the preliminary point that no petition of any kind against the President of the State could be entertained by this court. Mr. Nohimovsky objected to the appearance of the Attorney-General at this stage - namely, before the issue of an order nisi. He submitted that although the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, is a "civil court" within the meaning of Article 38 of the Palestine Order in Council1), it is not a civil court within the meaning of section 6 above, where the expression is employed in contradistinction to a "criminal court." He further submitted that in terms of rule 4 of the High Court Rule, 1937, a petition for an order nisi is to be heard ex parte.

           

            The court rejects these arguments of Mr. Nohimovsky for two reasons.

           

            (a) Section 6 referred to above speaks of "any civil or criminal court," and there is no reason for excluding the High Court of Justice from the expression "civil court" in the comprehensive sense in which it is used in Article 38 of the Order in Council. In our opinion, the very nature of the petition brought before this court requires that the Attorney-General should be afforded the right of intervention, even at this stage.

           

            (b) It is true that the Rules of 1937 provide that an application for an order nisi should, as a general rule, be made ex parte. They do not, however, bind the court to hear such au application in the presence of the petitioner alone.

           

            The Attorney-General submitted two arguments: -

           

            (1) That this court will not entertain an application against the President of the State;

           

            (2) That this court has no jurisdiction to hear the petition.

           

            The first argument is that the President of the State enjoys general immunity and cannot be brought before the courts. The second argument is that in accordance with the existing law, this court has no jurisdiction to deal with the present petition.

 

(In the course of his argument counsel here referred to the Bible, the Talmud, and the works of Maimonides, but the court, holding that these sources were not relevant in the case, continued:)

 

            In passing to more mundane sources, the Attorney-General compared the position of the King of England and his immunity from all claims before the courts with that of our President. As authority for this proposition he relied upon Blackstone, as quoted in the case of the Parletment Belge (1). We there find statements such as these: "Our king", says Blackstone, "owes no kind of subjection to any other potentate on earth. Hence it is that no suit or action can be brought against the king, even in civil matters, because no court can have jurisdiction over him ...authority to try would be vain and idle without an authority to redress, and the sentence of a court would be contemptible unless the court had power to command the execution of it, but who shall command the king?" And in the same judgment Brett L.J., relying upon Blackstone, states that the real principle upon which the immunity is based is that the exercise of such jurisdiction would be incompatible with the king's regal dignity. The Attorney-General also wished to deduce from Article 46 of the Palestine Order in Council that the principle, precluding the bringing of the king before the courts as incompatible with his dignity, also applies to the President of the State of Israel and that this court may not therefore enquire into the actions of the President.

           

            These arguments moved Mr. Fishelev, counsel for the petitioners, to contend that these principles apply to an absolute monarchy and have no place in the democratic regime of the State of Israel.

           

            We too are of the opinion that the writings of Blackstone on the position of the King of England have no relevance here. An apt answer to this approach was given in the year 1807 by Chief Justice Marshall of the United States in his judgment in the case of United States v. Aaron Burr (2). The question that arose in that case was whether it was possible to summon the President of the United States as a witness for the defence and to order that he appear. Marshall C.J. said, inter alia: -

           

            "Although he (the King) may, perhaps, give testimony, it is said to be incompatible with his dignity to appear under the process of the court. Of the many points of difference which exist between the First Magistrate in England and the First Magistrate in the United States, in respect to the personal dignity conferred upon them by the constitutions of their respective nations, the court will only mention two. (1) It is a principle of the English Constitution that the King can do no wrong, that no blame can be imputed to him, that he cannot be named in debate. By the Constitution of the United States the President, as well as every other officer of the government, may be impeached and may be removed from office on high crimes and misdemeanors. (2) By the Constitution of Great Britain the Crown is hereditary and the monarch can never be a subject. By that of the United States, the President is elected from the mass of the people, and, on the expiration of the time for which he is elected, returns to the mass of the people again. How essentially this difference of circumstances must vary the policy of the laws of the two countries in reference to the personal dignity of the executive chief, will be perceived by every one."

 

            I shall not add any comments of my own to these dicta of the distinguished Chief Justice of the United States. Every one will appreciate that in regard to the question of immunity before the courts, the position in this country is analogous to that in the United States and not to that in England.

           

            Whether the President is to enjoy immunity is not to be gathered by reference to the immunity of a monarch. In view, however, of the decision which we have reached on the question of jurisdiction, we need not decide in this case whether the President enjoys immunity or not.

           

            As I have said, the Attorney-General, in the course of his argument, placed the emphasis upon this court's lack of jurisdiction to deal with the petition and grant a mandamus against the President and it is, in our opinion, the answer to the question whether this court has jurisdiction which determines the fate of this petition.

