Tensions between the opposition and coalition came to a head on Tuesday with the announcement of a new judicial reform bill being placed before a Knesset committee on Tuesday, to some signaling a close of negotiations of a broad reform agreement -- but the situation may be more complicated than it appears.
Talks between the opposition and coalition broke down after the opposition demanded that the Judicial Selection Committee convene and being to appoint judges. In a vote upset, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar was elected to the panel, and would be able to influence judges chosen.
Soon after, a bill restricting the use of the reasonableness doctrine was set for discussion before the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday morning, but was canceled to allow panel members to attend the funerals of terrorism victims.
The reasonableness standard is a common law doctrine used by courts to engage in judicial review of government administrative decisions deemed beyond the scope of what a reasonable authority would undertake. Under the new bill, the courts would not be able to use it on decisions by the prime minister, ministers, and elected officials.
The Judicial Selection Committee is seen as more important
Reasonableness is largely considered one of the lower-priority judicial reform provisions. The Judicial Selection Committee, on the other hand, is regarded by most as the most contentious issue. A bill to change the composition and the regulations of the committee is still on the Knesset table, where it was waiting for final readings before the legislation freeze in March.
The restriction of judicial review, the ability of the court to strike down laws in violation of Israel's quasi-constitutional basic laws, and a proposed override clause, the ability of the Knesset to cancel the court's striking of legislation, were other major issues. A bill on both was stalled in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in March.
Neither bills, both more important to the reform and nearer to becoming laws, have been revived by the coalition, which has instead elected to start the lengthy legislative process -- discussions in committee, revising of the bill, and several readings.
The reason why the bill was advanced before the others
There are a few possibilities as to why a reasonableness bill has been started over advancing the other items.
The bill may be a means of leverage. The opposition is making demands for the resumption of the talks, but by showing that they are capable and willing to continue the reform unilaterally may push the opposition back to the table. The opposition may feel it doesn't have as much power as it thought. The leverage provided by the bill could continue if the parties return to the negotiation table -- three bills ready for launch offers a greater deterrent than just two.
The bill could also be a red herring to distract from the opposition's new demands. If the coalition is unwilling to convene the Judicial Selection Committee, it may have created another item to entice the opposition. The opposition may instead prioritize the freezing of the reasonableness bill, and allow the coalition not to convene the committee.
Another possibility is that because reasonableness is a less contentious issue than the others, elements in the reformist camps believe that they can pass it with less pushback and protests.
On Sunday, the Law committee will meet, and a new chapter of judicial reform legislation may unfold, but it could also be yet another negotiation tactic for the President's House.