Most of judicial reform plan will be scrapped, says Likud minister

Education Minister Yoav Kisch tells Army Radio that only reforms that enjoy a “consensus” will go forward.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Education Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud) said Sunday in an interview with Army Radio that the government will only move forward with parts of the  judicial reform that are part of what he dubbed a public “consensus.”

“We made the responsible decision to only promote matters that have a consensus. We made major concessions,” he said, even though the Opposition last month “blew up” the negotiations that had taken place since March under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog.

“The coalition has given up on promoting the full reform and that includes the Override Clause with a 61-vote majority as well as changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee,” he cited as examples.

The Override Clause was meant to give final legislative say back to the Knesset by allowing the plenum to override Supreme Court decisions nixing laws that had been passed. Many critics of the clause have said that only a super-majority in the Knesset should be able to overcome that kind of judicial challenge and not just a simple majority of 61 of the 120 MKs.

The Likud did this even though this was “something our [coalition] partners wanted,” he said, seemingly referring to the ultra-Orthodox parties. The current law allowing most ultra-Orthodox to get out of army duty by declaring that “Torah study is their occupation” has expired and they are afraid that a Basic Law that has been floated to enshrine their privilege will be struck down by the courts.

They have threatened to withdraw support for the government if a law protecting their followers from a blanket draft isn’t passed in the near future.

The heart of the judicial reform was supposed to be giving government representatives the majority say on who is chosen as a judge, rather than the current system, whereby Supreme Court justices have veto power on the selection committee. As of now, seven out of nine members have to agree on a suggested name, but three of the nine are judges.

Kisch also called the amended Reasonableness Clause, which passed its first reading last week “a piece of very simple legislation” that was “clear to all that it wasn’t the real subject [of the protests].”

On Tuesday, mass demonstrations and illegal road blockings, as well as attempted disruptions of the activity of Ben Gurion Airport, took place because protest leaders called the legislative move the “first slice of the salami” that would inevitably lead to a complete breakdown of democracy in the country.

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The coalition and its supporters have long claimed that the goal of the mass street protests was to overthrow the democratically elected government, whose majority proved that most citizens wanted the judicial reforms that had been touted as one of its proposed objectives.

The proposed bill will strip the Court of its ability to hold hearings on matters that are focused on the “reasonablness” of government decisions or legislation made by elected officials. Even Opposition leader Yair Lapid had stated in the past that this standard is too highly subjective to be the basis to strike down a lawfully passed decision.

Kisch stressed that “the law is to limit [its scope], not abolish it, and in any case, there is no threat to Israeli democracy.”

The second and third readings of the bill are scheduled for this week. Anti-judicial reform leaders have said that this Tuesday again will be a “Day of Disruption” where they will close major roads and try to create havoc at Ben Gurion Airport.