Bill Allowing Knesset to Override High Court Decisions Hits Snag

Some coalition lawmakers say they will not support move.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The High Court of Justice.
The High Court of Justice.Credit: Michal Fattal
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A bill to let the Knesset override High Court of Justice rulings that overturn laws will never pass, senior coalition officials promised Wednesday.

The bill is slated to be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. But even if that committee approves it, one senior coalition official said, “We’ll make sure to file an appeal and bury it.”

In theory, once the ministerial committee approves a bill, the coalition is obligated to support it in the Knesset. But the committee’s decisions can be appealed to the cabinet, effectively putting the bill on ice until the cabinet decides.

The bill, an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, essentially replicates the override clause that already exists in the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation. It says that should the High Court overturn a law because it violates the Basic Law, the Knesset can reenact the law, but only with the support of at least 61 of its 120 members. The reenacted law would automatically expire after four years.

It’s not yet clear how much support the bill has in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, or even how many of the panel’s 12 members will actually show up to vote. Habayit Hayehudi’s two ministers on the committee are expected to support the bill, as are Yisrael Beiteinu’s three ministers. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) opposes it, and Yesh Atid’s two ministers are expected to join her, though that party hasn’t officially decided yet.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) urged the government to consider passing such legislation just last month, after the High Court struck down a law allowing asylum seekers to be held indefinitely at the open detention facility in Holot. But it’s not yet clear how he will actually vote.

Likud sources said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to throw his weight behind the bill, which was sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi). The main purpose of the bill is to let the Knesset reenact the Holot law that allows asylum seekers to held at the detention facility, one party activist noted, “but Netanyahu told the interior minister to draft a new version of the overturned law, while taking the High Court’s instructions into account; he didn’t say he intended to do battle against the justices’ decision.”

If he wanted to, the activist added, the prime minister could either ensure that Shaked’s bill passed or have the government sponsor a similar bill. “But for now, Netanyahu prefers not to clash with the High Court on this issue.”

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