           

            On this question too, lengthy arguments were addressed to us, and points raised which are irrelevant. It is our first task, therefore, to limit the scope of our consideration. The matter before us is a constitutional one. It is an accepted rule, as laid down also in the United States, that "Constitutional questions are not to be dealt with abstractly", Bandini Petroleum Co. v. Superior Court; (3), at p. 108. "It is a familiar rule that the court will not anticipate the decision of a constitutional question upon a record which does not appropriately present it", Tennessee Pub. Co. v. American National Bank; (5), at p. 87.

           

            In the light of this principle we shall confine our discussion:

           

            (a) to the subject-matter of the case, namely, the alleged contravention of section 9 of the Law of Transition, as argued by the petitioners;

           

            (b) to the prayer, namely, the granting of a writ of mandamus against the President.

           

            The basic provision defining the jurisdiction of this court in the matter before us is section 17 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 1948, which lays down that: -

           

            "So long as no new law concerning law courts has been enacted, the law courts existing in the territory of the State shall continue to function within the scope of the powers conferred upon them by law."

           

            It follows that, in the absence of a law extending its jurisdiction, the High Court of Justice in the State of Israel has no wider powers than those which were enjoyed by it in the time of the Mandate. Counsel for the petitioners emphasised, in fact, that they do not ask us to assume powers wider than these, but they request that we exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon us by law. Their submission, so they say, is de lege lata.

           

            The law relating to the jurisdiction of this court is to be found in Articles 38 and 43 of the Order in Council of 1922 and section 7 of the Courts Ordinance of 1940. Nothing relevant to the present case can be learned regarding jurisdiction from Article 38, which merely provides that the courts "hereinafter described shall exercise jurisdiction in all matters and over all persons" in the country. This jurisdiction is defined, however, in Article 43 of the Order in Council and in section 7 of the Ordinance.

           

            As I shall explain later there is no necessity for us to determine the extent of our jurisdiction under section 7(b) of the Courts Ordinance. 1940, which confers jurisdiction upon this court to issue orders of mandamus and injunctions against public officers and public bodies. We are in fact of the opinion that the President of the State is not a "public officer" within the meaning of the definition in the Interpretation Ordinance of 1945, though he is, in a wider sense, the highest public officer in the State.

           

            As I have said, however, there is no need for us to determine our jurisdiction under section 7(b) of the Courts Ordinance since this court has decided on numerous occasions that the limits of its jurisdiction under Article 43 of the Order in Council are wider than the limits laid down in section 7 of the Ordinance.

 

            I agree with the submission of counsel for the petitioners that we must decide the question of our jurisdiction de lege lata. With this, however, we put an end to all their submissions based upon the constitutions of other countries. The doctrine of impeachment, in the various forms which it assumes in different countries, has no relevance for us in this case. It is inconceivable that this court would assume to itself a power such as that of impeachment without a specific provision in the law to that effect. Counsel for the petitioners conceded, moreover, that the purpose of impeachment is to remove the head of the State from his office by reason of the commission of an offence such us treason or some other serious offence. This is stated expressly in the constitution of the United States, and this is the interpretation given to the expression "haute trahison" in the French constitution. And the petitioners have stated repeatedly that they do not seek the removal of the President but an order of mandamus.

           

            We return to the only question before us, namely, whether this court has jurisdiction to issue a mandamus against the President of the State in respect of his alleged failure to act in accordance with section 9 of the Law of Transition, 1949. We can decide this question de lege lata only on the basis of Article 43 of the Order in Council. We do not accept the contention that us the President is not mentioned in the Law and Administration Ordinance of 1948, for that reason alone we have no jurisdiction to deal with the petition. The whole force of statute law - which provides for the norm and not for exceptions - lies in its power to create machinery for dealing with situations which do not yet exist when the law is promulgated. Section 11 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 1948, provides expressly, moreover, that the existing law shall remain in force subject to such modifications as may result from the establishment of the State and its authorities. The fact, therefore, that the high office of President of the State did not actually exist when the Law and Administration Ordinance was enacted does not stand in the way of our applying the law today to the President. Had the petition on its merits fallen within the provisions of Article 43 of the Order in Council of 1922 it would have been possible and necessary to entertain it.

           

            The field of enquiry is narrowed down to this: is the subject-matter of the petition and the prayer among the "matters necessary to be decided for the administration of justice?" Is the present petition a matter which calls for judicial decision? Some assistance in clarifying this problem may be derived from an examination of authorities in the Supreme Court of the United States .

