Haredi minister: PM promised me override bill, ‘imperative’ for coalition survival

United Torah Judaism party leader Yitzhak Goldknopf says he was assured the contentious measure will become law; days ago, Netanyahu insisted it was dead

Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf attends a United Torah Judaism faction meeting at the Knesset on  July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf attends a United Torah Judaism faction meeting at the Knesset on July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf on Wednesday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised him the government will pass a bill allowing the Knesset to “override” court rulings, days after the premier publicly insisted the contentious measure was being stripped from the coalition’s judicial overhaul package.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, Netanyahu said he “threw out” the override clause, which would allow the Knesset to preemptively or retroactively block judicial decisions striking down legislation and is considered one of the most radical elements of the planned judicial shakeup.

However, reports have since indicated Netanyahu assured coalition partners the measure hasn’t been shelved after some reacted angrily. The passage of the proposal is a top demand of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, which Goldknopf heads, and is seen as key to Haredi legislative efforts to shield members of the community from the mandatory military conscription most Israelis are subject to.

Speaking with Kol Berama radio, Goldknopf said Netanyahu vowed that if “there’s no other way,” the override clause would be advanced together with legislation to exempt young Haredim from being consripted to the Israel Defense Forces, which UTJ and the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party want approved after the High Court of Justice struck down previous laws on the matter.

The UTJ chief did not specify when Netanyahu made this pledge but said it occurred at a meeting of coalition leaders.

He was then asked if approval of an override clause was “a necessary condition” for the government’s survival.

“It’s an imperative condition,” Goldknopf said.

Coalition party leaders meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, January 22, 2023. (Courtesy: Likud)

He also lashed out at anti-government protesters following mass demonstrations held Tuesday to protest the advancement of a bill that would block courts from scrutinizing the “reasonableness” of elected officials’ decisions.

“What is this revolt and rioting?” he charged.

Goldknopf’s comments came a week after UTJ No. 2 Moshe Gafni bashed Netanyahu over his conflicting comments on the override clause, saying that a coalition “is a partnership” and that the prime minister can’t make the decision unilaterally.

Initially, Justice Minister Yariv Levin proposed allowing the Knesset to override decisions made by the High Court, but the bill that was ultimately put forward would have allowed the Knesset to pass legislation that was preemptively immune from judicial review from the outset.

That legislation has been frozen since March, when large-scale protests against the judicial overhaul forced Netanyahu to pause the override push and join the opposition for compromise talks, which have since broken down. The coalition has since started working on passing other segments of the overhaul, such as the so-called reasonableness bill, though not the override clause.

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