Court Override Law Passes Ministers’ Vote; First Knesset Vote Set for Wednesday

Education Minister Naftali Bennett. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

The Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday approved for Knesset legislation the High Court Override Law proposed by Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. The law was accepted for Knesset legislation by all ministers present at the meeting – with the law’s single most vociferous opponent in the coalition, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, absent from the vote Sunday. Also absent was Culture Minister Miri Regev, who said that she did not feel well, but praised the law’s approval by the ministers.

Under the law, the law will allow the Knesset to override High Court vetoes of laws passed by the Knesset if 61 MKs vote in favor of the override. According to Bennett, the law is a compromise that should satisfy both those opposed to a Knesset law that would prevent the court from overruling the Knesset altogether, and those who do not want to see any change in the current system, under which the Knesset must devise new legislation if the court rejects a specific measure.

Bennett and Shaked expressed satisfaction at the committee’s approval. “Today the government has begun the process of building a proper wall of separation between the three distinct authorities” – the government, Knesset, and court system, the two said in a statement. “The interference of the High Court in decisions and legislation of the government and the Knesset has long gone past the accepted norms.” Bennett also thanked ministers for their support, saying that the approval was “a great day for Israeli democracy.”

The committee discussed the bill despite efforts by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to again postpone the vote, after he succeeded in doing so last week. The bill had originally been set to be presented to the committee last Sunday, but Bennett and Shaked acceded to Netanyahu’s request to postpone it by a week. Earlier Sunday, the two said they would not postpone it again. Speaking at the cabinet meeting earlier Sunday, Netanyahu said that his purpose in asking for the delay was to build up coalition support for it – a likely reference to Kahlon, the only minister who threatened to vote against the bill. Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, also a member of Kahlon’s Kulanu party, voted in favor of the bill.

The next step for the bill will be presenting it to the Knesset for a vote on its first reading, which is set for Wednesday. Analysts said that it was likely, however, that Bennett and Shaked would seek to postpone this vote, as several key players they are relying on to promote the bill among coalition members – including Netanyahu himself, as well as Yerushalayim and Diaspora Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, will be in Moscow, conducting talks with President Vladimir Putin.

That estimation was further prompted by a social media post by Yoel Hasson, Zionist Camp whip, that the opposition would in this case not observe the usual custom of holding back the equivalent number of MKs to vote commensurate with members of the coalition who are unable to attend, because of prior commitments, illness, or other reasons. In the post, Hasson wrote that “the law is an illegitimate one that harms the public interest and is bad for democracy, and we do not intend to help the coalition pass it.”