The final debate on the reasonableness standard bill began on Sunday morning in the Knesset plenum and will last for 26 straight hours until Monday at 12:00 p.m. The plenum is then scheduled to begin voting on the bill, which will take a number of hours. The bill is expected to pass into law at some point on Monday afternoon.
Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) presented the bill.
"The current situation is not democracy, and not the rule of law," Rothman said. "The High Court of Justice will not determine what is reasonable, the ministers will determine [that]," he added.
According to Rothman, the bill's purpose was to reign in the use of the reasonableness standard to what it was 40 years ago.
"Stop deceiving the people of Israel," Rothman said. He argued that there was no basis to the claim that the bill's purpose was to enable the current government to carry out certain moves, such as appointing Shas chairman MK Arye Deri as a minister, after the Supreme Court used the reasonableness standard to strike down his initial appointment in January, or firing Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara.
Rather, members of the opposition who supported the bill in the past were opposing it now simply because they lost in the election, Rothman accused.
Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid spoke next in the name of the opposition.
"We didn’t march yesterday to declare war, but to prevent one. To tell the government, if you still have any sense of fairness, stop," Lapid said.
"If you meant a single word you’ve said about national unity, stop. If you stop, we’re here. We talked to the President’s Residence. The doors there are open, waiting for us all. Waiting for us to come back and talk to prevent a disaster. To prevent the disintegration. To prevent an extreme minority from seizing control of the lives of the Israeli majority," Lapid said.
"I want to tell the government of Israel, from this podium, we don’t want to defeat anyone, because then we all lose. The truth is everyone wants a compromise, but nobody knows how to reach one or what it’ll look like.
"There’s only one way to find out: to keep trying. To stop the legislation. To go to the President’s Residence. Our legs will pray the whole way there. We need to go there and argue, fight, and speak again and again and not stop trying, because Israel’s fate depends on it," Lapid said.
Fellow opposition leader, National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz, said that "what we are facing is a schism in the Israeli identity card, the likes of which we have never known."
"The IDF is an army of the people, and when the people are divided and conflicted – it filters down into the IDF," Gantz said.
The National Unity chairman repeated his proposal from last week, to immediately enter talks over the reasonableness standard bill and pass it into law, and then over the rest of the judicial reform via consensus only. However, agreeing to a compromise on the reasonableness standard bill without a commitment to consensus on the rest of the legislation would achieve nothing, Gantz added.
How have the Israeli government tried to get the reasonableness standard bill to pass?
According to a special protocol for the reasonableness standard bill that was approved last week in the Knesset Home Committee, the plenum will hold up to 140 votes on the over 27,000 objections filed by the opposition. The opposition will choose which objections they will put up for a vote.
Representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued on Sunday to hold talks with fellow coalition members and representatives of the President's Residence over a watered-down version of the bill.
Since the bill was already approved in the Law Committee, the only way for the bill to change is if the coalition votes to support one or more of the objections.
The "reasonableness standard bill" is an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, that would block Israel's courts from applying what is known as the "reasonableness standard" to decisions made by elected officials. The standard is a common law doctrine that allows for judicial review against government administrative decisions that are deemed beyond the scope of what a responsible and reasonable authority would undertake.
The bill's current wording bars use of the standard for decisions made by the prime minister, the cabinet as a whole, or any specific minister. It also bars its use against a minister's decision not to use his or her authority, and on ministers' appointments of government workers.
Proponents of the law argue that it is a highly subjective tool for judicial activism that allows the court to subvert government policy with its own views. Critics argue that the tool is essential to counter corruption and to ensure the protection of individuals from arbitrary and capricious government decisions.