MKs spar with Neeman over Basic Law: Legislation

Neeman says bill will strengthen courts and basic laws, but Meretz leader insists he disregards democracy, human rights.

Israeli Supreme Court 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)
Israeli Supreme Court 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)
Left-wing MKs argued with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on Wednesday about whether his memorandum on a draft of Basic Law: Legislation would destroy or strengthen the High Court of Justice.
Based on recommendations by a government- appointed public committee headed by Neeman before he was justice minister, the proposed basic law would establish the authority of the Supreme Court to annul laws – and stipulates that the Knesset can still pass a law even if the court overturned it in an additional reading with a majority of 65 MKs.
According to Meretz leader MK Zehava Gal-On, the new basic law would bring a wave of anti-democratic legislation.
“What does Neeman want? He wants the Knesset to have the last word, so the tyranny of the majority will decide,” she said. “Neeman is telling the court that it does not interest him. He is saying: Who cares about democracy or human rights?” Gal-On said that in the past decade, the High Court canceled three laws, and it must maintain this right.
“This is a heavy, important topic, and the coalition marginalized it,” MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said.
Herzog called for a dialogue between the three branches of government, which he said did not occur before Neeman publicized his memorandum.
“This makes me suspect that the government does not really want to arrange relations between the branches, they want to challenge the court’s ability to stand strong and independent,” Herzog concluded.
Neeman said that Basic Law: Legislation is absolutely necessary for democracy to continue to exist in Israel.
“I was a professor of constitutional law for many years, and I did my homework,” Neeman quipped. “I have been looking at this material for 37 years, and it is clear that the Knesset needs to pass Basic Law: Legislation and has not been able to do so.”
Neeman said that it has taken his three years as justice minister to prepare the memorandum, plus his time on the public committee 10 years ago, in which he researched the topic and brought recommendations to the government.
As part of this process, Neeman said he spoke to many retired judges, as well as Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, before she completed her tenure earlier this year.
According to the justice minister, his version of the basic law would anchor the High Court as a constitutional court.
Currently, Neeman explained, a majority of two MKs against one could just cancel Basic Law: The Judiciary, and the High Court would not be able to work at all.
The new basic law would give all such legislation a constitutional value, and could only be canceled in a special majority after four readings, he stated.
In addition, only the government or Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee could propose a new basic law, which Neeman said would prevent “anti-democratic” ones from being submitted.
Neeman also pointed out that he put forward a memorandum and did not submit the bill, in order to put the issue on the public agenda.
“The Knesset is sovereign, represents the nation, and will decide what will happen in the end,” he said.