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Far-right MK says High Court override bill is condition for joining coalition

Bezalel Smotrich says no point to to a rightist government without legislation enabling it to sidestep judicial review

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Head of the National Union faction MK Bezalel Smotrich during a conference of the Movement for the Quality of Government, in Modiin, February 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)
Head of the National Union faction MK Bezalel Smotrich during a conference of the Movement for the Quality of Government, in Modiin, February 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)

The co-leader of the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, MK Bezalel Smotrich, said Tuesday that his party would only join a future coalition after the elections on April 9 if the government resolves to approve within 60 days a bill enabling the Knesset to override the High Court when passing laws.

Smotrich, who appeared confident the ruling Likud party would maintain power after the elections, told the Kan public broadcaster that he would raise the subject with Likud negotiators during coalition talks.

“If [Netanyahu] wants to establish a right-wing government… then he will need to pass this amendment, because otherwise there is no point to having a right-wing government,” Smotrich said.

Smotrich backs a version of the so-called override bill, which seeks to severely curb the court’s ability to strike down Knesset legislation as unconstitutional. The Israeli right has long criticized the court for its sweeping powers, and has sought to make the Knesset more powerful.

Smotrich heads the National Union party, which, along with the Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit, makes up the three-party alliance of the URWP, which formed ahead of the coming elections.

In the outgoing parliament, Smotrich served as a lawmaker for Jewish Home. Likud and Jewish Home had agreed to advance an override bill in the parties’ coalition agreement in 2015, but Netanyahu stalled the legislation. At times, the delay in advancing the bill threatened to cause a coalition crisis.

The bill proposed by the Jewish Home would allow the Knesset to re-vote on a law disqualified by the High Court, and thereby to pass the law despite the court’s ruling against its constitutionality.

Opinion polls have, on average, predicted the URWP will win five Knesset seats in the election. Polls predict a bloc of right-wing parties, led by Likud, as having the best chance of forming a coalition of over half the 120 seats in the Knesset.

Smotrich, a co-founder of of the right-wing NGO Regavim, which targets illegal construction by non-Jews in Israel and the West Bank, entered the Knesset in 2015 and quickly became known for his uncompromising right-wing views and controversial remarks.

During his four years in the Knesset, he has made headlines for encouraging draft-dodging in protest of the IDF’s “radical feminist” agenda, for comparing the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost to a “brutal rape,” and for claiming that “illiterate” Arabs are only granted university admission thanks to affirmative action.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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