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Knesset Speaker: Elections in September; New Law Will Reduce Power of High Court; Pollard Will Go Free

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin in his chamber.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin in his chamber.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) is convinced that elections for Israel’s next government will be held in five months, this coming September. In his opinion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing at least two serious problems—the Tal Law and the state budget—which require setting priorities under pressures from special interest groups within the coalition government.

“There are social and economic issues, there are also elections in the United States. Netanyahu will prefer to put those problems behind, not before him, which is why he will seek the ballot box,” Rivlin told Ma’ariv in a special holiday interview, to be published Thursday.

There’s one major reason why Rivlin is interested in going to the voter soon: he does not believe that the current Knesset could pass the legislation titled “Basic Law: Legislation,” which has been stirring up a political storm in recent days. Rivlin believes that the proposed law, much of it his own brainchild, could receive a majority in the current Knesset, especially if Netanyahu decided not to support it.

Rivlin delivered the new Basic Law regarding legislation to Justice Minister Ya’akov Neeman. The bill is designed to dramatically change the balance of power between the Supreme Court and the Knesset. According to the proposed law, the Supreme Court will, for the first time, be given explicit authority to overturn laws – but a majority of 65 Knesset members will suffice to overturn the court’s decision.

Rivlin believes that much of the resistance to his bill is not based on the merit of giving the legislator a more equal footing with the court over disputed laws, but, rather, over the size of the special majority needed to overturn a court decision. He thinks that many more MKs would join him if the bill called for a special majority of 70.

To date, inside the coalition government, Rivlin’s bill is being opposed by ministers Ehud Barak, Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, by Likud MK Yariv Levin, and by senior legal officials.

Rivlin explained in his particularly unique language the issues his bill is intended to resolve:

“MKs from the right have been complaining that they are legislating on the basis of political considerations, and then the court comes and interprets their intentions in a way that is the exact opposite of what they had in mind. It’s like (Israel’s poet laureate Nachman) Bialik’s poem ‘Ken La’Tzipor’ (The Bird’s Nest). I can say that the bird is an eagle, someone else can say that the bird is a parrot, a third one says it’s a hoopoe. Comes the Court and determines that the bird is an elephant. This cannot be.”

In the same interview, Rivlin says he is certain that the efforts being made by President Shimon Peres to free Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard will be successful.

“Peres will bring him home,” Rivlin declares, and with the same breath he attacks US Jews, who stayed clear of the Pollard affair. “Unfortunately, they abandoned Pollard,” says Rivlin. “They all think he’s lucky they didn’t give him the death penalty.”

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