Israel’s Knesset Legal Adviser Agrees to Fast-track Government’s Judicial Overhaul

The decision paves the way for the Netanyahu coalition’s far-ranging proposals to weaken the High Court and judicial oversight over government legislation

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the far-right government's plans for judicial overhaul.
Protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the far-right government's plans for judicial overhaul.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Israel’s Knesset legal adviser, Sagit Afik, permitted on Wednesday for the government to fast-track three key bills advancing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led far-right coalition’s plan for a judicial overhaul.

Afik informed the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman, Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman that she allows the Basic Law on Legislation to be fast-tracked through the committee he heads.

The Basic Law on Legislation includes three central elements of the far-right’s judicial overhaul agenda: legislating an override clause that would enable the Knesset to pass legislation a second time – by a vote of 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset – that had been invalidated by the court; eliminating the courts’ reasonableness standard – one of the grounds on which last week the court invalidated the appointment of Arye Dery as interior and health minister; strengthening the power of the governing coalition on the Judicial Appointments Committee.

At the same time, Afik told Rothman that it is not possible to fast-track the proposal for the Basic Law on Government, which refers to the status of the legal advisers in the government offices.

The proposal, which was submitted by Rothman, aims to significantly diminish the position of government legal advisers, allowing the prime minister and ministers to defy their advice.

The significance of advancing bills through the committee is that there is no need to approve them in a preliminary hearing in the Knesset, there is no requirement to open them up for public comment, and they only need to be formulated with the Knesset’s legal advisers in the committee.

In her letter to Rothman, Afik said that the committee must hold detailed deliberations on the Basic Law on Legislation before advancing to the Knesset. On Sunday, the committee will resume deliberations, dealing with the issues included in these bills.

Rothman said that he welcomes Afik’s decision to fast-track the judicial overhaul, although he would have preferred if the status of ministerial legal advisers was also included in the deliberations. Even so, he announced he would not bring this issue before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

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