Knesset speaker warns of constitutional crisis if high court annuls nation-state law

Knesset speaker says High Court has no right to adjudicate a Basic Law properly passed by the Knesset.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) firmly decried last week’s decision by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut to convene an expanded panel of 11 judges to hear the combined petitions against the Nation-State Law.

Considering that the Nation-State Law was passed by the Knesset in July as a quasi-constitutional Basic Law, “the natural thing to do with these petitions should have been to throw them all out and warn the petitioners to withdraw them before we make you pay the legal expenses,” Edelstein said, in an interview on Channel 20 Sunday night.

The fact that the judges intend to hear the arguments against the law anyway concerns Edelstein.

“I still hope it doesn’t happen,” he said, “but if the High Court intervenes against a Basic Law that the Knesset legislated” – a law which, he noted, was discussed for years and received the input of ‘serious people’ from all sides of the political map – “we will be facing an unprecedented constitutional crisis.”

“It will be a fight over who really controls this country,” he added. “I hope we don’t come to that point.”

Only cases of constitutional significance are heard by a full panel of High Court judges, but as Edelstein noted, “There is no judicial construct that allows the High Court to annul a Basic Law.”

“There’s no such thing,” he emphasized.

Two groups filed petitions against the Nation-State Law, which, as its supporters say, strengthens the Jewish identity of the state and declares, among other things, that while everyone has individual rights in the country, national rights in Israel belong solely to the Jewish people.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel is arguing that this is unconstitutional. It also says that the new law officially turns minorities into second-class citizens and that this violates another Basic Law, regarding Human Dignity and Liberty.

Meanwhile, proponents of the law have stated that it does not mention the equality of all Israeli citizens, the democratic nature of the state or other rights because those aspects have already been covered in the other Basic Laws, which the Nation-State Law is complementing, not overturning.

Representatives of the Druze sector want to nullify only certain parts of the law that they say create “race-based discrimination” that would cause “a growing rift between Jews and non-Jews and give voice to extremism, nationalism, sectarianism and cause irreversible social and civic damages.”

The court acceded to the state’s request to delay the hearing on the matter until March 12.