Kohelet, think tank that shaped overhaul, announces compromise version for ‘agreed reform’

A banner with the Kohelet Policy Forum logo, April 10, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A banner with the Kohelet Policy Forum logo, April 10, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative think tank that helped shape much of the government’s judicial overhaul package but has recently acknowledged it goes too far, announces that it has drafted a compromise deal that it says could bridge most of the gaps between the controversial plan’s proponents and critics.

In a statement, Kohelet says it supports a reform to curb the judiciary’s allegedly excessive power, but adds it views it as very important that changes be done with wide support. It says its members have in recent months held “countless hours” of covert talks with experts opposed to the overhaul aimed at finding a widely accepted compromise version.

“We found out that on many issues, the gaps are bridgeable,” the statement says.

“This is the case on the way the High Court will be authorized to strike down regular laws, this is the case on the use of the reasonableness clause, and on the status of legal advisers’ legal opinions,” it adds, without going into detail about what the compromise proposes.

“The fears about oppressive use of the legislation of [quasi-constitutional] Basic Laws can be healed by setting an inflexible procedure for legislating and amending Basic Laws (such as demanding a fourth [Knesset plenum] reading in the following Knesset, with a majority of 61 MKs in each of the votes), alongside a clarification that they are immune from oversight,” Kohelet says.

It adds that the override clause — allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court — can be left out of the reform, alongside a solution for specific cases by introducing “non-justiciability rules.”

Kohelet admits one issue remains without agreement — the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee and whether the coalition will have complete control over the selection of judges.

“We believe a solution can be reached that will cancel the veto power currently held by the Supreme Court justices, will give the coalition the upper hand in the committee, and will also boost the influence of the opposition,” it says. “This can be done, for instance, by having professionals be appointed [to the committee] by the coalition.”

Kohelet urges President Isaac Herzog to adopt these principles in his efforts to negotiate a compromise, which has proven elusive as the opposition refuses to enter talks unless the legislative process is temporarily frozen, and the coalition refuses to slow the process.

Kohelet says its outline would “fulfill the reform’s main goals, improve Israel’s system of governance, address the concerns voiced by the reform’s opponents, and restore trust between the branches of government and between all parts of the public in Israel.”

It expresses hope that its proposal will “help heal the public atmosphere” and “enable progress toward introducing an agreed constitution for the State of Israel, which would also include a bill of rights.”

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