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‘I threw out override clause, judicial reforms will continue,' says Netanyahu

Announcement sparks backlash from coalition members

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a government meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on May 28, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that judicial reforms will continue but without the override clause during his interview with The Wall Street Journal this week.

“I said that the idea of an override clause, where the parliament, the Knesset, can override the decisions of the Supreme Court with a simple majority, I said, I threw that out,” the prime minister affirmed.

He also said that he will continue looking for a compromise solution to the controversial Judicial Selection Committee reform, which has been a point of contention during the negotiations taking place under the supervision of President Isaac Herzog.

“It’s very clear that the way of choosing judges is not going to be the current structure, but it’s not going to be the original structure,” he added.

Netanyahu claimed that he is paying attention to public sentiment in advancing the reforms, saying, “I am attentive to public sentiment and what I think will pass muster. I want changes that will stick for a generation.”

Reactions to Netanyahu’s statement regarding the override were quick and heated among Israeli politicians.

While most in the opposition welcomed the news, Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners were not pleased. 

Knesset Member Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism party said removing the override clause was unacceptable. 

“Two weeks ago, in a meeting with the Prime Minister … I warned against this improper idea, and demanded in the name of United Torah Judaism that the amendment to the Draft Law include the execution of the three signed commitments: Basic Law: Torah Study, the Override Clause and the amendment to the Service and Security Law, accordingly. Any other agreement is not acceptable to us," Porush emphasized, in a reference to coalition commitments that were signed between Netanyahu and party leaders following last year's election.

The override clause is important to the ultra-Orthodox political parties, as the Supreme Court has struck down multiple versions of the Draft Law which previously allowed religious men to avoid military service by studying in yeshivas. 

Another ultra-Orthodox leader, speaking anonymously to Hebrew media, said, “We didn’t pray for this child," and that the recent moves by Netanyahu have destroyed the reform. 

“If, at the end of the whole story, it is just a change in the grounds of reasonableness, and that too is softened, then the opponents have won, and the reform becomes a dead letter.” 

“In the end, we are leaving with less than what the left agreed to give in the president's house. Simply folding,” he added. 

Knesset Member Tali Gottlieb of Netanyahu's Likud party agreed with removing the override clause but for different reasons. 

“From the outset, I believed that the High Court of Justice does not have the authority to overturn laws, and an override clause would only have granted it such authority. In any case, I believed that the Override Clause should not be enacted,” she said. 

She expressed frustration with Netanyahu’s capitulation. 

“In any case, the prime minister stopped Levin's reform and left a trickle so small as to be an embarrassment. Reform or leftovers from it – it would be better to have nothing,” Gottlieb said. 

Energy Minister Yisrael Katz tried to explain why Netanyahu decided to throw out the override clause, saying that Washington was not in agreement.

“I guess what bothered Americans the most was the issue of the Override Clause, which supposedly allowed an ordinary majority to overturn court decisions,” Katz said in an interview with Ynet news. 

He claimed his party remains committed to changes in the current judicial system and that 'it cannot give up on reform." 

According to Israel's N12 news, Netanyahu hopes to pass the bill to reduce the use of the reasonableness clause before the Knesset recess at the end of July.

During the Knesset session that follows in October, Netanyahu reportedly plans to advance changes in the Judicial Selection Committee proposed by former Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedman. 

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

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