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Israeli High Court asks government to explain why ‘reasonableness law’ should stand

The judges said the injunction was issued "for efficiency reasons only and is not expressing a position on the substance of the matter."

Then-Supreme Court President Esther Hayut at a hearing in Jerusalem on the "recusal law," Aug. 3, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Then-Supreme Court President Esther Hayut at a hearing in Jerusalem on the "recusal law," Aug. 3, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an injunction regarding the petitions challenging the “reasonableness law” that the Knesset passed last month.

The order, which was signed by all 15 justices, effectively asks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to explain why the court should not strike down the law.

The injunction issued on Wednesday.

In issuing the order before the first hearing on the petitions has taken place, the court deviated from the usual procedure. However, in their order decision, the justices said this was done “for efficiency reasons only and is not expressing a position on the substance of the matter.”

“It is clear that the court found it necessary to emphasize that it doesn’t even take a small technical step when it comes to striking down a basic law,” unnamed senior officials in Netanyahu’s Likud Party commented, according to Maariv.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir went further, accusing the Supreme Court of “transparent conduct,” claiming it “skip[ped] steps and works in every way to accept the petition to annul the Basic Law.”

“Many feel like a large part of the judges have already made up their minds … it was expected and would have been proper for the court not to cut proceedings short and allow for an open discussion,” added Ben-Gvir.

On July 24, all 64 lawmakers in the governing coalition voted into law a bill to restrict judges’ use of the “reasonableness” standard. The amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary bars “reasonableness” as a justification for judges to reverse decisions made by the Cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as set by law.”

Seven NGOs immediately filed petitions asking the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, to strike down the law. While the court scheduled a hearing, it has not gone as far as to issue an emergency injunction against the law entering into force, as several of the petitioners had requested.

The court will hear the petitions on the “reasonableness law” on Sept. 12, president of the Israeli Supreme Court Hayut announced last week.

“We are ready. We will appear at the Supreme Court to defend Israeli democracy and do everything we can to stop the judicial coup,” the Movement for Quality Government’s Chairman Eliad Shraga has said. “We will continue to protest and fight everywhere and from every podium until the threat is removed.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has gone on the record as saying that the government would accept the Supreme Court’s decisions. “Israel is a democratic, law-abiding country. We’ll act according to the law,” he told journalists ahead of last week’s Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu has said that his government will seek an agreement with the opposition on the rest of the judicial reform package during the Knesset’s summer recess, which started two weeks ago.

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