Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana warned at a news conference on Wednesday that Israel’s High Court of Justice does not have the authority to strike down Basic Laws, which function as Israel’s quasi-constitution.
“One line that has not been crossed thus far is the striking down of a Basic Law by the judiciary, and it may yet be crossed,” Ohana warned.
“If the High Court strikes down a Basic Law, then all the decisions it has made thus far relying on the higher status of Basic Laws are null and void,” he pointed out.
The statement came in advance of the High Court’s planned September 12 hearing on the legality of the Knesset’s passage this summer of an amendment to the “reasonableness standard” — a hearing that would be unprecedented, inasmuch as the Court has never ruled on the country’s Basic Laws.
The amendment, passed in July, changed the reasonableness standard to limit a Supreme Court judge’s ability to strike down a law passed by the Knesset, or an appointment made by the government cabinet based on the judge’s opinion of whether the law or appointment is “reasonable.”
The legislation was the first element in the government’s planned judicial reforms that have sparked months of ferocious protests — some violent — by leftist anarchists attempting to overthrow the current, right-wing government.
“The Knesset will not be submissively crushed,” Ohana declared.
Former Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy slammed Ohana’s stance.
“In a democratic country, the legislative branch does not threaten the High Court of Justice and its judges, and it doesn’t crush their important roles as the only thing that balances and supervises the decisions of the majority,” Levy contended.
“If the Knesset is interested in maintaining its status and minimizing the involvement of the judiciary, it needs to start treating itself and the Basic Laws it legislates with the required respect,” Levy said.
On Monday, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara urged the High Court of Justice to strike down the amendment. If the Court does so, it would be the first time in the history of the state the judiciary has struck down a Basic Law.