Israeli Ministers Pass Buck on Bill to Restrict Supreme Court's Power

In an unusual move, they left the decision up to coalition leaders; Knesset sources say the chances of passing the bill are slim.

Amit Shabi

In an unusual move, members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided not to vote on whether to advance a bill, but to assign the decision to the heads of the coalition parties.

At issue is a controversial attempt by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman to ban the Supreme Court from hearing appeals of decisions by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Knesset candidates.

“The bill is aimed at foiling the candidacies of MKs from the Balad faction, primarily MK Haneen Zoabi,” according to one of those present during the debate.

Likud ministers, who were afraid that the bill would be voted down, didn’t want to be held responsible for that failure, and preferred to pass the buck to the faction heads. However, Knesset sources said yesterday that there is agreement among the coalition factions, including the Likud, that the bill must be scuttled, thus its chances of passing are slim. If it falls, it will not have a majority in the Knesset when it is brought to a preliminary vote later this week.

The Kulanu party objects to the bill. “We think this bill endangers the status of the Supreme Court,” faction chairman Roy Folkman told Haaretz. The bill would ban Supreme Court intervention in the decisions of the Central Elections Committee and states that the committee’s decisions are “final, conclusive and indisputable.” Lieberman explained in his accompanying notes that “The Central Elections Committee lacks real authority to decide on the approval or rejection of candidates running for Knesset. This absolute power, which was given to the Supreme Court, neutralizes the power of the committee and renders its decisions meaningless. In fact, in recent years, most of the committee’s decisions on these matters have been voided by the Supreme Court.

He continued, “The Supreme Court’s foothold in the decisions by the committee is taken advantage of by sitting MKs who abandon all restraint in their comments that cross the lines of democracy in order to deliberately harm the state and its institutions.