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Knesset Law panel chair waters down judicial reform bill

Under the amended text, a majority of 12 to 13 justices will be enough to overturn a law.

Knesset member Simcha Rothman, chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, leads a meeting of the panel on judicial reform on Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Knesset member Simcha Rothman, chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, leads a meeting of the panel on judicial reform on Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

MK Simcha Rothman, one of the key figures ushering through the government’s judicial reform program, announced on Sunday that he is softening a proposal regarding the number of Supreme Court justices needed to strike down a law.

Rothman, who is chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, presented a watered-down version that would require 12 to 13 judges to overturn a law. An earlier version of the bill required a unanimous vote of the full complement of 15 judges.

“From the beginning, it was determined in the wording of the bill that 15 judges are needed to invalidate a law because I thought that [a good] starting point for negotiations,” Rothman said, noting that similar proposals had been supported in the past by at least five members of the opposition.

“Unfortunately, even though they voted for it [before], they decided to break the rules and not negotiate, and therefore I am forced to conduct the negotiations between myself and Minister Levin instead of with the members of the opposition,” Rothman said, referring a version of the reform backed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin that does not require a unanimous vote by the Supreme Court justices.

Opposition members of the Law Committee rejected Rothman’s move, saying it wasn’t a real concession. MK Yulia Malinovsky of the Israel Beiteinu Party said Rothman was merely trying “to put one over on us.”

Labor MK Gilad Kariv said, “This is another spin by Rothman. He did not commit at all to such a step, and even the mentioned reduction does not change the situation—Levin and Rothman intend to make the judicial review a theoretical option only.”

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