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Edelstein to MKs: Forget High Court
By LAHAV HARKOV
06/24/2014
Knesset Speaker laments deterioration of separation of powers and High Court intervention in legislative matters.
 
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told MKs to stop complaining to the High Court of Justice about legislative procedure, in an impassioned speech Monday night.

During a no-confidence motion, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) said that he was embarrassed as a member of the coalition and the Finance Committee that the panel’s chairman, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) transferred NIS 885 million to the Education Ministry without allowing for serious debate on the topic despite what Stern said were “repeated requests” for more discussion.

“Such behavior by a committee chairman tells the Israeli public that we have something to hide, even if it could be that all the finances are fine,” Stern said.

Edelstein, presiding over the plenum, told MKs not to complain to him about the matter anymore.

“If MKs chose to go to the High Court and see the court as mediator in Knesset procedure or Knesset-government relations on an issue, I will see that matter as out of bounds and I won’t touch it again,” he said.

Last week, the High Court ordered the Finance Ministry and Slomiansky to come to a compromise with MK Stav Shaffir (Labor), who petitioned against what she called their lack of transparency, within 90 days.

Edelstein said he has “no other way to make it clear to MKs that there should be separation of powers, which you learned about in school.

“If we want to be a legislative branch that supervises [the government] and is worth something, MKs need to forget how to cross the street and go to the High Court,” he said.

“Instead of fighting here, in this House, with MK Slomiansky about how he runs the committee, MK Shaffir turned to the High Court. I have nothing against the High Court. If it was an external entity [who complained] I would say it is not appropriate to intervene in Knesset procedure. The second it comes from within the House, from a member of Knesset, what can I say? Where is the shame?” Edelstein asked.

On Tuesday, Shaffir said she asked Edelstein to deal with the issue long ago and sent letters and parliamentary questions to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and met with officials from the Finance Ministry Budget Department, the Knesset legal adviser and Slomiansky to try to convince them to make changes.

“This method [of opaque proceedings in the Finance Committee] is not only problematic, it is also not constitutional. The Finance Ministry is intentionally violating Basic Law: The State Economy for over 30 years,” Shaffir said.

As such, the Labor MK said her petition to the high court was meant to strengthen the Knesset and set limits for the government, requiring it to respect Basic Laws.

“Today, six months after I turned to the High Court, we can see how helpful and necessary it was,” she added.

“Only because of my petition did the Finance Ministry agree to change its behavior, including publicizing information on budgetary changes and cutting the Economic Arrangements Bill [which is brought to the Knesset along with the state budget].”

These changes would not have taken place without the threat of High Court intervention, Shaffir posited.
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