 

            In terms of Title 3 Section 2 of the American Constitution, "cases and controversies" are made amenable to judicial decision, and these expressions - and the limits of judicial power in general - have been defined in a long list of cases. The most recent judgment is that of Justice Frankfurter of April 30, 1951, in the case of Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. Attorney-General of the United States (6). Let me cite some extracts from this judgment: -

           

            "...in a case raising delicate constitutional questions it is particularly incumbent first, to satisfy the threshold enquiry whether we have any business to decide the case at all. Is there, in short, a litigant before us who has a claim presented in a form and under conditions 'appropriate for judicial determination’?” Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford , Conn. v. Haworth, (7).

 

            At first sight there is a distinction between the language of the American Constitution which makes "cases and controversies" amenable to judicial determination, and the language of Article 43 which employs the expression "matters." But it has been held in the United States that the expression "cases" is wider than the expression "controversies". See David Muskrat v. United States (8) at p. 954.

           

            "The judicial article of the Constitution mentions cases and controversies. The term "controversies", if distinguishable from "cases", is so in that it is less comprehensive than the latter, and includes only suits of a civil nature."

 

            Mr. Nohimovsky, counsel for the petitioner, emphasised the wide term "matters", from which he sought to derive our jurisdiction. Even if we assume that the term "matters" is wider than "cases and controversies" we have still to enquire what are the matters which are submitted to our jurisdiction. They are only those "matters... necessary to be decided for the administration of justice." By the addition of these words the legislature has set limits to the area of "matters" in the ordinary meaning of that expression. In regard to this it was submitted by counsel for the petitioners that we must interpret the expression "justice" by reference to philosophical, religious and moral sources. We are not prepared to adopt this system of interpretation which is completely unlimited in scope and obscures the limits of judicial power.

           

            Justice Frankfurter said the following in connection with this problem in his judgment referred to above: -

           

            "Limitation on 'the Judicial Power of the United States' is expressed by the requirement that a litigant roust have 'standing to sue', or more comprehensively, that a Federal Court may entertain a controversy only if it is 'justiciable'. Both characterizations mean that a court Grill not decide a question unless the nature of the action challenged, the kind of injury inflicted, and the relationship between the parties are such that judicial determination is consonant with what was generally speaking the business of the Colonial Courts and the Courts of Westminster when the Constitution was framed. The jurisdiction of the Federal Courts can be invoked only under circumstances which to the expert feel of lawyers constitute 'a case or controversy'. The scope and consequences of the review with which the judiciary is entrusted over executive and legislative action require us to observe these bounds fastidiously.''

 

            With all respect to the learned judge, I find in these remarks an excellent definition of the limits of judicial power. The reply to the question what are the matters which are necessary to be decided for the administration of justice cannot be drawn from the wide sea of philosophical, religious and moral relationships. To do w would be to widen those limits so as to include every matter necessary for human progress. On the other hand such limits cannot be defined by a purely geometrical formula. In leaving the matter to be decided by "the expert feel of lawyers" the learned judge readily concedes the intellectual impossibility of an accurate and absolute definition. We, as judges, must find the answer to the question whether the matter, in the language of the United States judgment, is "appropriate for judicial determination" or, in the language of our Article 43, is "necessary to be decided for the administration of justice", by bringing to bear our legal and judicial understanding.

           

            We also attach importance to the words of Justice Frankfurter relating to the "business of the Colonial Courts and the Courts of Westminster". We find in this remark the connecting link between the language of the American Constitution and that of Article 43 of the Order in Council.

           

            The question before us, therefore, is whether the petitioners have placed before the court a matter which is justiciable, a matter which is proper for judicial determination.

           

            The complaint of the petitioners is that the President of the State has failed to comply with section 9 of the Law of Transition or, at the least, that he has not exhausted the possibilities envisaged in that section by making repeated attempts to impose the task of forming a new government upon one of the remaining 119 members of the Knesset after the first member upon whom that task was imposed failed in his attempt. The petitioners ask us to order the President to continue imposing the task of forming a government upon members of the Knesset until one of them who undertakes this mission succeeds in forming a new government which enjoys the confidence of the Knesset.

 

            According to the reasoning which underlies the petition it will be the duty of this court to examine and determine whether, in his first or second or third attempt to do what is requested of him, the President of the State has discharged the duty imposed upon him by section 9 of the Law of Transition, or whether he must continue in his attempts. In order to decide the matter this court will have to consider the effectiveness of the imposition of the task in question upon one or other of the members of the Knesset. It is sufficient to point out the consequences of such a process in order to show that the present petition falls completely outside the limits of judicial determination.

           

            If the "expert feel of lawyers" is to be invoked, it may be said generally that the whole subject of the duty of forming a government in accordance with section 9 of the Law of Transition is non-justiciable and beyond the scope of judicial determination. The relationships involved are in their very nature outside the field of judicial enquiry; they are relationships between the President of the State, the government and the Knesset, that is to say, the executive and parliamentary authorities. If the question of a failure to comply with section 9 should arise, the remedy must be found through parliamentary means, that is to say, in the reaction of the Knesset to a government which, in its opinion, does not even possess the right to exist in transition in accordance with section 11(d) of the Law of Transition. That section provides that the government, after its resignation, shall continue in office until the formation of a new government in accordance with the provisions of that Law.

