Israeli Justice Minister: Flood of Bills Submitted to Knesset Eroding Democracy

In the year and a half since the current Knesset took office, it has received more than 3,200 bills.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked delivers a speech during a conference in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, June 6, 2016.
Tamas Kovacs, MTI via AP

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said this week the growing number of bills being submitted to the Knesset reflected “excessive intervention in our lives” and an erosion of freedom.

Shaked was backed up by the liberal think tank the Israel Democracy Institute.

“The freedom of each and every one of us is severely harmed by competition over legislation among Knesset members, by excessive intervention in our lives,” she said, speaking at a conference Tuesday of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv.

Shaked noted how the first Knesset after the country’s founding, which lasted around two and a half years, passed just 13 pieces of legislation. But the 18th Knesset, which was voted into office in 2009 and served four years, passed more than 500 bills.

As justice minister, Shaked also chairs the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which decides whether the governing coalition will support bills. Because the government has a majority, the committee’s decision usually decides the legislation’s fate.

Shaked said that of the last 1,500 bills the committee has received, it has put a halt to 1,100.

“I view the Ministerial Committee for Legislation as the trusted gatekeeper of the people,” she said, adding that the panel “understands that there is no need for a flood of unnecessary legislation.”

Later in the day, the Israel Democracy Institute made similar remarks, noting that of 12 democracies it had surveyed, Israel holds the record on legislation initiated as private member bills unlike bills initiated by the government.

In the century’s first decade, more than 12,000 bills were submitted to the Knesset. In the same period, this number was about 1,600 for the Finnish parliament, 900 for the British parliament and just 155 for Denmark, the institute said.

And the trend is continuing. In the year and a half since the current Knesset took office, it has received more than 3,200 bills, compared with 2,921 bills at the start of the previous Knesset, the institute said.

Shaked also addressed this month’s cabinet resolution enshrining conclusions of the Dorner committee on sentencing. Shaked began her term seeking to stiffen penalties for stone-throwing, but she now says she supports a proposal that stiffer penalties be vetted by a research department set up at her ministry.

“We cannot accept a new-rules situation that deprives a person convicted of a crime of his freedom without first examining if such a drastic step can be avoided,” Shaked said.

Tuesday’s conference was also addressed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who seemed to suggest that the corruption inquiry into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not drag on.

“I am aware of the importance of providing the public with information on activities being carried out by law enforcement, particularly relating to inquiries and investigations concerning holders of public office,” he said. “I see great importance in having them performed quickly, as is happening now.”

But Mendelblit, who announced the inquiry about two months ago, cautioned: “In this sensitive area of law enforcement and determining the truth, we must constantly strike a balance between the desire to inform the public ... and considerations for the investigation.”