One month ago, MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) called to set limits to the Supreme Court’s power after the court overturned a 2012 law, passed in the Knesset, as “unconstitutional.”
Now Shaked and MK Yariv Levin (Likud) are following through on her call to action with a proposal they say will restore the balance of power, and put Israel’s legislative and judicial branches back on equal footing.
“The Knesset, as the sovereign power in a democracy, has the right to the final word regarding matters of value and principle,” Shaked declared.
“Over the last 20 years there has been a constitutional revolution that has weakened the power of the executive and legislative branches, and has given preference to the judicial branch. We are interested in fixing that,” she added.
The proposal Shaked and Levin have put forth, with backing from Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, includes the following:
- Putting the Knesset in charge of electing the Supreme Court President.
- Limitations on the Supreme Court’s power to overturn laws passed by Knesset.
- Giving the Knesset new powers to vote a second time for laws that the Supreme Court has overturned. The Knesset would be allowed to vote in overturned laws with a majority of at least 61 votes, for a period of no more than four years.
- The committee to select judges would be changed to give just one seat, instead of three, to representatives from the Supreme Court.
The goal of the latter change would be to create “a committee makeup that will balance between representatives from the judicial branch and those from the legislative and executive branch, while putting an emphasis on accurately reflecting the range of public opinion,” Shaked explained.
The committee’s makeup would also give weight to legal experts from academia and elsewhere, she said.
“This proposal lends weight to the principle of separation of powers, and to the general rule that authorities do not elect themselves,” she insisted.
The introduction to the proposed bill, which will be submitted in the upcoming days, asks, “The question arises of authority: Is it fitting that, in a constitutional democracy, the judicial branch have absolute supremacy over elected representatives, or in a democracy, as a democracy, is sovereign power ultimately in the hands of the people?”
“The model presented here is the model which currently exists in Canada, and which exists in Israel when it comes to the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. Under this model, responsibility for upholding the constitution does not lie only with the Supreme Court, but also, and primarily, with the legislative branch,” it continues.
MK Levin said that for him, the latest proposal is part of an ongoing campaign to change the justice system in Israel “and return it to a more Jewish, and Zionist, track.”
The proposal changes are intended to “restore balance between the branches of power, and ensure the existence of a justice system… that will avoid interference in matters under the authority of the government and the Knesset,” he added.