Netanyahu Pushing Override of Laws Nixed by Top Court: 'His Real Goal Is Early Elections'

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon won't support general override power by Knesset, only a specific one regarding asylum seekers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, February 2018.
Emil salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to sponsor legislation to enable parliament to reinstate laws overturned by the Supreme Court. The legislation will be generally applicable rather than narrowly tailored to the specific issue of asylum seekers.

In fact what Netanyahu really intends is to bring about early elections, a leading member of the coalition told Haaretz.

"Briefings from the Prime Minister's Office show he wants elections," the coalition source said. "His supposed determination to enact the override law can only mean he wants to push Kahlon to the wall and find an excuse to hold elections, on the ticket of 'restoring the balance between the Knesset and the courts.'"

The court recently infuriated Netanyahu by blocking a plan to deport the asylum seekers to a third country in Africa. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is expected to oppose the prime minister's initiative.

On Wednesday at noon, the leaders of the coalition parties will be holding their weekly meeting, the first since Netanyahu announced signing an agreement with the United Nations to send half the asylum seekers in Israel to Western countries. As voices of protest arose in his own coalition, the prime minister suspended the agreement a few hours later.

Also last week, following that U-turn, Netanyahu's office stated that the prime minister planned to sponsor legislation that would allow the government to reopen the open detention facility at Holot (which had been built to hold asylum seekers, but which was recently closed down). Holot would be used to incarcerate asylum seekers, who refuse to leave the country, for up to three years. The override law would enable this law to be reinstated even if it's ruled out by the supreme court.

Meanwhile, the state is continuing its efforts to sign an agreement with Uganda that would enable Israel to send asylum seekers. But Netanyahu also worries that a deal with Uganda would obviate the need for the override law, resulting in mounting criticism on the right of his government’s failure to restrain the court’s activism. He therefore ordered Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a longtime champion of the override provision, to bring a version of the bill to Wednesday’s meeting, irrespective of the asylum seeker issue.

Kahlon supports an override clause in legislation dealing with asylum seekers but not a general override clause. A general clause fails to honor the separation of p powers in Israel, he said, and vowed to oppose it.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also favors the override clause, has decided to concede to Kahlon on this issue and agree to an override limited to the asylum seekers. He believes that if the psychological barrier to an override is broken in one bill, it will be easier to pass a general override provision later on.