Netanyahu Government to Debate New Law Designed to Undermine Supreme Court Powers

Ministerial committee to discuss bill that would enact the so-called 'British model' that bars top court from overriding laws legislated by Knesset

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the heads of the parties in the governing coalition will meet Sunday to discuss a bill that would block the Supreme Court from overturning laws, despite the opposition of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to such legislation.

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Kahlon heads the Kulanu party, a member of the coalition and sources told Haaretz in the past the law is the latest attempt by Netanyahu to push Israel towards an early election by jeopardizing his ruling coalition.

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On Sunday the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is scheduled to discuss a version of the bill based on the so-called British model. It would prohibit the court from overriding laws, allowing it only to alert the legislature to a contradiction between the law and Israel’s Basic Laws, which are constitutional.

Sources who spoke with Kahlon over the weekend told a reporter that he maintains his opposition to a sweeping override and will only agree to a legislative override limited to a law that would allow for the detention and/or expulsion of asylum seekers.

At a Saturday morning panel discussion in Nes Tziona, Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen of Kulanu said his party had not changed its mind. Kulanu MK Roy Folkman was more decisive, saying “there will not be an override clause; Israel is not a banana republic.”

On Friday, Folkman posted a long explanation on Facebook of his resistance to the override clause, but added that he agreed that the Supreme Court intervenes where it shouldn’t.

“It’s possible, and necessary, to criticize [the court] and also to repair its relations with the Knesset; for example, by requiring a very special majority of 11 justices to overturn a law, and even to allow a large Knesset majority to override the court, while preserving the protected status of the Basic Laws.”

Officials from other coalition parties said they viewed Folkman’s post as an invitation to discuss the issue and reach a compromise.

Even if the bill is approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a clause in the coalition agreement exempts Kulanu from having to vote with the coalition parties regarding the override clause.

As a result, the bill won’t have the votes it needs to pass in the Knesset. Kahlon has been keeping a low profile on the issue, reportedly in the hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will back down.