           

            It is highly significant that counsel for the petitioners did not cite a single authority from other countries in which a court directed the President of the State, in any form whatsoever, to follow a particular course in the discharge of his executive functions.

           

            We have reached the conclusion that the matter before us is not one which is amenable to judicial determination and decision. We point with satisfaction to the accord between our decision and those of the Supreme Court of the United States which, as is well known, has considerable experience in examining the boundaries between the respective functions of the three authorities of the State. Counsel for the petitioners invited us to follow in the footsteps of the Supreme Court of the United States, and strongly relied upon a saying that that court is in fact the Constitution. Just because of that, however, it is desirable to point to the care taken by the American Supreme Court not to overstep the boundary. Here are some examples.

 

            In the case of Mississippi v. Johnson (9), the court was asked to issue an injunction against the President of the United States restraining him from enforcing a law passed by Congress relating to the administration of the State of Mississippi. It was argued by the petitioners that the law in question was ultra vires the Constitution of the United States.

           

            Chief Justice Chase drew a distinction in his judgment between the ministerial and the executive and political duties of the President of the United States, and said:-

           

            "An attempt on the part of the judicial department of the Government to enforce the performance of such (executive and political) duties by the President might be justly characterized, in the language of Chief Justice Marshall, as 'an absurd and excessive extravagance' . . . It was admitted in the argument that the application now made to us is without a precedent and this is of much weight against it . . . The fact that no such application was ever before made in any case indicates the general judgment of the profession that no such application should be entertained."

 

            I may mention incidentally that there is in the last sentence quoted a hint of the conception mentioned by Justice Frankfurter in his recent judgment in which he speaks of the "expert feel of lawyers". In his judgment in the case of M'Culloch v. Maryland (10), Chief Justice Marshall deals with the boundaries between the functions of the legislative authority and the judicial authority, and we may say, following him, that were we to accede to the request of the petitioners in this case, we would exceed the limits of judicial authority and trespass upon the preserves of the political and executive authorities. In the language of Chief Justice Marshall, "this court disclaims all pretensions to such a power. ' '

           

            The question brought before us is one affecting the executive and political powers of the President, and is beyond the scope of judicial authority.

           

            We accordingly dismiss the petition for want of jurisdiction.

           

                                                                                            Petition for order nisi refused.

                                                                                            Judgment given on July 20, 1951.

 

1)              Courts Ordinance, 1940, s. 7:

The High Court of Justice shall have exclusive jurisdiction in the following matters:

                (a)           .......………

          (b)     Orders directed to public officers or public bodies in regard to the performance of their public duties and requiring them to do or refrain from doing certain acts;

2)              Palestine Order in Council, 1922, art. 43:

          .........The Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court of Justice, shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine such matters as are not causes or trials, but petitions or applications not within the jurisdiction of any other Court and necessary to be decided for the administration of justice.

1) parliament or Congress.

1) Mapam and the Communists are left-Wing parties and the others Right-Wing parties.

1)       Palestine Order in Council, 1922 (as amended 1935), Article 38:

          Subject to the provisions of this part of this order or any Ordinance or rules, the civil courts hereinafter described, and any other courts or tribunals constituted by or under any of the provisions of any ordinance, shall exercise jurisdiction in all matters and over all persons in Palestine.

Bergman v. Minister of Finance

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 98/69
Date Decided: 
Thursday, July 3, 1969
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

Section 4 of Basic Law: The Knesset, requires that elections to the Knesset shall be "general, nationwide, direct, equal, secret and proportional". Sections 4 and 46 of this Law require that any amendment to section 4 be approved by an absolute majority of the Knesset. In 1969, the Knesset passed a Law providing public financing of the election campaign for the seventh Knesset, scheduled to be held in 1970. According to the provisions of this Law, which was not passed by an absolute majority, such funding is granted solely to party factions which are represented in the outgoing Knesset.

           

The Petitioners contend that the funding provisions of the new Law are void for two reasons. The Law was initiated by several members of the Knesset as a private bill, whereas legislation that imposes a financial burden on the Treasury must be initiated by the government. By providing public financing only for existing party groups, the Law infringes upon the requirement in section 4 of the Basic Law that elections be "equal" and is therefore invalid since it was not passed by the absolute majority required under section 46 of the Basic Law, i.e., a majority of the members of the Knesset, at each stage of the legisation.

