Education Minister Naftali Bennett unveiled a new plan Sunday drawn up in conjunction with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) aimed at combating judicial activism by the Supreme Court.
Last week, the Jewish Home ministers announced their plans to reach a “constitutional solution” to restore balance between the judiciary and the legislative branch, following a string of high-profile decisions by the high court nullifying Knesset laws and government policies.
On Sunday, Bennett discussed some of the elements of the new proposal being formed to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down Knesset laws.
“Nowhere else in the world are laws struck down [by courts] for procedural reasons,” Bennett told Channel 2.
“The justices of the Supreme Court, who were never elected by the public, are nullifying laws too easily. Last month the court really overstepped its authority,” continued Bennett, referring to the recent string of court decisions.
Recently, the court struck down key elements of the IDF draft law pertaining to the deferments given to full-time yeshiva students. The move sparked an angry backlash from both the Shas and United Torah Judaism factions, which accused the court of legislating from the bench, and pledged to take action to bypass the court’s decision.
Following another ruling by the court permitting establishments lacking any kosher certification to declare themselves kosher, Chief Rabbi David Lau made a rare partisan appeal, calling on the religious parties to advance a legislative bypass to the court’s rulings.
In August, the court struck down parts of the Netanyahu government’s deportation plan for illegal immigrants, essentially barring the state from expelling illegal aliens. The move prompted sharp criticism from Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home).
Recently, the court also struck down the legality of presenting two-year State budgets and the tax on a third apartment passed in the Knesset.
Under the plan now being formulated by Bennett and Shaked, the government would amend Israel’s Basic Laws – legislation passed by the Knesset which enjoy a special status above normal laws.
While the Basic Laws were never ratified as a formal constitution, the Israeli Supreme Court has treated the Basic Laws collectively as a de facto constitution, knocking down laws it ruled were incompatible with the basic laws, and asserted a right to judicial review over all other legislation without resorting to the basic laws.
“We want to establish by law exactly what the authority of the Supreme Court is and how far it extends, and at the same time to delineate under which circumstances the court is permitted to [strike down laws]. No one can act without authority.”
Another amendment to the Basic Laws to be proposed by Bennett and Shaked will take into account the fact that Israel was established to be a Jewish State as a factor in applying the basic law protecting the civil rights of the individual. This is in reaction to the court striking down the illegal alien law, but is applicable to a host of other laws, including the draft law.