Supreme Court of Israel.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A law prohibiting MKs from petitioning the High Court to reverse Knesset votes should not be passed, Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said on Monday in a Knesset House Committee meeting about an initiative by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), the panel’s chairman. Kisch argued that the bill will maintain a separation of government powers.
Yinon quoted a 2014 ruling by then-Supreme Court president Asher Grunis, in which he expressed disapproval of MKs submitting petitions to the court. Yinon said that cannot be considered a recommendation to pass a law.
“I think it would be wrong to pass a law limiting MKs’ ability to submit petitions” to the High Court, Yinon stated. “Since this is an amendment to a Basic Law, and the limitations suggested are few, I do not think the proposal can be called unconstitutional. But legal-constitutional policy considerations lead me to the conclusion that there is no place for creating such a constitutional norm.”
According to Yinon, the bill violates the principle of not limiting MKs’ activities.
Justice Ministry Legislative Department Manager Ami Berkowitz concurred, saying that if an MK thinks the Knesset did something outside of legal norms, he or she should be able to do something about it.
Kisch defended the bill, saying that it will “protect the Knesset’s dignity and status.”
“There must be a clear line defining fair rules of the game, on the one hand, and prevent [MKs] from taking advantage of the Knesset and shaming it on the other,” Kisch said. “We can’t pass laws, and in the same breath, petition the High Court about them.”
Kisch called to put an end to the “politics of petitions.”
Former justice minister Moshe Nissim also spoke in support of Kisch’s proposal, saying “the Knesset is the only body that is elected by the entire population... This House is loftier than all other branches” of government, he argued.
When an MK petitions the High Court, he or she expects the court to give an order to the Knesset, Nissim explained.
“When the Knesset makes a decision, there is no place to petition the High Court, because it is against the decision of Israeli voters, which must be accepted,” Nissim said. “MKs should resist on their own, but since if they don’t agree to do so, a law is necessary.”
MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) said the bill is meant to censor opposition MKs and take a tool away from the opposition.
According to Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, the bill is “meant to threaten the High Court as part of a long battle against judicial activism by people who are trying to harm the High Court, and this is their latest excuse.”