Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Thursday he believed a bill allowing the Knesset to override High Court of Justice decisions will be “at the heart” of coalition talks following general elections in September.
Speaking during a conference at Ariel University in the West Bank, Smotrich said the purpose of the proposed legislation is “to remedy democracy and create a proper and healthy balance between the three [government] branches in the State of Israel,” according to a Ynet news site report.
Smotrich, the No. 2 in the Union of Right-Wing Parties, is a leading backer of the bill, which critics say would sharply undermine Israel’s system of checks and balances. Proponents of the legislation say it is necessary to curb what they see as an overly activist High Court.
Outspoken national religious leader Smotrich has caused controversy in the past with remarks about the relationship between religion and Israel’s nature as a democratic and liberal state.
On Monday he said he “works for God” — and not for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appointed him — after drawing outrage and ridicule earlier this month for calling for Israel to be governed by Jewish religious law, like in biblical times.
After the April elections, in which the URWP won five seats, Netanyahu worked to form a right-wing government with allied parties. Hebrew media reports at the time said Netanyahu’s Likud party had made backing passage of a so-called override clause for the High Court a condition to joining the coalition.
The passage of such an “override clause” would mark what has been called the greatest constitutional change in Israeli history, with vast potential impact on the checks and balances at the heart of Israeli democracy, denying the courts the capacity to protect Israeli minorities and uphold core human rights.
It would also, not incidentally, mean the High Court could not reverse Knesset-approved immunity for Netanyahu, who is facing indictments, pending a hearing, in three graft cases.
Netanyahu ultimately failed to form a majority coalition and dissolved parliament, calling fresh elections for September 17.