Coalition to push ahead with judicial overhaul, bills to assist Netanyahu and Deri


Next week is shaping up to be a busy and tiring week in the Knesset, with the coalition pushing for highly controversial judicial reform as well as a number of controversial laws designed to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader Aryeh Deri stood with them. legal troubles, bypassing the High Court of Justice, or both.

Ahead of the legislative sessions, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday evening to protest against the government’s agenda, and several violent attacks on demonstrators were reported during the evening.

At the same time, some senior figures in the Likud party expressed concern about the push to pass the judicial reform into law before the end of the Knesset winter session on April 2, and MK Yuli Edelstein called for the legislation to be frozen in order to be able to discuss with the Adviser. The opposition and the Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar want some sort of compromise.

Starting Sunday, the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee will hold four back-to-back hearings to prepare the bill intended to give the government full control over all judicial appointments for its second and third reading in the Knesset.

The bill, which is being promoted as an amendment to the Basic Law: the Judiciary, would prevent the High Court from exercising judicial review of Basic Laws, to prevent it from overturning the judicial reform package itself .

After the coalition last week rejected President Isaac Herzog’s other proposal for judicial reform, Netanyahu and others said the government would discuss options to unilaterally relax the current legislation.

Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari was removed from the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee during a stormy hearing about the government’s judicial reform legislation, March 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It appears that the extent of these changes will be largely superficial, since Justice Minister Yariv Levin is saying that the coalition will insist on an automatic majority on the Judicial Selection Committee, to reshape the High Court and limit the scope of his authority.

The schedule put out by the constitution committee spokesperson did not include any hearings for the other major pillar of the judicial overhaul, the law that restricts judicial review and allows for a High Court override mechanism.

Since next week is the last of the Knesset winter session, this bill may not be approved before the Passover break on April 2.

Speaking on Saturday night, Edelstein said the government should freeze the legislation to allow time for discussions with the opposition.

“Actually, we could have done this some time ago for various reasons. Not only to give an opportunity for dialogue but also not to encourage the protests,” Edelstein said in an interview with Channel 13 news.

“If you always say, ‘we will not stop, not even for a moment, and we will continue the reform as it is,’ you are only helping to recruit more and more power for the protests,” said Edelstein, which was last approved. week at the Likud after it broke ranks and lost two key votes on the judicial reform legislation.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein arrives at a committee hearing, March 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

His party colleague Zohar considered that a compromise was needed at this point, although he said he supported the reforms in general.

“Reform is needed, it’s the right thing to do, but we’ll compromise so it’s good for the people of Israel,” Zohar told Channel 12 news.

Several incidents of violence against anti-government protesters marked Saturday night’s protests.

In Herzliya, a 57-year-old man was arrested for allegedly driving his car into a protester, who was slightly injured in the incident.

In the Tel-Aviv suburb of Givatayim, a 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and threats after he drove his motorcycle into a protest group. No one was injured in the incident.

In Or Akiva, three people were arrested for throwing eggs at anti-government protesters. According to the Ynet news site, the protesters shouted “anarchists, only Bibi,” at the demonstration, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

And in one incident in Tel Aviv, a number of right-wing activists, some in disguise, were seen confronting protesters demonstrating against the judicial reform.

Other legislation to be advanced this week is a bill to allow Netanyahu to receive donations to fund his legal costs in his criminal trials; a bill to allow the leader of Shas Aryeh Deri to return to the Minister’s office despite a High Court ruling preventing him from doing so; a bill to ensure that Netanyahu cannot be forced to recuse himself because of a potential conflict of interest between his criminal trial and the government’s radical legal reforms; and a bill that allows hospitals to stop people from donating hametzor porridge, into their premises during Passover, an arrangement which had previously been struck down by the High Court.

The law on donations for Netanyahu’s legal expenses is expected to reach its first reading in the Knesset Poll.

The move would allow Netanyahu to keep the $270,000 he received from his cousin and former donor Nathan Milikowsky. Last year, the High Court of Justice ordered the chief executive to return the gift to Milkowsky’s estate by February 2023, on the grounds that the funds for legal expenses were an illegal gift.

The so-called Deri Two law – so named because it is the second law being passed in this Knesset to allow Deri to serve as a minister – will also get its first reading.

This law would end the High Court’s oversight of ministerial appointments, allowing Netanyahu to reappoint Deri to the ministerial positions he was forced to vacate due to the court’s ruling in January.

Minister of Health and Interior Aryeh Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 19, 2023, following the ruling of the High Court of Justice that banned him from the Minister’s office. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The recycling bill in the law covers only two ways to remove a prime minister: a prime minister informs the Knesset that they are resigning themselves, or the government removes the prime minister in a three-quarters majority vote of the Cabinet Ministers. , and a majority of 90 members of the Knesset support that decision.

This would prevent the attorney general from ordering the prime minister to recuse himself if his participation in the government’s law reforms is deemed to violate a conflict of interest agreement drawn up by the attorney general.

And Hametz’s bill would allow hospital administrators to prohibit the entry of canned food into the hospital building over Passover. In 2020, the High Court ruled that orders from the Chief Rabbinate and Ministry of Health instructing hospital security guards to check visitors for hametz products and stop them from entering if they violated the fundamental rights of individual autonomy and freedom of religion .

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