Knesset Speaker Backs Bill to Overturn Laws Struck Down by Israel's Supreme Court

Reuven Rivlin says that the new legislation granting the Knesset authority over the Supreme Court is 'inevitable,' while Defense Minister Barak is 'determined' to stop it.

Jonathan Lis
Ophir Bar-Zohar
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Jonathan Lis
Ophir Bar-Zohar

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced Sunday that he intends on promoting a new basic law, proposed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, which would allow the Knesset to reinstate a law that was struck down by Israel's Supreme Court.

“This legislation is unavoidable,” said Rivlin, who disclosed plans to meet with Supreme Court President Asher Grunis to discuss the initiative.

Reuven Rivlin.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The proposed law allows for the Knesset, with a majority vote of at least 65 MKs, to overturn a Supreme Court decision declaring a law unconstitutional. During the weekend a first draft of the law was published, after previous versions had been rejected. The law is meant to introduce a system of checks and balances between the Supreme Court and the Knesset.

“The Knesset and the Supreme Court have been on a chronic collision course for 20 years, when the Knesset spilled into the judicial system in response to judicial activism," Rivlin said.

“If we had created this law back then, we would have prevented the exchange of blows between the Knesset and the Supreme Court, whose only victim is Israeli democracy,” explained Rivlin.

“We must agree today, twenty years too late, on wording that will clearly define the boundaries of each entity. It is a mutual interest,” said Rivlin.

Neeman’s proposed law has received cross-party opposition after being published in Haaretz on Sunday morning. Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed that he is opposed to the law and determined to act against it.

Meretz party leader MK Zahava Galon said that she will initiate a special discussion during the recess to discuss the Justice Minister’s proposal.

“Neeman apparently read his Haggadah incorrectly. He did not understand the meaning of the holiday of freedom when he proposed this law, said to protect freedom, but which would actually strip us of it.”

“The Supreme Court rejects laws that harm human rights. The Justice Minister proposes giving unlimited power to the destructive majority in the Knesset to cause that harm, and so we must nip this law in the bud,” said Galon.

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) also condemned the law. "It is another joke being proposed by the Ministry of Justice and its minister. Behind this law is a policy meant to harm one of the cornerstones of Israeli democracy – the Supreme Court. This foolish idea should be buried before it can poison the Israeli public sphere.”

The draft was published by the Justice Ministry late last week. Its framers hope it will eventually be presented as the long-sought Basic Law on Legislation. It contains a clause that would makes it easier for the Knesset to sidestep High Court rulings declaring laws unconstitutional.

Neeman’s proposed bill will grant the Knesset the means to overturn a Surpeme Court decision declaring a law unconstitutional. The Knesset would be allowed to overturn such a decision with a majority of at least 65 MKs, and have the power to renew the law every five years, for an unlimited amount of time.

This bill differs from one recommended by a public commission convened in 2004 to study the issue. That committee recommended a majority of at least 70 MKs to reinstate a law that had been struck down by the High Court of Justice. It also recommended that even if the law was revived, it could be extended only once for a period of five years. The recommendation was accepted by then Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak.