The judicial reform reasonableness bill continued its slow advance to the Knesset plenum on Wednesday as the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee slogged through votes on 27,674 reservations through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
By Wednesday noon, the committee had 1,000 revisions and 50 votes left. After a break of several hours at noon, the panel reconvened Wednesday night.
The votes repeatedly devolved into arguments and shouting matches, with opposition members demanding input by legal advisers into regulations and voting procedure. Committee chairman Simcha Rothman said Labor MK Gilad Kariv and Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz had come to scream to disrupt the votes, and temporarily removed them from the session. Labor MK Merav Michaeli was almost ejected from the committee room.
“You trample on every basic standard of human behavior,” Michaeli accused Rothman.
Dispute arose about the voting, when opposition members claimed that some coalition MKs had signaled they were for and against reservations at the same time on multiple votes. They also claimed some votes were not counted correctly. A letter was filed to the Knesset legal adviser calling for them to explore these claims.
Kariv called for the some 1375 requests to be justified individually and voted on
"There are about 1300 revision requests that we require to be justified," said Kariv. "There is a limit to how many things can be imposed on the opposition."
Coalition chairman MK Ofir Katz said 18 hours had already been devoted to discussion of reservations, and when he was in the opposition they were not given such extensive deliberation periods.
Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik said the decision was at the discretion of the committee chairman. They were not required to discuss the reasoning for each individual request, and the previously established practice was to streamline the process when there were so many revision requests.
National Unity MK Ze’ev Elkin said he still hoped that rumored negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would bear fruit.
The Black Robes protest group, which represents attorneys against the reform, rejected the idea of compromise on Wednesday.
“The proposed amendment to cancel the reasonableness standard is not acceptable even to the prominent critics of the standard and it will severely damage Israel’s democratic strength,” said the group. “The only way for real negotiations is to immediately stop the predatory legislative process. Action must be taken to establish a public committee that will formulate broad agreements.”
Voting on the reservations had been conducted in groupings of 20 after the bill received a record amount of revision requests. If rejected, the reservations can be attached to the text for the Knesset plenum to vote on. The bill is expected to reach the Knesset table for final readings on Sunday.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tweeted on Wednesday that the opposition should boycott the vote, or else legitimize the legislation.
“I call on the members of the opposition to join the Yisrael Beytenu faction, and boycott the vote, we must reveal the true face of the coalition members, who are probably inspired by the ayatollah regime in Tehran,” said Liberman.
The reasonableness standard is a common law doctrine that allows judicial review of government administrative practices, and their striking if they are deemed extremely beyond what a responsible and reasonable authority would decide. The bill would restrict the courts from applying the standard to the administrative decisions of the prime minister and ministers.
Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.