Editorial |

Destroying Democracy

This bill would end the era of human rights in Israel and move the country into an era with a question mark over democracy

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Ministers Bennett and Steinitz a the Knesset.
Ministers Bennett and Steinitz a the Knesset.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday cut off the branch from which human rights in Israel grow. The Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, which was passed in 1992, will become a dead letter if the government completes the process it launched Sunday and brings the “override clause” legislation, which the ministers approved Sunday, to the Knesset.

The bill approved by the committee, which was submitted as a private member’s bill by Knesset members Nissan Slomiansky and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), states that the Knesset will be able to enact laws that violate human rights enshrined in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in a disproportionate fashion. If the law passes with a regular majority of only 61 MKs, and it explicitly declares that it was enacted contrary to the Basic Law, the law will be immune from being overturned by the High Court of Justice and remain in effect for four years.

The significance of this bill, if it passes, is that the Knesset will see itself as being free to legislate any law it chooses – laws that undermine the right to equality, to human dignity, to property rights or freedom of movement. In other words, the Knesset will be given unlimited power to harm the state’s citizens and residents. This is not a bill to “overcome” the Supreme Court, but a bill that would end the era of human rights in Israel and move the country into a new era that will leave a question mark over Israel’s essence as a liberal democracy.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Habayit Hayehudi led this move to neutralize the power of the judicial system and to castrate the judiciary’s ability to provide balance and block the nationalist-annexationist right from fulfilling its dangerous desires, which contradict the basic principles of Israeli democracy. But Bennett and Shaked cannot carry out their scheme without the backing of the prime minister, who has not yet declared his position on one of the most important issues his governments have dealt with during all his years in power. Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence, absence from a vote, or any other trick will not absolve him of the primary responsibility for destroying the rule of law in this country.

After Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, ostensibly a representative of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, supported the bill, Kahlon announced that he had instructed his faction to oppose it when it comes up for its first vote in Knesset on Wednesday. Likud MKs who still consider the state’s welfare and not just their own immediate political benefit, such as Yuval Steinitz and Benny Begin, must also oppose the bill and protect the rule of law from those seeking to destroy it.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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