Israel cabinet backs bill restricting Supreme Court review power

[JURIST] The Israeli cabinet on Sunday voted 13-11 in support of a bill to restrict the ability of the Israeli Supreme Court [official website, in Hebrew] to overturn laws passed by the Knesset [official website] and granting the Knesset authority to revise laws overturned by the court. The controversial measure, proposed [JURIST report] last year by Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann [official profile], would provide the first statutory guide on the Supreme Court's annulment power. Currently, that power is interpreted to reach all Knesset-passed measures deemed to contravene one of the Basic Laws [text]; the proposed bill would reduce that scope to allow Supreme Court annulment only of those laws contravening the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation [text]. The proposal would also grant the Knesset authority to revise laws overturned by the Supreme Court, thereby renewing those laws' validity. In those cases, the Knesset could overturn a Supreme Court ruling with an ordinary one-round of voting rather than the 61-vote majority in the 120-member body in three rounds of voting currently required to overturn the Supreme Court. The bill will next be considered by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee [official website]. Haaretz has more. Ynetnews has additional coverage.

The bill, purportedly based on the Canadian model of judicial review which allows the legislature to protect some laws from review under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text; see especially s. 33], has been strongly opposed by members of judicial community. Meir Shamgar [official profile], the president of the Israeli Supreme Court between 1983 and 1995, signed a public petition [JURIST report] against the proposal, arguing that "abolishing substantive judicial review endangers the freedoms that have been legislated to date...[and will not] advance the rule of law" but erode it because "a majority of Knesset members" could, at any time, restrict fundamental freedoms granted to Israeli citizens. Proponents of the bill, including Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert [official profile], argue that the measure promotes the national system of checks and balances.

 

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