Opposition bill to enshrine principle of equality in Basic Law voted down

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks in the Knesset on May 31, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks in the Knesset on May 31, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Knesset defeats a proposal to formally insert the principle of equality into Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin slamming the opposition for raising the matter in the midst of larger judicial discussions.

“We are not allowed to do anything, but you are allowed to promote a Basic Law that is at the core of the issues in dispute and at the core of what is being discussed at the President’s Residence,” Levin charges from the Knesset rostrum.

He also insists the coalition doesn’t oppose the Basic Law, while blaming the opposition for the impasse in judicial reform talks and railing at the Supreme Court.

“We all have a problem that post-Zionist agendas have entered the judicial system and the Supreme Court in particular, which are used for completely different things, to erase Zionism.”

Put forward by Labor MK Gilad Kariv, the proposal is seen as largely symbolic and was expected to be defeated, but highlights a broader political debate about the intersection of judicial activism and civil rights.

Equality is not guaranteed by statute in Israel, but rather was read into Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty by the Supreme Court. Lauded by civil rights groups, the longstanding decision has also been excoriated by far-right and religious members of the coalition, who slam the court for using equality as a basis for invalidating desired pieces of legislation.

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