Ministers Approve Anti-Democratic Bill to Override Supreme Court

An anti-democratic bill that would allow the Knesset to re-pass laws struck down by the Supreme Court received the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s unanimous approval Sunday, May 6, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to postpone the vote. The bill is not likely to get the 61 votes necessary to pass Basic Laws or amendments to existing ones in the Knesset plenum, because Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon instructed Kulanu’s 10 MKs to vote against it, and Likud MK Bennie Begin said he will do so, as well. Yet far-right leader Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both from HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party, the latter being chairwoman of the ministerial committee, pushed for a vote on a version of the override clause proposed by MK Bezalel Smotrich, also from HaBayit HaYehudi.

Women's march against the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers from Israel and for the rehabilitation of south Tel Aviv, March 11, 2018

Women’s march against the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers from Israel and for the rehabilitation of south Tel Aviv, March 11, 2018 (Photo: South Tel Aviv against Deportation)

The current push to reverse Supreme Court decisions is due to a ruling earlier this year which frustrated the government’s plan to deport African refugees and asylum seekers to third countries, in part because the agreements with those countries were not being upheld. In the ensuing months, all of the agreements fell apart.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opposes the proposed bill. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri told the ministers that Mandelblit’s “position is to oppose all the proposals. We’re not saying they’re unconstitutional, because it’s an amendment to a Basic Law – laws that are meant to be chapters of a future constitution – but we oppose it.”

All of the opposition parties came out against the override clause. “This is an illegitimate law that goes against the public interest and harms democracy, and we do not plan to help the coalition pass it,” Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) stated. “The bill is meant to prevent the Supreme Court from annulling racist, anti-democratic initiatives. The far-right government wants to circumvent the court to forcibly deport refugees, to arrest asylum-seekers without a trial for an unlimited amount of time, to whitewash all settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories and those that will be established in the future, to separate men and women in government organizations, to expand acceptance apartheid committees in neighborhoods and cities, and more.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) warned the bill “is dangerous and can destroy the democratic space and make human rights subject to the whims of the extreme right.”

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