The “Deri Law 2” and the “Fortification Law” were prepared on Thursday for first readings in the Knesset Special Committee for Amendments to Basic Law: The Government.
The Thursday session was the second day that the special committee convened on the amendments to one of the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
Deri Law 2 to restrict High Court's ability to stop appointments
The Deri Law 2 would restrict the High Court of Justice’s judicial intervention with appointments of ministers. The bill is named for Shas chairman Arye Deri, who was appointed health and interior minister despite his suspended prison sentences; a Basic Law amendment, the first “Deri Law” was passed to allow him to assume the positions.
Following appeals on this appointment, the High Court ruled under the reasonableness clause that it was unreasonable for Deri to retain the posts in light of his extensive criminal past, and ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to vacate the positions.
“High Court justices were not impressed with the personal and corrupt legislation that was enacted here a few months ago and they said that a person who was convicted three times is not worthy of being a minister,” National Unity MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen said during the session. “We are a few days before the Purim holiday, but the mask on this law is obvious: This is a personal law for one person, Arye Deri.”
Committee chairman MK Ofir Katz argued that the prime minister knows how an appointment best serves the establishment of the government and stabilizes the state.
Even “if there is further value for that person [appointed to a minister position], the discretion should be the prime minister’s and not any other person,” said Katz.
Those in favor of the law have argued that invalidating the selection of a minister is in contradiction of the democratic will of the people.
Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu said in the session that “democracy is not only majority rule, but also to maintain minority rights and maintain the law.”
Israeli Democracy Institute researcher Amir Fuchs warned that “This is a law with retroactive characteristics and an extremely unreasonable proposal that sends a message of cheapness of the law and Basic Laws, of court rulings and the fight against corruption and for rule of law.”
New bill to restrict ability to declare PM unfit
The other bill discussed at the session was the proposal to change the conditions in Basic Law: The Government, which determine when a prime minister is to be deemed unfit for service. While this provision has rarely been implemented, and only for health reasons, media reported last month that the attorney-general was considering declaring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unfit for service due to his conflict of interest between his ongoing corruption trials and the judicial reform plan. The attorney-general denied these reports.
The proposal would move the power to declare the prime minister unfit out of the attorney-general’s hands. Instead, the prime minister would be able to declare whether they were unfit for duty, and when they would be unable to do so, with a three-quarter majority of the government. If the decision clashed with the prime minister’s wishes, the Knesset would decide with a special majority of 90 MKs.
“The proposal before you is to prevent abuse of the existing law, and to use it to thwart the will of the voter,” said Katz, who initiated the bill. “The people and their representatives appoint the prime minister, and only the people and their representatives can change their choice.”
Deputy Attorney-General Gil Limon said the current provision was vague and had to be amended.
“It is appropriate that the Knesset be required to clarify the circumstances in which the prime minister is prevented from fulfilling his role and the mechanism by which his removal will be determined,” said Limon. “The details of the arrangement in themselves raise legal difficulties.”
Limon noted that there could be other issues that could arise besides health problems that could lead the prime minister to be unable to fulfill their duties, and that such unknowns had to be taken into account.
While Limon’s opinion was heard, the beginning of the debate saw opposition leave the meeting in protest of the session occurring without having an opinion from the committee’s legal adviser beforehand.
“The issue of impeachment of a prime minister deserves to be discussed in the Knesset, but instead of having a real and meaningful discussion, we are in the midst of personal legislation with the aim of creating an Iron Dome for the prime minister,” said Farkash-Hacohen.
The committee will continue discussions on both bills on Sunday, which is also the date for the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to complete its revision vote for the next piece of judicial reform legislation.