           

The court issued an order nisi, calling upon the Minister of Finance and the Government Comptroller, to show reason why an order should not be issued directing the Minister to refrain from making any expenditure under the election financing Law and directing the Comptroller to refrain from performing any act which the said Law authorises or requires him to perform. The Respondents appeared in opposition to the order nisi.

               

The court ruled that the order nisi be made absolute, holding:

           

1.      Whatever may be the law in England, there is no rule in Israeli law that forbids members of the Knesset from initiating a private bill that imposes a financial burden on the Treasury.

 

2.      All of the other terms in section 4 of the Basic Law, "general, nationwide, direct, proportional", relate both to the right to vote and to the right to be elected. There is no reason not to give the word "equal" a similarly broad meaning.

 

3.      The absolute denial of any funding to new party groups is a substantial violation of the principal of equality established in section 4 of the Basic Law, and therefore requires the support of an absolute majority of the Knesset at each stage of the legislation.

 

Note - The Knesset thereafter amended the Law to include financing for new party groups. The amendment was passed by an absolute majority of the Knesset members, although it is possible that such a majority was not required since, arguably, the new Law, as amended, satisfied the requirement of equality. At the same time, the Knesset enacted a second Law, also by absolute majority, which retroactively confirmed the validity of all legislation concerning election procedures that had been enacted previously. The effect of the Confirmation Law was to prevent judicial review of all such legislation previously enacted, even if it violated one of the entrenched provisions.

 

For a later case dealing with the requirement of equality as it relates to public financing of elections, see the Rubinstein case, infra, p. 60. For a case dealing with the implications of the requirement that elections be "equal" with respect to public broadcasting time allowed each party, see the Agudat Derekh Eretz case, infra, p. 21. Both cases concerned legislation passed after the Confirmation Law, though the effect of the Confirmation Law was considered by the court in the Agudat Derekh Eretz case.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
majority opinion
Full text of the opinion: 

HCJ 98/69

           

A. BERGMAN

v.

MINISTER OF FINANCE AND STATE COMPTROLLER

 

 

The Supreme Court Sitting as the High Court of  Justice

 

Before Agranat P., Sussman J., Landau J., Berinson J. and Manny J.

 

 

Editor's synopsis -

            Section 4 of Basic Law: The Knesset, requires that elections to the Knesset shall be "general, nationwide, direct, equal, secret and proportional". Sections 4 and 46 of this Law require that any amendment to section 4 be approved by an absolute majority of the Knesset. In 1969, the Knesset passed a Law providing public financing of the election campaign for the seventh Knesset, scheduled to be held in 1970. According to the provisions of this Law, which was not passed by an absolute majority, such funding is granted solely to party factions which are represented in the outgoing Knesset.

           

            The Petitioners contend that the funding provisions of the new Law are void for two reasons. The Law was initiated by several members of the Knesset as a private bill, whereas legislation that imposes a financial burden on the Treasury must be initiated by the government. By providing public financing only for existing party groups, the Law infringes upon the requirement in section 4 of the Basic Law that elections be "equal" and is therefore invalid since it was not passed by the absolute majority required under section 46 of the Basic Law, i.e., a majority of the members of the Knesset, at each stage of the legisation.

           

            The court issued an order nisi, calling upon the Minister of Finance and the Government Comptroller, to show reason why an order should not be issued directing the Minister to refrain from making any expenditure under the election financing Law and directing the Comptroller to refrain from performing any act which the said Law authorises or requires him to perform. The Respondents appeared in opposition to the order nisi.

               

                The court ruled that the order nisi be made absolute, holding:

           

1.      Whatever may be the law in England, there is no rule in Israeli law that forbids members of the Knesset from initiating a private bill that imposes a financial burden on the Treasury.

           

2.      All of the other terms in section 4 of the Basic Law, "general, nationwide, direct, proportional", relate both to the right to vote and to the right to be elected. There is no reason not to give the word "equal" a similarly broad meaning.

 

3.      The absolute denial of any funding to new party groups is a substantial violation of the principal of equality established in section 4 of the Basic Law, and therefore requires the support of an absolute majority of the Knesset at each stage of the legislation.

 

Note - The Knesset thereafter amended the Law to include financing for new party groups. The amendment was passed by an absolute majority of the Knesset members, although it is possible that such a majority was not required since, arguably, the new Law, as amended, satisfied the requirement of equality. At the same time, the Knesset enacted a second Law, also by absolute majority, which retroactively confirmed the validity of all legislation concerning election procedures that had been enacted previously. The effect of the Confirmation Law was to prevent judicial review of all such legislation previously enacted, even if it violated one of the entrenched provisions.

