Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayut
Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayutדוברות לשכת עורכי הדין

The Israeli Supreme Court rules Sunday that the Knesset acted inappropriately last year in amending a Basic Law to resolve a coalition crisis.

In its landmark ruling, the Court declined to nullify the amendment, but warned the Knesset that if similar amendments are passed in the future, the Court reserves the right to overturn them.

The decision marks a significant departure from the Court’s previous handling of Israel’s proto-constitutional Basic Laws, which the Knesset – Israel’s de jure constitutional committee – has been able to amend since Israel’s establishment in 1948.

In its ruling, the Court blasted the Knesset for the way in which it passed an amendment to the Basic Law last August, enabling the government to delaying passing a full spending plan while increasing spending by 11 billion shekels without submitting a full state budget, thereby circumventing a coalition crisis.

The Court voted 6 to 3 to rule that the Court is empowered to nullify not only standard laws passed by the Knesset, but even amendments to the Basic Law if the Court finds they lack the character of a proper Basic Law. In this case, the Court argued that the amendment failed to properly address legal issues created by the change to the rules on the state budget.

While the Court did not reverse the amendment, it warned that it could overturn future amendments.

Right-wing lawmakers blasted the ruling, calling it a power grab by the court.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling to issue a warning about nullifying Basic Laws is completely lacking any authority and is disturbing,” said Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud).

“We are witnessing an absolutely insane event when a tiny group of six people take advantage of their position in the court to carry out a coup d’état. This decision has no validity, since it is opposed to the most basic values regarding the sovereignty of the people, the separation of powers, and the rule of law.”