First part of judicial reform to go to Knesset for vote next week

The Opposition parties have rejected every point in the planned reforms.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The first part of the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform plan was brought for a vote in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday, leading to its first reading in the Knesset plenum on Monday, Channel 14 reported Wednesday.

The first suggested amendment to the Basic Law: The Judiciary to be voted upon is the constriction of the Supreme Court’s self-proclaimed right of judicial review over every law passed by the Knesset – including Basic Laws.

Under the bill, the Supreme Court “will not be required, directly or indirectly, to question the validity of a Basic Law and there will be no validity to a decision made in such a matter.”

Committee chair MK Simcha Rothman told committee members that the coalition will rely on the universally respected former Supreme Court president Justice Meir Shamgar, who wrote in a 1995 opinion that “the theory of the unlimited sovereignty of the Knesset is anchored in the concept that the Knesset is the supreme legislative authority and is unlimited in its authority, except for those restrictions it sets for itself.”

Another proposal the committee will vote on is the alteration of the composition of the committee that appoints judges, including to the Supreme Court.

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Currently, three unelected sitting Supreme Court justices and two members of the Israeli Bar Association (who may want to curry favor with those judges) sit on the committee. Just four elected officials are appointed to the committee.

Under the proposed amendment, the judicial appointments committee would instead have three judges (the president of the Supreme Court and two others chosen by the Justice Minister with the approval of the chief justice); three ministers representing the executive branch, which must include the Justice Minister; and three MKs representing the legislative branch (the chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice committee, one Coalition MK and one MK from the opposition).

The government has decided to split up various judicial reform issues in an attempt to pass at least some of them in the current winter session of the Knesset.

In a Monday interview on the “Seeing Far” (Ro’im Rachok) podcast with journalist Ariel Kahane, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the main author of the reform together with Rothman, explained that “The division of the proposal into two or three parts will perhaps enable that part to be completed more quickly.”

“There is an advantage … to this because we don’t want that because of some mishap or external event we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we can’t pass anything. It would be a praiseworthy and important thing if we manage to pass one part in this session.”

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The Opposition parties have rejected every point in the planned reforms, with their blanket, publicly repeated condemnation that it all “endangers” or will “destroy” Israel’s democratic character.

Opposition MKs in the Law Committee have not put forth any kind of compromise positions in the meetings that have so far been held on the issue.

Levin believes this will change after the first reading of the bill, when it goes back to the committee for more discussion and tweaking before being presented for its intermediate and final readings in the plenum.

That’s when, he said, “They will realize that it is time to talk seriously. Then things can be concluded very quickly.”