What is this bizarre "override clause" that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government has worked so hard to enact, and liberal Israelis are equally trying to block? In essence, this means that by 59 votes to 61, the Knesset can overturn or "override" a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court; for example, it can re-enact a law that was annulled by the court as unconstitutional. Supporters of the override clause say it is important that primary power be vested in government elected by the people, not elitist judges elected by a committee not elected by the people. Those who oppose the override agree with Ahad Ha'am that what makes us Jews is our adherence to the biblical command, "Justice, you shall follow justice" . But was there ever such a thing as an overriding clause among medieval Jewish philosophers? Whenever this question is asked, the immediate answer is “No, of course not!” Medieval Jewish philosophers loved to argue and disagreed on everything under the sun, with one exception, the precedence of judges over rulers. Yet there was a medieval Jewish philosopher who was strikingly similar to Tocqueville's in constitutional terms. He wrote at length about the relative powers of judges and kings . It had a kind of nullification clause. I am thinking of Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben of Girona, known as RaN, a prominent Talmud scholar and the most important Jewish political philosopher between Maimonides in the 12th century and Don Isaac Abrabanel in the Spanish exile. . Rabbi Nissim, in his "Sermon on Justice" , argues that the duty of judges is to judge according to "correct judgment" , while the duty of kings is to maintain national security. . It then challenges this distinction in a radical way unprecedented in the history of legal philosophy. He insists that judges have jurisdiction only with proper judgment; that is, they have no power to judge according to utilitarian or consequentialist considerations. They should judge according to the good in themselves and the truth in themselves. Thoughts in the language of philosophers must always be deontological. However, kings entrusted with protecting national security are empowered to act on utilitarian or consequentialist considerations. Rabbi Nissim writes that when there is a serious threat to national security, the king has the power to overturn or "override" the judges' decision. He cites as an example a dangerous er whom the judges could not convict due to procedural concerns . Rabbi Nissim explains that because "correct judgment" requires strict observance of the law of evidence, the judges cannot rightly execute him. However, the king has the power to "override" his decisions and sentence the er to in order to protect national security . In extraordinary emergencies, the king invokes an "override clause". Rabbi Nissim's discussions of the relative authority of judges and kings generally concerned the Jewish Sanhedrin and kings of Israel, but sometimes also to non-Jewish judges and kings. His sharp distinction between the roles of judges and kings reflects his own legal philosophy and is prescriptive rather than descriptive. Historically, no state, Jewish or not, has taken Rabbi Nissim's approach. No historian can substantiate the claim that the Sanhedrin had the authority to rule solely on deontological considerations. It is quite clear that Rabbi Nissim's "override clause" is quite different from the one proposed by the Israeli government today. According to Rabbi Nissim, the king does not annul or re-enact any law, but simply overturn a particular decision of the judges in response to extraordinary circumstances at a particular time. Moreover, according to Rabbi Nissim, the king is not saying that he is acting in the name of true justice. On the contrary, he fully admits that he blatantly contradicts "correct judgment" in sentencing the er to , but justifies his action by arguing that national security must be urgently protected. If we were to accept Rabbi Nissim's "override provision" today, the Israeli government or the Knesset would not have to repeal or re-enact any laws, they would simply "temporarily" suspend a law . For example, they may say that under the law a person convicted of crimes like MK Aryeh Deri cannot serve as a minister in the government and it is the right "right decision", but due to the current emergency we are suspending the law and will appoint him as minister. In this scenario, the Israeli Supreme Court is similar to the Sanhedrin and the government and Knesset to the king . It is true that the Knesset officially represents the legislature, not the executive. However, for many years it largely functioned as a branch of the executive, due to party loyalty and the constraints of coalition agreements. The current dispute in Israel regarding the proposed nullity clause is ultimately about the relative powers of the executive and judicial branches. It is debatable whether Rabbi Nissim's "override provision" is more or less "democratic" than is proposed by the current Israeli government. However, it certainly makes for more respect for the judges and the law. Moreover, it places the responsibility of determining what is "correct judgment" to the judges, not to the kings. Rabbi Nissim and other medieval Jewish philosophers differed from Plato and most medieval Christian and Muslim philosophers in favoring judges over rulers, but they agreed with Aristotle: law is like that which desires only God's rule and reason, but the beast who desires man's rule. appendices" . Rabbi Nissim emphasizes that the king has the authority to use the "override provision" only in rare cases and only as a "temporary measure" . According to Rabbi Nissim, the chief sin of the Israelites in the days of the Prophet Samuel was not to demand a king, since the Scriptures clearly recognize the institution of monarchy , but their sin was "a king who will judge us like all nations" Rabbi Nissim explains: "They wanted the main principle of the judgment [ʿikkar ha-mishpat] ... to be that of the king," not that of the judges. seems to desire to be "like all nations". You can imagine the heated debates that arose in the days of the prophet Samuel. Liberals strictly warned against the excessive power of the executive branch: "The king ... will take your sons ... as chariots ... and your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers ... He will take your fields ... and you will be his servants." ” . And the majority royalists would no doubt reply, "Stop your hysterical and unpatriotic bull! We want a king like all other nations!" I can even imagine a young liberal Israeli approaching the ancient Prophet Samuel and asking him in agony: "O Prophet, after we appoint a king, will we be a Jewish state again?" Gotopnews.com