 

            For a later case dealing with the requirement of equality as it relates to public financing of elections, see the Rubinstein case, infra, p. 60. For a case dealing with the implications of the requirement that elections be "equal" with respect to public broadcasting time allowed each party, see the Agudat Derekh Eretz case, infra, p. 21. Both cases concerned legislation passed after the Confirmation Law, though the effect of the Confirmation Law was considered by the court in the Agudat Derekh Eretz case.

           

Israel case referred to:

[1]   E.A. 1/65, Yeredor v. Chairman of the Sixth Knesset EIections Committee 19 P.D.(3)365.

 

The Petitioner appeared in person.

 

M. Shamgar, Attorney-General, and Z. Terlo, Director-General of the Ministry of Justice, for the Respondents.

 

 

 

 

 

JUDGMENT

 

            LANDAU J.: On April 30, 1969 this court issued an order nisi against the Minister of Finance, to show cause why he should not refrain from any expenditure under section 6 of the Knesset and Local Authorities Elections (Financing, Limitation of Expenses and Audit) Law 1969 (hereinafter: the Financing Law); and against the State Comptroller - why he should not refrain from any act which he is directed or authorised to implement pursuant to sections 11 and 12 of the Financing Law. The order nisi was issued on the petition of Advocate Dr. A. Bergman, on two principal grounds: one related to the manner in which the Financing Law was initiated and the other to the manner in which this Law was passed in the Knesset.

           

            The first argument is that since the Financing Law imposes a monetary burden on the Treasury, it could only have been initiated by the Government. In fact the Law was initiated by six Knesset members as a private bill (see H.H. 807). The Petitioner bases this argument on the English constitutional practice that finds expression in section 87 of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, of 1958 (Halsbury-Simonds, vol. 28, p. 442). The Petitioner argues that these directives embody an important and necessary constitutional principle that the legislative branch may not decide on a monetary expenditure on its own initiative, as it does not bear the responsibility for finding sources of revenue to balance the new expenditure.

 

          The Petitioner's second argument is that the passage of the Financing Law was invalid and in violation of the principle of the equality of elections as provided in section 4 of Basic Law: The Knesset (hereinafter: the Basic Law). According to section 46, which was added to the Basic Law in 1959:

         

The majority required under this Law to amend sections 4, 44 or 45 will be required for resolutions of a plenary meeting of the Knesset at every stage of the legislation, other than the debate upon a motion for the agenda of the Knesset. For the purpose of this section "amendment" - either express or implied.

         

          And section 4 of the Basic Law reads:

         

The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law; this section shall not be varied save by a majority of the members of the Knesset.

         

          The first reading of the Financing Law was passed by the Knesset by a majority of 24 to 2 (D.H., Sixth Knesset, Fourth Session, p. 1377), that is, by less than a majority of the number of Knesset members (61). As for the third reading, the Knesset records (ibid., p. 1674) state merely that the Law was "adopted", without a recorded count of the votes. The Petitioner argues that this session too was not attended by a majority of the Knesset members, and the Attorney-General, who appeared for both the Respondents, did not dispute that. In any event this is immaterial, since section 46 requires a "special" majority at every stage of the legislation.

         

          This petition raises potentially weighty preliminary questions of a constitutional nature, relating to the status of the Basic Laws, and to the justiciability before this court of the issue of the Knesset's actual compliance with a self-imposed limitation in the form of an "entrenched" statutory provision, such as section 4 of the above-mentioned Basic Law. However, the Attorney-General relieved us of the need to deliberate the matter by stating on behalf of the Respondents that they "do not take a position on the question whether the legal validity of a legislative enactment is a justiciable matter before this court, since they are of the opinion that the petition must fail on the merits". He so stated in his heads of argument and repeated it in his oral argument on the return day, and when asked what position he would take if the court found the petition substantiated, he replied that in such event he would put himself at the court's disposal to make his submissions on the question of justiciability. It is therefore up to the court to decide whether it wishes to examine the question of justiciability of its own accord. We have decided not to do so because, for obvious reasons, the substantive problems raised here require urgent resolution, whereas clarification of the preliminary constitutional questions would entail separate, lengthy deliberation. We therefore leave the question of justiciability open for further consideration and, clearly, nothing in this judgment should be taken as an expression of opinion on that matter. The Respondents have also not disputed the Petitioner's standing to file the petition, so that question also does not arise before us.

