A bill that would block the High Court of Justice from intervening in the appointments of ministers is to be voted on in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday. The preliminary vote will be another step forward in the controversial bill’s legislative process.
The bill – known as the “Deri Law,” for Shas chairman Arye Deri – is an amendment to Basic Law: The Government. It passed in the Ministerial Legislation Committee on Sunday.
The Knesset House Committee, which is controlled by the coalition, granted the bill an exemption from the requisite 45-day wait after its proposal, indicating the coalition’s determination to pass it into law without delay.
In a show of unity, every coalition member except Deri – who is not a minister or a deputy minister – signed off on the bill, which was proposed on February 6.
The law's function
The bill is intended to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reinstate Deri after the High Court of Justice ruled last month that his appointment as health and interior minister suffered from “extreme unreasonableness.”
The ruling was due to Deri’s recurring white-collar criminal convictions, the last of which came as part of a plea bargain in January 2022, and because he earned his lenient plea bargain by fooling the court, saying he would not reenter politics, the court said.
The bill’s supporters argue that the High Court’s ruling was an improper intervention in political decisions and that Deri did not fool the court because he never pledged he would quit politics forever.
The Deri Law is also linked to the coalition’s proposed legal reforms. One of the reform’s provisions is that the High Court cannot strike down amendments to Basic Laws. The coalition will likely pass this law first, meaning the High Court will not be able to hear appeals against the Deri Law.
A number of other bills are expected to reach preliminary voting in Wednesday’s plenum. Two of those bills also have to do with the coalition’s judicial reform.
The first is a private bill proposed by Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party). It proposes that the High Court has the power to strike down laws that violate Basic Laws – but only by a unanimous vote of all of the court’s members. Moreover, the law would give 61 MKs or more the power to make laws “immune” to judicial review, even if they contradict Basic Laws.
That law is very similar to Rothman’s committee-initiated bill, which his committee is currently debating. The coalition likely will either proceed with Rothman’s private bill or combine the two, a Likud source said.
The second bill related to judicial reform that will reach the Knesset plenum on Wednesday is Likud MK Moshe Saada’s proposal to remove the Police Investigations Unit, which hears appeals against police officers, from the State’s Attorney’s Office and subjugate it directly to the justice minister. The bill also proposes that the unit would be able to investigate attorneys from the State Attorney’s Office and not just police officers.
The bill’s detractors say this move would damage the state’s ability to take action against police officers who abuse their power. Perhaps more importantly, however, it opens the door for politically motivated investigations of attorneys, hypothetically including those who are representing the state in Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trials.