Grunis and Rivlin Set to Meet Over Bill That Would Allow MKs to Resurrect Laws Struck Down by Court

Knesset Speaker and Justice Minister hope to pass bill during the Knesset's upcoming session to the court's dismay.

Supreme Court President Asher Dan Grunis and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin are expected to disagree Sunday on a proposed bill that would give the Knesset the power to override the court after the court strikes down laws as unconstitutional.

Rivlin and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, whose ministry drafted the legislation, hope to pass the bill during the Knesset's upcoming session, but Grunis and the other justices have major reservations.

Justice Asher Grunis - Tomer Appelbaum - 29112011
Tomer Appelbaum

The bill consists of a draft of a Basic Law on Legislation that would regulate the relationship between the court and the Knesset. Israel has no constitution, but the Knesset has passed a number of basic laws over the years that have constitutional status.

Sunday's meeting will be the first working meeting between Grunis and Rivlin. A court source said Grunis is expected to criticize what he views as the relatively small number of Knesset members the bill stipulates for reinstating laws found unconstitutional. The bill would require 65 of the 120 MKs.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman
Emil Salman

Grunis is also expected to take issue with a provision that would allow reinstituted laws to remain in force indefinitely. The initial override would take effect for five years, but the action could be renewed any number of times by the Knesset.

Over the years, proposals have been made to create a Basic Law on Legislation, including one by a public committee headed by Neeman when he was a lawyer in private practice. That proposal, issued in 2004, would require 70 MKs to override a Supreme Court ruling that legislation is unconstitutional. That proposal would limit the duration of laws reinstated by an override to five years.

Neeman has not explained the differences between the basic law currently being proposed and the one he supported in 2004.

Last week, Grunis bitterly criticized the Justice Ministry's current draft, which was written without consultation with the Supreme Court and released just before Passover.

"It seems unnecessary to mention that such an important document to our constitutional form of government should be submitted after consideration by the Supreme Court and in consultation with it," Grunis said at a swearing-in ceremony for judges.

Grunis said the new bill creates a number of problems that deserve thorough discussion and could have negative consequences in the long run. He noted differences between the current proposal and previous ones, including the one proposed in 2004 by Neeman's panel, which Grunis said struck a better balance between parliament and the judiciary.

According to a court source, the Supreme Court justices are united in their criticism of the current draft. He was referring to the modest requirement of 65 MKs to override laws and the unlimited number of times the Knesset could renew the five-year periods of reinstatement.

"It's clear the proposal is a bad one, and it's very different from the one Neeman proposed in the past," the source said. "A 65-MK majority is relatively small. And, relatively easily, it would permit the overriding of laws struck down by the high court, something [the court] does sparingly in any event."

The source said he thought the bill in its current form damages Supreme Court's standing.