High Court Refuses to Intervene in Squabble Over Knesset Committee Assignments

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli High Court Justice Neal Hendel. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court on Monday threw out a petition from Likud and Shas MKs to force the Bennett-Lapid coalition to apportion Knesset committee seats more fairly.

They contended that the coalition has given itself a larger majority on the major Knesset committees than has been customary and asked the court to intervene. They charged that the coalition has as many as three more members on major committees, rather than the usual one or two more than the opposition.

The three-member panel of President Esther Hayut, Justice Neal Hendel and Justice Uzi Vogelman declined to do so, saying that these are matters normally settled in negotiation between the coalition and opposition parties, and noting the irony that their parties have for years been attacking the court for allegedly overstepping its authority by meddling in legislative matters.

Vogelman was the most antagonistic toward the MKs, suggesting that they were attempting a form of “coup” by refusing to negotiate with the government or show up at Knesset hearings, but instead were seeking to use the judiciary to overturn parliamentary decisions.

The petitioners’ lawyer Ilan Bombach responded that they had turned to the High Court because the coalition had not been bargaining in good faith, giving the opposition an unfairly short deadline to respond to its offers.

Their case was also undermined by an opinion issued by the Knesset legal adviser on Monday which opposed High Court intervention on the grounds that committee appointments are “at the heart of the political role” of the Knesset.