Daily Israel Report

Ministers Threaten Legislative Override of Supreme Court

The sixteen year power-struggle between the Knesset and Supreme Court over judicial decisions may come to a head in Beit El.
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/7/2012, 8:56 PM

Saar and Livnat
Saar and Livnat
משרד החינוך

Ministers in the Netanyahu government on Monday said the Supreme Court's decision to reject the State's appeal for more time to find a way to normalize the status of Beit El's threatened Ulpana neighborhood would force them to pursue "a legislative solution."

Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said, "The High Court decision on the Ulpana neighborhood is simply unfair. We must consider the possibility of legislation to prevent the demolition of houses there."

Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud) said, "Given the Court's decision in this case, as well as in Migron, it seems inevitable legislation is the only way we can normalize the status of communities that have - for many years - existed with permission and assistance from the state."

Minister of Transportation Israel Katz (Likud) said the High Court had reached "a wrong decision and overrode the public will. We can't stand for it. The Israeli government must act quickly and legislate a solution that will prevent the destruction of these homes."

Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) said he had begun coordinating with the other coalition factions to postpone dissolving the Knesset in order to enact legislation to normalize the Ulpana neighborhood.

He said the Supreme Court should not be allowed to usurp the Cabinet and dictate the government's political agenda, "We must reject the [immediate] dissolution of the Knesset and pass legislation that will legalize the Ulpana neighborhood."

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud) said, “We cannot dissolve the Knesset without making arrangements for such a law" to save the Ulpana neighborhood. 

“The Likud, which flies the flag of settlement, cannot leave behind a legacy of destroyed homes and evicted residents,” he added.

Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein (Likud), also sharply rebuked the court, "These are normal families paying a mortages on houses built with the assistance of the Ministry of Housing!"

"As we warned more than once," Edelstein said, “If we are not allowed to negotiate a solution, then we will legislate one. I want to meet the hero who will dare to turn the Dicksteins, who lost family members on a bloody terror attack, out of their home."

Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a government request for an additional 90 days in which to find a way to legalize five homes slated for destruction after it the the seller of the land on which they were built had his ownership questioned by an Arab of the same name who claimed to be the owner  - and who wanted it back.

It took the government a year to file its request to give it time to find a solution. The courts were outraged that their decision was left hanging for a year and that the government then decided to ask for it to be changed.

The issue has also dredged up an ongoing controversy about the Supreme Court's exercise of judicial review to nullify laws – and in this case, government policies – it deems “unconstitutional” in the absence of a formal Israeli constitution.

Sixteen years ago the Israeli Supreme Court decided in the Mizrahi case that Israel's "Basic Laws" amount to Israel's formal Constitution and it enjoys the power of judicial review

However, in the absence of a clear separation of powers between branches of government in Israel's Basic Laws – including those of the court itself – the extent of that power, and whether it is exercised prudently, remains deeply connected to the personality of the sitting justices.

Critics say that judicial review – as it has been wielded to date – has raised disturbing and difficult questions about the sovereign will of Israel’s voters when government policies concerning diplomatic, political, and security issues are overridden.

Should the ministers succeed in delaying the dissolution of the Knesset and passing legislation to normalize the Ulpana neighborhood, Prime Minister Netanyahu could be faced with an [informal] constitutional crisis.