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Knesset first reading passes controversial override clause

Israel’s ruling coalition is not slowing down the pace of its judicial reforms, despite growing unrest, even in their own ranks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen at the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Mar. 13, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s parliament on Monday night completed the first reading of the controversial “override clause,” a bill which would allow lawmakers to protect laws from judicial review.

The Knesset was split along coalition-opposition lines, voting 61 in favor and 52 against.

If adopted, the bill would allow the Knesset to add an override clause to a bill with a simple one-seat majority, 61 votes out of 120, preventing the Supreme court from striking down the law. 

The bill also limits the Supreme Court’s judicial review powers by requiring 80% of the justices (12 out of 15) to vote in favor of overturning the law before it can be done. 

After the “override clause” bill’s first reading, the bill returns to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for revisions before returning to the general Knesset for a final vote. 

On Monday night, the heads of four opposition parties announced they will boycott the vote unless certain conditions are met. The four parties are Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid; the National Unity party, headed by Benny Gantz; Yisrael Beytenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman; and the Labor Party, headed by Merav Michaeli. 

The party leaders also said they would refuse to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, if the reforms are not paused. 

Before the first-reading vote, a Likud faction meeting revealed some concerns from party members about the speed at which the reforms are being advanced, according to a report in Israeli media. 

Long-time Likud Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein criticized the coalition for not responding to growing protests against the reforms. Edelstein said that the coalition’s behavior was “helping the other side.” 

Another senior Likud MK, Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar, said the Likud party is losing the narrative. He warned that, if the party did not engage in public conversation, “we will lose leadership.” 

Edelstein himself chose not to attend the first-reading vote after informing Netanyahu beforehand that he intended to abstain. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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