Likud reportedly to skip vote on controversial court override bill

By not participating in the vote, MKs from Netanyahu’s party will avoid clashing with coalition partner Blue and White, which opposes legislation

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked at the Knesset as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)

Likud party lawmakers will not participate in the vote on a controversial proposed measure to limit the power of the High Court of Justice to strike down laws, Hebrew media reported Tuesday.

The so-called court override clause, proposed by opposition MK Ayelet Shaked of the Yamina party, is to be brought to the Knesset on Wednesday. It has almost no chance of being approved, as without government backing it will not be able to muster a majority of MKs to back it.

On Saturday evening, coalition whip MK Miki Zohar (Likud), tweeted that he would lobby for prime ministerial backing of the bill, setting up a new potential fight within the coalition, with sources within the Blue and White party threatening to break up the government over it.

However, the next day the two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, issued a joint statement explaining that they opposed the bill because it could destabilize the government, which could jeopardize the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as well as efforts to pass a budget.

The announcement effectively consigned the bill to the scrap heap for lack of legislative support.

It was not clear Tuesday if UTJ and Shas would vote against the bill or also sit out the vote.

The idea of a clause that would allow the Knesset to keep the court from knocking down new laws has long been a top agenda item for lawmakers from Yamina, Likud and other right-wing parties, which accuse the court of judicial overreach.

While such a proposal has been bruited about in the past, it has never won the full support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or reached the Knesset for an up or down vote.

The bill has been met with fierce opposition from centrist and left-wing MKs, activists, intellectuals and others, who say it would remove a critical check and damage the country’s democratic character, as well as leave minorities and core rights unprotected.

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