(photo credit: Channel 10)
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann on Monday tried gain the support to of Labor MKs for a bill to limit judicial review of legislation. But Labor Chairman Ehud Barak said the party would not lend a hand to damaging the court's status.
Friedman criticized the High Court's actions. "In recent years, the High Court of Justice has changed the character of laws." Friedmann said. "Perhaps it is even formulating the as-of-yet unwritten constitution. The Knesset cannot allow itself to be paralyzed. It is its right to debate and discuss"
If passed, Friedmann's proposal would be the first law to state explicitly that the High Court of Justice is empowered to reject any Knesset legislation that violates the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation or the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.
However, any law rejected by the court would remain in effect for six months. During that time, the Knesset could re-legislate the bill, with a majority of 66 MKs in the third and final reading. If it did so, the High Court could not hear a petition challenging the constitutionality of the legislation for five years. The re-legislated law would be in effect at the end of that period, but the court could once again hear petitions challenging its legality. If the court one again rejected the legislation, the Knesset could override it again according to the same conditions.
The bill has aroused strong opposition ever since Friedmann first announced it. Many critics, including former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and ex-justices Yitzhak Zamir and Dalia Dorner, have come out strongly against it and severely criticized Friedmann.
At the Labor meeting Monday, Friedmann stated that he had great respect for the court and for its contribution to Israel in the first 50 years of the state's existence, but also stressed his belief in the Knesset and in politicians. "Our democracy was established by politicians, before there was a high court," he said.
"We mustn't merge the judicial and legislation systems. Our regime has balancing and restraining factors. The Knesset and the government are monitored and restrained, and only the court is exempt. Any attempt to restrain it is seen as a crime."
But Labor Chairman Ehud Barak defended the court. "The High Court, along with the entire judicial system, is very dear to us. They are a source of pride both internally and externally. We have an obligation not to lend a hand to harming the court's status.
Barak added that arm wrestling between the High Court and the Justice Ministry was not desirable. "We will not allow the court to be damaged by arm wrestling. Any changes should be examined responsibly and honestly. Any proposals should be debated publicly and politically before they are developed into balanced and worthy proposals."
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.
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