Gov't Approves Friedmann's Bill to Limit Power of Supreme Court

Olmert accuses Barak of undermining him by opposing Justice Minister's proposal to limit judicial review.

The government on Sunday approved Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's controversial proposal to amend the Basic Law on the Judiciary in order to limit the Supreme Court's power.

13 ministers voted for the bill, while 11 opposed. The amendment is, in effect, aimed at limiting the High Court's judicial review of laws legislated by the Knesset.

Friedmann's proposal would only allow the Supreme Court to strike down legislation if it goes against one of the Basic Laws, such as on human dignity and freedom or on the freedom of occupation. Currently, the court can rule that a law is invalid even if it does not contradict a Basic Law.

In addition, the bill would limit the jurisdiction of other courts. The power to determine the validity of laws will be accorded to the Supreme Court in a special procedure, unlike the present situation whereby it is practically within the power of every court.

The bill also provides the Knesset with a mechanism to overrule Supreme Court decisions that reverse parliamentary legislation. The "preeminence stipulation" instructs that a law would remain valid if at least 61 MKs voted in its favor, even though the Supreme Court found it to be ineffectual.

During the vote, which took place at the weekly cabinet session, Prime Minster Ehud Olmert lashed out at Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak over his opposition to the bill.

Olmert accused Barak, a key coalition partner, of undermining him, leaking to the media and of being a serial violator of the coalition agreement. Ahead of the meeting, Barak had charged Olmert with himself violating the agreement by supporting Friedman's proposal.

At the end of Sunday's meeting, Olmert told Barak that he "made a comment that was not directed at anyone else apart from me on the subject of respecting agreements. I wish to tell you that you need an enormous lack of self-awareness in order to come to your fellow man with such complaints.

"There is no agreement that you and your party have not violated. I am amazed that you, Ehud Barak, come to talk about violating agreements. I am not speaking currently of personal matters ? that is already chutzpa of another nature, but on this I do not want to speak," the prime minister added, using the Yiddish word for utter nerve and effrontery.