(February 15, 2023 / JNS) The government on Wednesday delayed three bills it planned to put up for a Knesset vote, “in order to encourage dialogue” regarding its judicial reform program.
The first bill seeks to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling that Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri cannot serve as a cabinet minister. The second concerns an override clause that would let the Knesset re-legislate laws overturned by the Supreme Court, and the third calls for placing the Police Investigations Unit under the minister of justice and granting it additional powers, including the ability to investigate attorneys.
The coalition said that despite the bills’ delay the legislative process will continue as planned on two key pieces of legislation that passed in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday. One concerns changes to the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee and the other prohibits the Supreme Court from weighing in on Basic Laws, which have a quasi-constitutional status in Israel.
Those bills will come before the Knesset for a first vote on Monday. (Bills require three votes in the Knesset plenum to become law.)
A political storm has swirled over the government’s reform package with a mass protest taking place outside the Knesset on Monday this week. The government says the reforms are needed to restore Israel’s system of checks and balances, which have been upended by an activist and far-left court. The opposition says the reforms will politicize the court and will lead to the “end of Israeli democracy.”
The opposition has made a condition for negotiations a complete freeze on judicial reform legislation. Speaking to the Knesset on Wednesday, opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party said the starting point of negotiations has to be a freeze for 60 days.
“Sixty days is the blink of an eye in the life of democracy. We have waited 74 years [since independence]. Nothing will happen if it takes a few more weeks, thanks to which we will save the people of Israel from a terrible crisis,” Lapid said.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman on Monday evening called on leaders of the opposition to meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to discuss the judicial reform program.
Lapid rejected the overture.
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