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‘Reasonableness’ bill sent to Knesset plenum for first reading

The measure seeks to limit the High Court's power to cancel government decisions based on subjective reasonableness.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee head Simcha Rothman chairs leads a committee meeting in Jerusalem, July 4, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee head Simcha Rothman chairs leads a committee meeting in Jerusalem, July 4, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill to end the Supreme Court’s use of the standard of “reasonableness” to cancel government decisions.

Following the 9-4 vote, the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary will head to the full Knesset as soon as Monday for the first of three readings necessary for it to become law.

This bill is part of the coalition’s legislative push led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reform the judicial branch. The opposition is firmly opposed to the changes, taking to the streets in past months for massive demonstrations and engaging in heated debates in the Knesset.

A shouting match took place before the vote with opposition lawmakers screaming that it was “an illegal vote” and saying, “This is how a dictator behaves,” as committee chairman Simcha Rothman attempted to call the session to order.

Rothman had MKs Yoav Segalovich, Moshe Tur-Paz, Yorai Lahav-Hertzano and Vladimir Beliak, all from the Yesh Atid Party, removed from the room for repeated interruptions.

Rothman posted to Twitter before the vote that “reducing the cause of reasonableness is a necessity in a country that is interested in democracy, in the separation of authorities and in strengthening the connection between authority and responsibility.

“The dispute between the former minister [and current Ambassador to the U.N.] Gilad Erdan and the court regarding the bringing of BDS supporters to Israel is an ideological dispute, and in such a dispute, there is no justification for the court to be the final arbiter,” Rothman said.

In a joint statement, opposition party heads Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Benny Gantz of National Unity slammed the coalition’s advancement of the bill.

“Today’s vote in the Constitution Committee is a blatant unilateral move that harms the citizens of Israel and tears the nation apart,” they said.

Lapid and Gantz said it was still possible to reach a compromise despite their last month breaking off negotiations mediated by President Isaac Herzog.

“It is possible to make changes in the judicial system for the good of Israeli citizens and not for the tyranny of the majority and corrupt appointments,” the opposition leaders said.

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