Bill Allowing Knesset to Override High Court Goes to Cabinet

MK Shaked: Law would give legislators ‘last word’ in disagreements with court.

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Supreme Court Judges (from left) Edna Arbel, Eliezer Rivlin and Asher Grunis.
Supreme Court Judges (from left) Edna Arbel, Eliezer Rivlin and Asher Grunis.Credit: Gil Cohen Magen

A bill allowing the Knesset to override High Court of Justice rulings that strike down laws as unconstitutional will be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

If the bill becomes law, the Knesset is expected to use it to reenact a law permitting asylum seekers to be held indefinitely at the detention center in Holot. The High Court overturned that law last month.

The bill, submitted by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), would add an override clause to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom identical to the one that already exists in the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation. Under this clause, the Knesset can reenact laws overturned by the High Court on the grounds that they violate the Basic Law, but only if the reenacted law is approved by at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 Knesset members, rather than merely by a majority of the MKs who show up to vote. In addition, the reenacted law would automatically expire after four years.

“In recent years,” Shaked wrote in her explanatory notes to the bill, “the status of the legislative authority has undergone a process of collapse. The Supreme Court has stepped into the legislature’s shoes and doesn’t allow it room to maneuver; at times, it seems as if it doesn’t accept the fact that there is a sovereign body elected in democratic elections. It’s inconceivable that the legislature should be handcuffed by the judiciary and its status undermined time after time.

“The override clause doesn’t give the legislature a ‘pass’ from its obligation to obey the Basic Law’s values,” she continued. “The override clause is the right of elected officials to have the last word in the situation of a sincere and genuine disagreement over values between the public’s elected representatives and the court. In this situation, there is no justification for preferring the judge’s world of values to that of the public and its elected representatives.”

The bill is the latest expression of the political right’s determination to clip the wings of the High Court, which it sees as enforcing its liberal-minded will on the more conservative, security-minded majority. Right-wingers in the Knesset had expected that court President Asher Grunis would reverse the often human rights-oriented direction taken by his predecessors Dorit Beinisch and, above all, Aharon Barak, but Grunis has taken a surprising maverick stance on the bench.

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