The judicial reform reasonableness standard bill may be voted on in the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Tuesday, panel chairman Simcha Rothman said after a preparatory session for the legislation on Monday, which was held as disruptive protests took place nationwide and a military operation unfolded in Jenin.
“I really hope that we’ll vote on a version this week,” Rothman said of the bill. “Many speakers came, registered, spoke, both today and also last week.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli said that holding a vote “without hearing the opinions of the experts on the subject, without understanding what a tremendous loophole this law will open for governmental corruption and rotten appointments, and all this in a quick legislative blitz during a military operation is extremely unreasonable and very dangerous for Israeli democracy.”
She warned that protests would intensify in response.
The new bill, the first reform legislation since the freeze in late March, would prevent judicial review or hearing of cases on the administrative decisions of elected officials. What constitutes an elected official would be “determined by law.”
Opposition criticizes the session's timing
A reasonableness standard allows courts to strike government administrative decisions that are deemed beyond the scope of a reasonable and responsible authority.
Rothman said at the beginning of the session that a main issue with the standard was its subjective application and interpretation, and could be used to replace the authority of the government.
Opposition members attacked the decision by Rothman to continue with the session despite the military operation.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv asked why the bill couldn’t wait another few days, adding that he asked Rothman an hour prior to the session to delay the hearing.
Likud MK Tally Gotliv shot back that the opposition should delay the protest at Ben-Gurion Airport. Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar said that the opposition backed the military operation but asked why there was an urgency to hold the hearing.
Potential softening of the bill
“Stop the race, this isn’t a suitable date for the discussion,” said Elharrar.
Rothman responded that he wished for the success of IDF soldiers in Jenin but that the attempt to drag them into a political debate was inappropriate, and that the situation shouldn’t be used as a filibuster.
Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovitz said it was suitable for the government to continue with legislation despite the military operation. He said it was also in character that while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said that the override clause, which would allow the Knesset to overturn judicial review of legislation, was out, the ultra-Orthodox draft law was on the agenda. The United Torah Judaism Party sought to avoid the mass drafting of haredi youth, and while the override law was a method to achieving this, if there was a replacement draft law it wouldn’t be necessary.
Concerns over the reasonableness standard
Segalovitz also asked about rumors that there would be a softening of the bill. Committee legal adviser Gur Bligh said there would be a gap in the legal tools, and requested that research be done to examine what types of decisions should be excluded rather than restricting based on government position.
Gotliv complained that there was already very little left of the reform, and she felt like a dog being given scraps. If reasonableness was struck down, she said it was likely that the High Court of Justice would use a new tool to review administrative decisions.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Nir said it came to the reasonable standard, they were discussing a measure used in rare instances in very extreme situations, and addressing such situations was in the best interest of the public.
Legislators debate the reasonableness standard's implications
“Restriction of the reasonableness standard will create permission for corruption,” said Nir. “Where is the public interest?”
Rothman said he wished that it wasn’t necessary to pass such a law, and that the court had used the standard only sparingly in extreme cases, but that had not been the situation.
Bligh said that approximately 200 petitions based on reasonableness were heard by the court in 10 years, and that 25 petitions had been accepted, meaning that an average of two and a half petitions were accepted per year.
As protesters gathered to demonstrate on Monday, Likud MK Moshe Saada said the opposition was using the bill to knock down the government.
“You’re taking a legal and academic issue and taking it to a place of hate,” said Saada.
Kariv was removed from the session for interrupting, shouting, “we will not allow you to hijack legislation. We will not allow this disgraceful legislative blitz in our name.”