Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and other senior justices cut short an official trip to Germany in order to return home and hold a hearing on petitions against the first piece of legislation from the government’s wide-reaching judicial overhaul.
Hayut was leading a delegation of Israeli justices visiting the German courts and was scheduled to make a speech at an event marking 75 years since the establishment of the State of Israel. The group left Israel on Sunday but is now expected back in the country on Tuesday, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
On Monday, the Knesset passed in a 64-0 vote a bill barring the judiciary from using the “reasonableness” yardstick to invalidate government decisions. A watchdog group then announced that it was immediately filing a petition against the law, and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said he would also challenge the legislation in the courts.
In a statement to Kan, the judicial authority said that the trip to Germany was being cut short “given the latest developments and in view of the petitions that have already been submitted.”
Hayut was accompanied to Germany by fellow justices Uzi Vogelman, Isaac Amit, Noam Sohlberg, Daphne Barak-Erez and Anat Baron.
The petitions could set up a major showdown between the branches of government in the coming months. The High Court is likely to deliberate the bill in the near future, and justices could potentially issue an interim order freezing the legislation. Based on her position regarding the overhaul plan, Attorney General Galia Baharav-Miara is not expected to defend the legislation in court.
In its High Court petition, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) argued that the law passed Monday “is unconstitutional because it fundamentally changes the basic structure of Israeli parliamentary democracy and the nature of the regime, while de facto abolishing the judiciary and seriously damaging the delicate fabric of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in the State of Israel.”
MQG also claimed that the legislative process was flawed since not enough time had been given in the parliamentary committee controlled by the coalition to properly debate and weigh the legislation.
On Tuesday, the Israel Bar Association filed its own 72-page petition against the law striking down the reasonableness tool. The IBA petition charged that the judicial overhaul “could cause irreversible damage” to the State of Israel, including harm to the rule of law and to the separation of powers.
The IBA called on the High Court to hold an immediate hearing on its petition.
In the hours following the passage of the bill on Monday, there were violent protests around the country against the legislation, with 33 people arrested in clashes with police.