Supreme Court president pleads with Netanyahu not to endanger democracy

The Israeli public believes if the Supreme Court is denied the capacity to strike down laws enacted by the Knesset, there will be no checks on the government and it will have unlimited power.

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April 29, 2018 21:53
2 minute read.
Supreme Court president pleads with Netanyahu not to endanger democracy

Esther Hayut. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in a two-hour meeting on Sunday that their insistence to limit the power of the Supreme Court could endanger Israeli democracy.

Netanyahu’s Likud and Shaked’s Bayit Yehudi parties support legislation permitting the Knesset to override the court’s decisions to strike down laws with a simple majority of 61 MKs. But Hayut would oppose the bill even if it were to call for a larger special majority to override the court, media reports said.

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Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who told The Jerusalem Post that “the bill was the most important decision being made in 25 years,” has threatened Netanyahu’s coalition if the bill is not brought to a vote in Shaked’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation next Sunday.

After the meeting, Shaked said the bill would indeed come to a vote, despite not reaching a compromise at the meeting.

Hayut, whose deputy, Judge Hanan Melcer, also attended the meeting, told Netanyahu and Shaked the court only interferes in legislation in extreme circumstances. But in recent years, 18 laws have been overturned by the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu and Shaked said after the meeting it was “deep and serious.” Before Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, ministers told reporters the bill must be passed despite the opposition of the Supreme Court.

“There can be dialogue about whether the majority required should be 61 or 65, but more than that negates the point of having an override clause,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. “The Knesset passes many laws that help minorities, but it also has the right to advance legislation that helps the majority of citizens.”

A poll sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research found that 65% of the Israeli public believes if the Supreme Court is denied the capacity to strike down laws enacted by the Knesset, there will be no checks on the government and it will have unlimited power.

Moreover, 59% of the Israeli public believes the override clause will increase the risk of political corruption.

Regarding Netanyahu’s motives for limiting the Supreme Court’s power, 39% believe the move is beneficial for his personal interests, while 28% said passing the override clause is in the best interest of the Israeli state, while 16% said the move is beneficial to the political interests of right-wing parties.

The survey was conducted between April 24-26 among 1,018 respondents, constituting a representative national sample.


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