Delaying recusal law, court president says democracies don’t legislate for individuals

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman during a court hearing on petitions against National Security Minister's police regulations bill, June 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman during a court hearing on petitions against National Security Minister's police regulations bill, June 7, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Acting Supreme Court President Uzi Vogelman writes in his decision to postpone implementation of the government’s recusal law that in democratic countries the legislative body must consider the interest of the general public when passing laws, and not design them for the benefit of one specific person.

He says, however, that when the Knesset formulated the recusal law — an amendment to Basic Law: The Government which shields a sitting prime minister from being ordered by the attorney general or the High Court to recuse himself — they did so for the benefit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The entire legislative process was done with the veil of ignorance lifted, and out of a stated goal and purpose to benefit a certain person — the current prime minister,” writes Vogelman.

He references both the explicit comments of some coalition MKs that the law was being passed for Netanyahu’s benefit, as well as comments by Netanyahu immediately after the passage of the legislation saying he was now free to involve himself in the judicial overhaul legislation without fear of being ordered to recuse himself as evidence of how the law was personally designed for the current premier.

“All of the above leads to the conclusion that within the scope of the doctrine of misuse of constituent authority, Amendment No. 12 [the recusal law] fails the test of generality,” writes Vogelman.

As such, implementation of the law must be delayed till the next Knesset to avoid the highly personal aspect of the amendment, Vogelman and the court majority have ruled.

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