Israel's Justice Minister Defends Bill Allowing MKs to Bypass High Court

Yaakov Neeman says the bill would strengthen the status of basic laws, but opponents of the bill say it would do away with judicial review of legislation passed by Knesset.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman insists that all the criticism being leveled against his proposed Basic Law on Legislation is proof that the law is correct and necessary. The minister made that argument to a Knesset plenum yesterday, at a special recess session focused on the bill, initiated by one of its harsh critics, MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).

The proposed bill would give the Supreme Court the right to invalidate Knesset legislation if the court rules it conflicts with a basic law. But it also allows the Knesset to override the court by passing the law again, if 65 Knesset members vote for the override.

Neeman - Fitoussi - 19.4.12
Olivier Fitoussi

Neeman says the bill would set regulations for legislation, deal with the authority for legislating a constitution, and establish that basic laws take precedence over regular laws, by requiring their cancellation or amendment to go through four readings. "We are aiming to strengthen the status of the basic laws and assure that they cannot be altered with a regular majority. That's anti-democratic?" he asked.

But Gal-On says by proposing the law, Neeman has revealed his desire to "conspire against democracy in the State of Israel. He wants the last world to rest with the Knesset, and to do away with judicial review. That way the aggressive majority can decide to undermine human rights, as with other legislative initiatives we've had here recently."

The proposal was also criticized by Minister Benny Begin (Likud), who suggested the proposal be rewritten to reflect the recommendations of a committee Neeman himself had headed in 2004, which required the votes of at least 70 MKs to override the high court, rather than 65.

Neeman rejected accusations that he had tried to sneak the proposal past MKs by releasing it just before Pesach, saying the delay in its publication was technical and that he had showed it to then-Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch in 2010.