New Coalition Crisis?
Jewish Home issues ultimatum

Education Minister warns PM his party will drop support for coalition in Knesset if Override Clause limiting Supreme Court not advanced.

David Rosenberg ,

Binyamin Netanyahu with Naftali Bennett
Binyamin Netanyahu with Naftali Bennett
Miriam Alster/FLASH90

The Jewish Home party will withdraw its support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition government in all future Knesset votes if legislation limiting the ability of the Supreme Court to overrule laws passed by the Knesset is not advanced, party officials warned Tuesday.

In a message to party members, Jewish Home leaders announced that the party’s eight-MK delegation would refrain from voting with the coalition government beginning on May 6th if the government fails to advance the so-called “Override Clause” supported by Jewish Home chief, Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

The proposal would add a clause to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, explicitly empowering the Knesset to overrule the Supreme Court and reenact laws nullified by the Court.

Under the Jewish Home-backed bill, the Knesset could override Supreme Court rulings tossing out laws with a simple majority of 61 MKs.

While most laws require only a majority of MKs voting at any given time, the Override Clause would require a majority of the full 120-member Knesset.

But Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has expressed his opposition to the proposal, backing instead a watered-down version which would require 70 MKs to override the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has delayed discussion of Bennett’s proposal, in part due to opposition by Kulanu chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

On Monday, Bennett demanded the Likud party back the proposal, citing agreements obliging the ruling party to support efforts to restrict judicial review.

"Our demand to enact the clause with a majority of 61 Knesset members is no surprise. The Likud signed an explicit coalition agreement with us. Agreements must be fulfilled. I expect the full support of the Likud next Sunday. We will return the proper balance of powers to the branches [of government].”

In an interview Sunday, Bennett said the Supreme Court had assumed the powers of the executive branch, and was throwing out laws on a regular basis.

“The Supreme Court has tossed out nearly 20 laws in the last few years, and that is outrageous,” continued Bennett.

“We want the Supreme Court to be able to nullify laws only in extraordinary circumstances. The Knesset will be able to pass laws a second time [after their nullification by the court] in a protected manner, with a special majority of 61 Knesset members. Only this way can we remove the infiltrators from Israel.”

But on Monday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted a request by Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayut that discussion of the Override Clause be delayed, and urged Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) to block deliberations on the bill at next Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

The committee, which ordinarily meets once a week, grants or denies government backing for upcoming bills. Once approved by the committee, a law is guaranteed coalition backing, and typically assured passage in the Knesset.

On Tuesday, however, Jewish Home officials announced that if the Override Clause is not adopted by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation by Sunday, May 6th, the party will not support the coalition government in future Knesset votes.

Loss of the 8 Jewish Home votes in the Knesset would leave the 66-MK coalition with just 58 votes in the 120-member Knesset – three shy of the 61-seat majority necessary to ensure passage of legislation.

“We remind you that the Likud is obliged by its coalition agreements to back the Override Clause [version which requires] a majority of 61 [MKs],” the party announcement read. “Agreements must be honored.”