Habayit Hayehudi Pushing Legislation to Increase Settlement Construction

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Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett on Election Day, March 17, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

In coalition negotiations with Likud on Monday, Habayit Hayehudi demanded that the new government’s guidelines include support for a bill to alter the Israeli justice system, and an increase in construction of settlements in the West Bank.

The right-wing, largely religious party tried to advance this legislation in the previous government, but failed.

Habayit Hayehudi’s representatives in the coalition negotiations demanded the advance of legislation to weaken the judiciary in relation to the Knesset. One of their demands was to enable the Knesset to reenact a law that the High Court of Justice had struck down because it contradicted the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

They also insisted on reducing the number of Supreme Court judges on the Judicial Appointments Committee and thus increase the influence of the politicians on the panel. The Likud’s representatives said they would examine the request and respond in the next few days.

Both parties said they were examining how to draft Habayit Hayehudi’s demand to include an increase in settlement construction in the government’s guidelines.

MK Yariv Levin, a member of Likud’s negotiation team, said he would advance the changes in the Judicial Appointments Committee as part of broader legislation he was planning to change “the face of Israel’s justice system.”

The two parties also agreed to advance legislation restricting NGOs – in effect, leftist NGOs – from raising funds from foreign states. The final draft submitted by Habayit Hayehudi stipulates that an NGO seeking a tax exemption for a contribution from a foreign state will require the approval of the defense and foreign ministers and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Habayit Hayehudi sources said no real progress was made on Monday but they believed Likud was interested in the party’s joining the coalition. During the campaign, Habayit Hayehudi, headed by Naftali Bennett, claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preferred a coalition with Zionist Union.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again next Monday.

The ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are not negotiating during the Passover holiday, but political sources told Haaretz that the two parties and Likud are in agreement on most issues.

However, Habayit Hayehudi objects to a number of understandings that Likud reached with Shas and UTJ. Habayit Hayehudi objects to the ultra-Orthodox parties’ demand to cancel the conversion reform that Habayit Hayehudi had helped to bring about in the previous government’s term.

Habayit Hayehudi also objects to revoking criminal sanctions in the draft law, as this would enable ultra-Orthodox men to dodge the draft without facing any penalties for breaking the law.

Another of the party’s demands is for a majority of 61 MKs to be able to reenact laws struck down by the High Court of Justice, even though the High Court ruled that these laws contradicted Basic Laws, which have quasi-constitutional standing. A law such as Habayit Hayehudi demands would allow the revival, for instance, of the so-called Infiltration Law that sought to further criminalize asylum-seekers. .

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