 

            We now return to the Petitioner's two arguments. The first can be answered briefly. Whatever the law in England - and we find it unnecessary to delve into that question - our law has no statutory provision to prohibit members of the Knesset from initiating a private bill that imposes a monetary burden. Indeed, the Knesset Rules adopted by this body under section 19 of Basic Law: The Knesset indicates the contrary. In the seventh chapter of the Rules, entitled "Debate on Bills of Knesset Members", rule 105(a) provides: "Every member of the Knesset may propose a bill". There is no limitation as to the content of the bill. Section 5 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 1948, provides that

           

the budget of the Provisional Government shall be fixed by an Ordinance of the Provisional Council of State

           

and again nothing is said as to the manner of initiation of such budgetary legislation on the part of the legislature. The Financing Law here considered is sui generis: it is not a budgetary law in the technical sense, since it does not authorize the government to expend money but rather obliges the Minister of Finance to put certain sums at the disposal of the Chairman of the Knesset. There are no special provisions in our positive law as regards the procedure for enacting a statute of this kind. The Minister of Finance will have to find sources of finance for the monetary expenditure involved in the implementation of this Law, and if he encounters difficulty in doing so that is a matter which, constitutionally speaking, pertains to the relations between the legislative branch and the executive branch, which does not concern this court.

 

            That leaves the principal question: does the Financing Law contradict section 4 of the Basic Law? First, however, we wish to make it clear that this court ought not involve itself in the debate conducted in the Knesset and by the general public concerning the system of state financing of the general activities of the political parties and their specific activity in the elections campaign. Much has been said and written about the deficiencies of this system from the public perspective, while respected members of the Knesset representing a large majority of the House, including the initiators of the Law, have defended this system as necessary in our political reality. They stress, on the one hand, the improvements brought about by this Law compared to the previously prevailing state of affairs, especially as regards limitations on election expenditures and their auditing - two subjects that have no necessary connection with the matter of state funding; and they endeavour, on the other hand, to appease the critics by pointing to the experimental character of the entire Law which is intended to apply only to the seventh Knesset elections.

 

            This entire public debate falls outside the range of our judicial interest - the problem before us is confined within its legal framework. What is the Petitioner's legal argument? He argued, half-heartedly, that "it is doubtful whether the allocation of funds to political parties is an allocation for purposes of state", citing an opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Court that such is not an expenditure for a "public purpose" in the sense of that state's constitutional law (197 N.E.2d 691). We have no similar provision in our law, which suffices to dispose of this argument. For us, therefore, the question is framed within the context of section 4 of the Basic Law alone. In this respect the learned Attorney-General argued that there is no contradiction between equality in the elections as secured under section 4 of the Basic Law and the provisions of the Financing Law. He contended that the entire section 4 deals only with the elections system in its technical sense, as evidenced by the marginal heading of the section, and that the principle of equality it embodies means only that each voter has one vote of equal weight - that and no more. In support of this argument he referred us to the legislative history of this provision, which has its origins in the Mandate period, in rule 4 of the Knesset Israel Elections Regulations of March 1, 1930, and also to the constitutions of other countries in which the principle of "one man one vote" finds explicit recognition. He argued that this technical principle should not be confused with the fundamental principle of equality for all before the law, which is likewise expressed in various constitutions. But we do not have a written constitution. It is true that we too recognize the equality of citizens before the law as a fundamental principle of our constitutional regime, yet that principle has not been embodied in a written constitution or even in a provision of a basic law that requires a special majority for amendment. Hence there is nothing to prevent the legislature from deviating from this principle even in a law passed by an ordinary majority. The Financing Law should be seen as part of the Elections Law, and section 4 of the Basic Law itself says that the Knesset shall be elected "by general elections in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law". In any event, if the Financing Law deviates at all from the principle of equality, it is but a minor deviation which is to be accepted so that other important goals are achieved, such as preventing the undue fragmentation that could result from too rigid an application of the equality principle in financing.

           

            With all due respect we must dismiss this argument because it does not answer adequately the Petitioner's main complaint: that limitation of the funding to parties represented in the present, sixth Knesset exclusively, is prejudicial to equality of opportunity for those new candidates lists that seek to take part in the campaign for the seventh Knesset elections but were not represented in the sixth Knesset.

 

            We do not accept the argument that section 4 of the Basic Law merely prescribes technical directions regarding the conduct of the elections. We are prepared to assume that the draftsmen of this section envisaged primarily the principle of "one man one vote" when they prescribed that the elections should be "equal". But we do not believe that this exhausts the full meaning of the programmatic provision in the Basic Law. Each of the adjectives "general, national, direct, relative" has two facets: they address both the right to elect and the right to be elected, and there is no reason why the word "equal" should not be given the same broad meaning. This is indicated by the order of the sections: first section 4 with its general significance, and then the more specific provisions in section 5 regarding the right to vote, and in section 6 - regarding the right to be elected. Were it otherwise, and the word "equal" referred only to the right to vote, it would have been more natural to include the idea of "one man one vote" in section 5.

