Chief Justice Agrees to Meet Netanyahu Only if He Puts Off Bill Discussion

The bill will allow the Knesset to override High Court invalidation of a law

FILE PHOTO: Israeli chief justice Esther Hayut, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin attend a ceremony in Jerusalem, November 1, 2017.
Marc Israel Sellem

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut on Monday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu she would only meet him this coming Sunday if he put off the ministerial discussion, which is scheduled for that day, of a bill allowing the Knesset to override the High Court of Justice invalidation of a law.

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She asked that the debate by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation be put off for at least a week to allow for a businesslike discussion of the issue, and the prime minister agreed. The meeting, which Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is also to attend, has not yet been scheduled.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted part of his Habayit Hayehudi party’s coalition agreement with Likud in anticipation of the ministerial committee meeting on the bill. “The override clause: Our demand to legislate in the format of 61 MKs [needed to override the court] is not surprise,” Bennett wrote. “Likud signed a clear coalition agreement [on this issue]. Agreements must be upheld. I expect Likud’s full support this coming Sunday. We will restore the proper balance between the branches [of government].”

Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, who submitted the bill that the ministerial committee was meant to discuss, slammed Hayut and Netanyahu. “Unbelievable chutzpah. Blatant judicial interference in the work of the government and the Knesset. The [court] president isn’t doing the prime minister any favors by deigning to meet with him,” Smotrich tweeted. “I don’t recall that she met with him before she invalidated Knesset laws without blinking. If Netanyahu gives in he is crushing all of us to the ground and proves that he is simply not a leader.”

The bill submitted by Smotrich would add the override clause to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the ministers that the preferred majority for a bill like this would be 70 MKs, but that he was prepared to defend the bill against High Court challenges even if the majority called for is 61 MKs.

Two months ago Bennett and Shaked circulated a 61-MK draft bill that also required a panel of nine High Court justices to invalidate laws, and only by a two-thirds majority, but they dropped it, seeing it likely wouldn’t pass.