Bringing into the limelight the fight against judicial activism and separation of powers in Eretz Yisrael

At Mike Pompeo’s recent book signing, hosted by Rabbi Dr. Joe Frager’s Israel Heritage Foundation, I became acquainted with Simcha Dan Rothman, Member of the Knesset from the Religious Zionist Party, and his detailed list of endeavors to reshape Israel’s Ministry of Justice, all aimed at bringing back trust and integrity to the Jewish state’s Supreme Court. For a quarter century, Israel’s Supreme Court has essentially run a coup d’état, yielding more power than the country’s prime minister, an oddity in a democracy. With the most right-wing party in power to date, an overhaul of Israel’s legal system is within reach. Israel’s public faith in the judicial system has plummeted to a historic low, and it is time to restore power back to the People, a largely conservative population, via the legislators they elected to office. The climate of the new Knesset favors our Orthodox ideals and values.

During our conversation, MK Rothman, chairperson of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, listed his top three priorities for the new regime.


Rothman, the sole MK to reside in a yishuv, is accustomed to taking stances deemed unorthodox by his critics. Together with his wife and five children, he calls Pnei Kedem, an outpost to the Israeli settlement of Metzad in the southeastern part of Gush Etzion, home. I asked Rothman if the current Knesset feels like déjà vu to Netanyahu’s previous reign. “In some ways it is,” began the lawyer. “We are going back to whatever was good.” Rothman was quick to expound, “But, in some ways we have to move forward; otherwise we won’t succeed in our pursuit of justice reform.”

Fighting Western Deception

As the architect for the new vision of justice in Eretz Yisrael, Rothman, 42, works hand-in-hand with Justice Minister Yariv Levin, fighting against deception in foreign media to push their critical measures closer to reality. They are optimistic that the current slate of judges will resign as the various reforms are realized, allowing for new judges to diversify the bench, an option that has not been practical since Chief Justice Aharon Barak joined the Court in 1995. Prior to that, Israelis enjoyed a Court that had the trust of the people, void of policy discussions, and accepting the law as written. “The Court was not telling the State of Israel what the law should be, but was judging according to the law, and it worked until it was destroyed by Barak, who politicized the body,” related Rothman, whose Religious Zionist Party put forward a very detailed reform proposition before the recent elections, the fifth in nearly four years. Until December 21, no party had been able to form a stable coalition since 2019. Release of the plan, and the interest from right-leaning parties on the Ultra-Orthodox and Likud slates, is a reason the latest coalition may have succeeded. Detractors of the plan feel it favors Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, potentially giving him the chance of wiggling out of indictment in three corruption cases using legislation that would allow the government to override the Supreme Court and give immunity from prosecution for serving Prime Ministers. Rothman debunked these claims, citing his decade of work as founder and legal adviser of The Movement for Governability and Democracy (Meshilut) as proof that there is no ulterior motive. “We are working every day and night to push this plan forward,” said Rothman. “We believe it will happen, but we need all the support we can get.”

On January 18, the Supreme Court ruled ten-to-one that Netanyahu should remove Shas chairman Aryeh Deri from his ministry positions in Interior and Health, responding to criticism of unreasonableness about the appointments and the Basic Law amendment that allowed Deri’s rise to the post in defiance of criminal sentencing and his pledge to leave public life. Many blame this charade for the current crisis; however, Rothman discerns that naysayers are delegitimizing the true will of the public in Israel, making clear that his efforts to confront the abuses, misuses, and failures of Israel’s legal system at the nonprofit Meshilut precede Netanyahu’s and Deri’s legal woes.

A Democracy Formed Without a Constitution

As many are aware, David Ben-Gurion never enacted a formal Constitution in his position as Israel’s first Prime Minister. On February 16, 1949, Israel’s Constituent Assembly adopted the Transition Law, establishing a formative Knesset. Eventually, the Harari Decision and its Basic Laws were instituted, leaving much discretion on constitutional issues like judicial review with the High Court of Justice who were, for all intent and purposes, self-appointed because the judges themselves have a vetoing power over who sits in their midst. “Judicial tyranny” is how Rothman described the situation of the Court operating without a comprehensive constitution. Israelis regularly experience the cancellation of Knesset laws by the unelected judges. Despite the Israeli public leaning Conservative Right on most issues, the State of Israel tends to veer overwhelmingly to the Progressive Left because of the decisions penned by an unelected Court, sending public trust in the body into disarray. Beyond policy issues, Rothman explained that Israelis are bothered by the Supreme Court meddling into civic issues like crime.

Restoring Indigenous Sovereignty

Judicial reform is step one, because nothing else can be accomplished without a working core system. The major battle that remains is to restore sovereignty on the Land of Israel, not only in Judea and Samaria, but in the Negev, Galil, and big cities where Israel lost control. In the aftermath of the May 2021 riots that saw a disheartening mass exodos of 400 Jewish families from the region shared by both Jews and Arabs, Rothman and his family took upon themselves a 12-month residency in the city of Lod to strengthen the community. “We can’t lose it,” repeated the unwavering Israeli defender. Rothman fears that such land is susceptible to wither from Israeli hands, because judicial powers currently prevent the State of Israel from wholly acquiring the land. In layman’s terms, Bedouins claim that Israeli construction in these areas is illegal, and the Israeli court system subsequently prevents law enforcement from intervening. Preserving culture, operating a proper educational system, and keeping strength to maintain a Jewish country where the citizens are more connected to its roots is paramount for Rothman, who is tired of seeing this issue fall under the radar for far too many years. “Our mission is to use law enforcement to restore governability and the Jewish identity of the country itself in the Negev and the Galil, ensuring that the State of Israel will be able to exist there.”

The notion that there will not be another Prime Minister for Israel, because the Supreme Court brandishes more power, has become priority for Netanyahu’s right-wing government. As chair of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee in the Knesset, Rothman is poised to restore faith in his brethren with judicial reforms, because he knows all too well that failure to rebuild the broken legal system translates to an Israel where the position of Prime Minister would be merely ceremonial.

By Shabsie Saphirstein
Delegate, Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi