Likud to Force Future Coalition Partners to Pass anti-Court Laws

Bills would increase government's power in choosing High Court justices, president.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 25, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 25, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

Likud will require its future coalition partners to vote in favor of bills that would weaken the Supreme Court, a senior Likud official said Sunday.

Likud and Habayit Hayehudi lawmakers are planning a series of controversial laws that would change the face of the Supreme Court, including changing the seniority policy in the appointment of the Supreme Court president, and reducing the number of Supreme Court justices on the Judicial Appointments Committee, all of which would give the government more control over the court. Likud on Sunday presented to Kulanu the list of bills involving the judicial system that it intends to promote in the next Knesset, and Kulanu is expected to give its response over the next few days.

Likud and Habayit Hayehudi are concerned that freeing Kulanu from coalition discipline on these bills would dissolve the automatic majority needed for the bills’ passage.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet Monday with President Reuven Rivlin to ask for an extension to form the coalition.

According to the Basic Law on the Government, the president may grant an extension of up to 14 days on top of the initial 28-day period to form a coalition. The meeting was moved up at Rivlin’s request so it wouldn’t be held on Memorial Day.

According to political assessments, Netanyahu is likely to be able to form a right-wing government with the support of 67 MKs. The coalition is expected to include Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi despite the difficulties in hammering out a deal with these two factions.

Senior Likud sources told Haaretz that the goal is to reach accords with Kulanu, United Torah Judaism and Shas this week, even if the official coalition agreements are not signed before Netanyahu meets with Rivlin. However, sources in the various parties said the gaps remained wide with more bargaining needed.

Likud has presented its future coalition partners with the conditions it wants to include in the government guidelines. These include the passage of a pair of two-year budgets and passage of a “national projects” bill that will allow the party to expedite reforms.

As for the bill on Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, some of whose clauses are opposed by the ultra-Orthodox parties, it has been agreed that a committee including representatives of all the factions will formulate a version to be brought before the Knesset.

A Likud source said the ultra-Orthodox parties’ problems with the bill as it now stands involve “nuances” that can be resolved. “The new version will be brought to a vote with an automatic majority in favor,” the source said.

Likud has rejected the idea of giving Kulanu lawmakers freedom to vote their conscience on controversial bills, including those involving the Supreme Court.

Other disputes between the parties still to be resolved include Habayit Hayehudi’s demand that the party’s chairman, Naftali Bennett, become foreign minister. Likud expects that the portfolio will remain in the hands of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman.

Likud wants the Religious Services Ministry to go to Shas. However, because Habayit Hayehudi also wants it, Likud is considering alternatives, including appointing a Likud minister to the post, whose deputies would be from Shas and Habayit Hayehudi. Sources close to the negotiations, however, reported some progress in talks between Netanyahu and Bennett.

Likud sources said Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon, expected to be appointed finance minister, is likely to be given responsibility for the Planning Administration, which is currently under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, over the objections of the intended interior minister, Arye Dery.

One solution to this problem would be to appoint Dery transportation minister, but sources in Likud said this is not likely to happen, and they are seeking other alternatives.

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