Netanyahu Ready to Hear Counter Offers on Judicial Overhaul

By Shmuel Smith

Justice Minister Yariv Levin. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin are indicating some flexibility in the proposed judicial reforms.

Levin said that he would be willing to discuss raising the number of MKs needed to override the High Court, according to Haaretz on Wednesday.

Levin wants to enable the Knesset to override the court by a simple majority of 61.

“One can argue about this or that majority on overriding a law, but the basic principles cannot and will not be compromised because they are necessary and required,” Levin was quoted as saying.

Opponents of the law—those who would be willing to discuss override at all—have argued that a simple majority would make it too easy for a government to negate the High Court and create an imbalance of power. Some have suggested that 70 might be an acceptable number for compromise.

National Unity chief Benny Gantz has said he would support override if threshold were  80 MKs.

Levin did not say what number he would accept.

Netanyahu‏‏ told CNN on Tuesday that he is ready to “hear counter offers” to the judicial overhaul.

Explaining his government’s position to the American audience, which has been barraged with warnings that the reforms will destroy the judiciary, end democracy and wreck the economy, he said:

“Israel is right now an outlier, Israel has the most extreme judicial activism that’s gone off the rails and we’re trying to bring it back to where just about all the democracies are, both in the selection of judges and the balance between the various branches of government,” Netanyahu said.

“Correcting or restoring Israeli democracy will make democracy stronger, [the] judiciary will remain independent, the rule of law will remain independent. Property rights, which I hold sacrosanct, [the] independent enforcement of contracts, it’s [all] going to be there,” he said.

Meanwhile, Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, rejected High Court Justice Esther Hayut’s reported demand on Channel 13 that the government halt its legislative initiatives on the matter and that a mediation process over the reforms be started instead.

“Committee debate is the lifeblood of Israeli democracy and anyone who seeks to stop it as a condition for dialogue doesn’t really want dialogue,” Rothman declared in a committee hearing.

“If I were to say that I would halt the reforms as long as the High Court stops its hearings, doesn’t strike down laws or appointments, does not hear [petitions] on policy matters, and a freeze in the situation until we speak, there would be people who would rightly say that I’m interfering with judicial independence and harming the separation of powers.

“The president of the Court’s attempt to interfere in legislative proceedings in the Knesset is a serious violation of the separation of powers, and the entire Knesset, coalition and opposition, should say that this is unacceptable.”

Rothman invited Hayut to appear before the committee herself, saying he would “give her all the time in the world” and that “we will listen attentively to what she has to say.”

Meanwhile, the most extreme note of intransigence so far was heard on Wednesday as a senior Israeli lawyer told a conference in Eilat that he would take up arms against the government if they try to implement judicial overhaul.

“I won’t live a day under a dictatorship,” David Hodek was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel. “If someone dares to force me to live in a dictatorship, and I have no other choice — I will fight against him with live fire.”

Hodek won a Medal of Courage, one of the Israeli military’s highest awards, for his conduct as a tank officer in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

He said the government underestimates the anger and opposition towards its plans.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!