Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked responded to critics of a bill she proposed by saying “everyone agrees” the Knesset should be able to override the High Court of Justice, the debate is just about the details.
Shaked and her bill – which could realign the balance of power between the judicial branch and the executive and legislative branches – faced some tough questions in Tel Aviv on Monday, at a conference sponsored by the business publication and website Calcalist.
In an interview with Shaked, Calcalist editor Galit Hami portrayed the bill as being too politically controversial to have any chance of getting passed.
Not one to be steamrolled, Shaked shot back “I disagree with you.” She argued that opposition to her bill was only about the number of votes needed to override the High Court, not against the idea of an override.
Once the coalition started to negotiate over the principles underlying the bill, Shaked insisted, it would eventually agree to compromise, and some form of the bill would pass.
The justice minister kicked off her campaign last week to limit intervention by the High Court by declaring, “Judges are not the sons of light and legislators are not the sons of darkness.”
In that speech, Shaked said the High Court’s ideology was based too heavily on purist philosophical principles, detached from the daily repercussions of its decisions.
“The court sees the other-worldly Jerusalem and not the south Tel Aviv of this world,” she said, in a critical reference to the many times the court has struck down the state’s migrant policy.
The proposed legislation would limit the High Court’s ability to veto laws to stringent conditions, requiring a two-thirds’ vote of a full nine-justice panel.
Currently, a panel of three justices can veto a Knesset law, and a bare majority vote renders it null and void.
Under the bill, the Knesset could override a High Court veto with a 61-vote absolute majority, and the High Court would not have the power to veto Basic Laws or certain procedural laws.
On Monday, Shaked made a pitch not to increase that 61-vote number as others have proposed in the past. “Any higher number will not be doable,” she said. “Whoever thinks it will be easy for the government to use the override of the High Court is wrong.”
All the opposition parties have slammed Shaked’s bill. Even within the coalition, Shaked and the bill’s cosponsor, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have not yet received significant backing for their proposed legislation.
Shaked was also challenged on Monday about her and other ministers’ intervention in legal briefs filed with the High Court by the Justice Ministry.
When she was accused of politicizing the Justice Ministry, Shaked responded, “Intervention of a minister is not a bad word!” She went on to assert that the ministry’s lawyers are supposed to represent the policy of the government’s ministers.
Therefore, she said, it is expected that ministers should have a say in any legal brief filed on their behalf – even if the lawyers are tasked with ensuring minister’s policies conform to any relevant legal limits.