           

            If the principle of equality in section 4 extends to the right to be elected, it must also find expression in an equality of opportunity for the various candidates lists that contend in the Knesset elections. For in our elections system the election candidates join in candidates lists that are submitted either by a party group of the outgoing Knesset or - in the case of a new list - by 750 voters (section 4 of the Knesset Elections Law [Consolidated Version], 1969). In this way the individual candidate aspires to achieve his set goal, and by the same token the will of the individual voter is realized in voting for the list.

           

            This interpretation of the equality provision in section 4 is consistent with the fundamental principle of the equality of all persons before the law. To be more precise, it applies as an emanation thereof in the specific area of the law of elections. But it can also exist independently without resting upon a provision in a written constitution that expressly declares the principle of the equality of all persons before the law. We do not have such an express provision, neither in a written constitution nor in an "entrenched" provision of a basic law. Nevertheless this unwritten principle is the soul of our entire constitutional regime. It is therefore only right - precisely in the borderline cases, where a statutory provision can be construed in two ways - that we prefer the construction that upholds the equality of all persons before the law over one that sets it at naught. This fortifies our construction of the equality provision in section 4.

           

            After all, what is the simple meaning of the words "equal elections"? What would we say, for example, about a statutory provision that allowed only one list of candidates? Could such elections be called "equal" because each voter still has one vote? Or, assuming the Financing Law determined that only the largest party was entitled to state funding - we would certainly regard that as a glaring violation of the equality principle in section 4. In other words, this section has the potency to prevent violations of equality also beyond the narrow confines of "one man one vote".

 

            Before we examine the Financing Law in light of our above-mentioned comments, we wish to note three preliminary points. First, a Law of the Knesset is presumed to be valid as adopted. Therefore this court's primary inclination must be to uphold the law and not to strike it down, even when the argument against it is that it contradicts an "entrenched" statutory provision (and it is stressed again that everything here said presupposes that the matter is justiciable before this court). Second, we are in an area that is far removed from the idea of equality before the law in its simple classic meaning, that is, equality of rights for the citizen as an individual. There is no better example of this classic meaning than the rule of "one man one vote". This equality must be guarded without compromise. However, as we draw away from this fundamental meaning of the principle of equality before the law, so it clashes with other important principles to which it must defer. Thus, for example, in the Yeredor case[l] this court affirmed a decision to disqualify a list of candidates whose purpose was to undermine the existence of the State of Israel. Likewise, with regard to the matter of state funding for the elections: all agree that the political parties should not be equated absolutely with each other by being allocated equal funds, regardless of the party's size, although the campaign needs of a small party might require as much of these means as a larger party. And all agree furthermore that the principle of equality in financing should not be applied in such a way as to encourage the submission of candidates lists that would not have formed at all were it not for the temptation that they would receive an advance against the funding. We also know of phenomena of inequality in the general election laws, primarily the minimum percentage of votes required in order to gain representation in the Knesset, and similarly the requirement that a new list must deposit a bond, and the fact that its representatives do not participate in the election committees except as observers after publication of the list. All these restrictions inevitably derogate from absolute equality. It was not argued here that for this reason they are invalid. Third, and related to the preceding point, the issue before us - state financing of elections - is complicated and complex by its very nature and its legislative solution entails diverse practical considerations that require special expertise, which this court lacks.

           

            Without overlooking all this, we have concluded that the absolute denial of funds to new lists of party candidates substantially prejudices these lists' equality of opportunity, thus violating the equality principle in section 4 to an unjustifiable degree that goes beyond a minor deviation from that principle. We have already mentioned the provision in the Knesset Elections Law that allows any 750 voters to submit a candidates list. This opens the doors of the Knesset to new party groups. Such opportunity is one of the hallmarks of our democratic regime in general and our elections system in particular. It might be argued that the situation of a new list in the elections to the seventh Knesset is no worse than it was in the elections to the sixth Knesset, since such a list can still finance its election expenditures from private sources. We would answer that this is not the correct comparison to make; rather the current situation of such a list should be compared with the current situation of the existing party groups, and, if so, it is clear that the new list is at a real disadvantage compared to the others, because these are entitled to receive substantial sums from the state coffers to finance their expenditures whereas the new list is denied that right.

 

            In the Knesset debates on the Financing Law, the merits of a method of finance based on the balance of party power in the outgoing (sixth) Knesset was contrasted with a method based on the new party balance in the incoming (seventh) Knesset. The Knesset preferred the first method and one of its main reasons for so doing was the danger that short-lived lists would be formed because of the temptation to receive an advance on the funding allocation. This danger can be countered without causing the inequality that we have found to be unlawful, by promising a new list funding without an advance payment and only retrospectively after it has stood the test of the elections and gained at least one seat. All this on condition that the list has consented in advance to the audit by the State Comptroller in accordance with the Financing Law, and has met all the other conditions specified in the Law. It appears to us that provisions of this nature could still be added to the Financing Law without undue difficulty, without changing the existin