Analysis: What is the point of the override clause if it goes unused?

If the government isn’t going back to its prior policies toward migrants, then what is the point of the Supreme Court override clause?

May 10, 2018 08:12
2 minute read.
African migrants sit at the Holot open detention center in the Negev in Southern Israe

African migrants sit at the Holot open detention center in the Negev in Southern Israel. (photo credit: FINBARR O'REILLY / REUTERS)


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Interior Minister Arye Deri made some seemingly dramatic statements in the Knesset Wednesday that the government is still negotiating with the UN over a solution for African migrants in Israel and that the Holot holding facility will not be reopened.

This begs the question: If the government isn’t going back to its prior policies toward migrants, then what is the point of the Supreme Court override clause? After all, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, the strongest proponent these days of the bill to allow the Knesset to re-pass laws, has repeatedly said it’s necessary in order to allow the government to reopen Holot, and send migrants there, thus encouraging them to self-deport.

The override bill’s opponents shouldn’t be breathing easy just yet. A source close to Bennett didn’t see any contradiction between the minister’s position and what Deri said.

“There’s no point to open the Holot facility because, in the current situation, it’s just a rest home. I’ll open it only if the law changes and it’ll stand the judicial test,” Deri said.

“Beyond that, the discussions with the UN haven’t ended. As of now, there is no breakthrough, but we’ll see if there’s news.”

In other words, things could still change if the override bill passes.

In addition, most of the bill’s backers in Likud and Bayit Yehudi support the Supreme Court workaround on principle. They believe that the courts have become overly activist and strike down too many laws passed by the Knesset members, who are elected by the people, as opposed to the judges.

There are other Supreme Court rulings that the coalition could try to reverse if they pass the law, like reinstating the ultra-Orthodox exemption from IDF service.

At the same time, the override clause is far from becoming law. So far, it has only been approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Kulanu opposed the ministerial vote and has threatened to vote against the bill if it comes to a vote in the Knesset, which would mean that it would be rejected and have to be kept on the shelf for at least six months.

The current Bayit Yehudi-proposed draft is unlikely to move forward because of Bennett pushing it forward while Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon proposed it – instead of reaching a compromise over a negotiated draft. And with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of the country twice this week and Iran topping the agenda, no alternatives have been seriously discussed yet.

It looks like the Supreme Court override bill is on ice for now – but Bennett and others in the coalition are still motivated to bring it back.

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