(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The High Court of Justice suggested that the Knesset bring back to its committees a law levying a tax on people who own three or more homes, in a hearing Tuesday on the way it was passed.
It’s unclear that the law, which was controversial even within the coalition, will have a majority supporting it a second time.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) petitioned the High Court against the law, saying there was a “fundamental flaw in the legislative process,” in that it was passed too quickly, without enough discussion, in December. He called for the law to be canceled, as opposed to the current court order delaying its implementation.
The government responded to the petition saying that there was no problem with the legislative process, but, in an unusual move, Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said there was “a defect that goes to the root of the procedure, which, on principle, justifies the cancellation of the law.”
However, Yinon asked the court to consider sending the bill back to the Knesset Finance Committee to pick up the legislative process in the middle, as though it had passed a first reading already.
During court proceedings, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor asked Yinon what the considerations against bringing the bill back to the Finance Committee would be.
“It could be that it is a step to consider in cases of extreme abnormalities in the legislative process, so it should be brought back to where the flaw happened in a significant constitutional matter,” Yinon said. “Some would say that is canceling the law.”
Justice Menachem Mazuz berated Yinon, saying: “Instead of the Knesset dealing with its own problems, it comes to cry to the court and says, ‘Save us from ourselves.’ The question is whether the Knesset will fix its rules of order or regulate the legislative process.”
Yinon said that although he agrees theoretically, MKs write the rules of order.
The High Court asked the government to respond by Sunday to the suggestion of bringing the bill back to the Finance Committee, and then a second and third (final) reading in the Knesset’s plenum.
Justice Ministry representative Shosh Shmueli said doing so “will create a mess, because there are people who asked to get the grant for those who sell [their third] home... This isn’t an alternative.”
Naor told Shmueli that the advantage of Yinon’s suggestion was that they could avoid restarting the process. “It’s like taking an apple that has a rotten bit, taking it out and eating the rest of the apple,” Naor said.
After the court adjourned for the day, Herzog saw the proceedings as a victory for the opposition. “It would be good if the state accepted the High Court’s recommendation... to bring the bill back for a new debate and legislate it according to the appropriate legislative procedure,” he said.
“The battle is not about one law or another, but about democracy and the rights of citizens that are being trampled, while harming the status of the Knesset and MKs’ job to oversee legislative procedures that are meant to protect the citizens of Israel.”