Israel's High Court of Justice.
(photo credit: ISRAELTOURISM / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The bill that wants to allow the Knesset to reactivate laws that had been struck down by the Supreme Court is on the agenda for the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for next week, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday.
The version of the bill expected to go to a vote next Sunday is one that says that 61 MKs will be required to resurrect a law that had been nixed by the court, as opposed to needing a 70-lawmaker supermajority, which was what Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit proposed.
“The State of Israel stands before a historic opportunity, to pass the ‘override clause’ and start a reform in the battle against terrorism and removing illegal migrants,” Bennett said. “After years of delay, discussion and committees, the time has come to act. We expect all cabinet members to support the balanced bill.”
The proposed change in Knesset-Judiciary relations came up in recent weeks as the government searches for a resolution to the issue of African migrants who illegally entered Israel.
Earlier this year, the court canceled the government’s plan to deport migrants to a third country, in part because the countries were not absorbing the migrants. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then came to an agreement with the UN High Commission on Refugees – by which they would help half the migrants be absorbed in Western countries, while the other half would remain in Israel – but after facing sharp opposition on the Right, including within the Likud, Netanyahu canceled the agreement.
Bennett brought up an existing proposal from his party, the “override clause,” to allow the Knesset to circumvent Supreme Court rulings. Netanyahu and close ally Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a sharp critic of judicial activism, suggested to ban the court outright from striking down laws. However, after a meeting with Mandelblit, the coalition moved toward the override idea.
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, the Supreme Court has canceled 18 laws since 1992, when the “constitutional revolution” began and the court took on the authority to do so. In the same amount of time, the Supreme Court of the US struck down 50 laws, the German court canceled 206, and the court in the UK recommended 22 be canceled.
According to Bennett, the override bill is a balance between the current situation, by which the court has unlimited authority to cancel laws, and preventing the court from canceling any laws.
The opposition came out strongly against the proposal.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said, “We cannot allow it to pass that the fight for votes on the Right is turning the High Court of Justice into a victim.”
“The override clause, if it passes, puts Israeli democracy in a new situation in which there are no checks and balances, and just a dictatorship of the government... This battle is happening in Hungary, in Turkey, and now in Israel,” Zandberg said.
Zionist Union rally in support of the Supreme Court, April 21, 2018 (Udi Shaham)
Yesh Atid MK Yael German wrote on Twitter that the bill “is a Trojan Horse for our democracy. Sixty-one MKs will be able to cancel any decision protecting human liberty and dignity. They’ll start with laws that hurt refugees and Arabs and will continue with... excluding women, religious coercion, hurting homosexuals and whoever doesn’t agree with them.”
On Saturday night, the Zionist Union organized a rally of support in front of the Supreme Court, with hundreds of people in attendance.