The government has decided to drop arguably the most controversial part of its judicial reform known as the "Override Clause," which would have allowed the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Netanyahu told the newspaper he would also revise another controversial element that would have given the ruling coalition more power to appoint judges, while adding that he was not sure what the new version would look like.
"I'm attentive to the public pulse, and to what I think will pass muster," Netanyahu said, adding that he wanted changes that would "stick for a generation."
The prime minister's comments stood in contrast to the fact that Israeli lawmakers on Sunday resumed debating one of the judicial reform bills that would limit the Supreme Court's powers - a bill that opposition leaders pledged they would erase as soon as they return to power.
The bill would block the Supreme Court's ability to evaluate decisions by any elected representatives based on the "reasonableness standard." The bill's proponents argue that it gives the Supreme Court the amorphic power to set the limits of "reasonableness" based on its own judgement. Its detractors, including the attorney-general, argue that the reasonableness standard is an important tool to fight corrupt appointments and decisions, and that corruption would increase if it is blocked.
Coalition members criticize Netanyahu for rejecting Override Clause
Members of the government criticized the prime minister's announcement that the Override Clause was off the table.
National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir called it "a victory for violence and a loss for Israel."
"We were elected to bring governance and change. Judicial reform is a fundamental part of this promise," he said. He argued that two other laws - the first which would limit the power of the attorney general, and the other which would change the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee - were "crucial," since "surrender will lead to strengthening of the rule of the attorney-generals, that does not enable elected officials to rule," Ben-Gvir added.
One of the parties that has pushed hardest for the Override Clause is the haredi party United Torah Judaism (UTJ) ,since the party hoped that the clause would enable them to overturn a future Supreme Court ruling that could strike down a bill to broaden haredi exemptions from IDF service.
UTJ's Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Tradition Minister Meir Porush said that in a meeting with the prime minister and justice minister two weeks ago, he had warned against the idea of trashing the Override Clause.
"I demanded in the name of UTJ that the reform on the topic of the conscription would include the three signed commitments - Basic Law: Torah Study, Override Clause, and amending the Defense Service law. Any other agreement is unacceptable," he said.
Ynet reported on Thursday that the government intends to pass the first reading of the reasonableness bill by July 10, and will attempt to pass it into law by July 19.
The government will decide about other bills such as the Judicial Selection Committee bill after the reasonableness bill passes its first reading, a source confirmed.
The Knesset secretary announced on Wednesday that the Knesset will hold a vote for its second representative on the Judicial Selection Committee on July 12, after opposition candidate Mk Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid) was elected on June 14, but coalition MK Tally Gotliv (Likud) was not.