Israeli ministers seek to curb Supreme Court power

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Key Israeli ministers have announced plans to limit the power of the Supreme Court, accusing it of hindering the work of the rightwing coalition government.

The plan by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, from the far right Jewish Home party, would give the Israeli parliament the right to effectively overrule in cases where the Supreme Court declares a bill unconstitutional.

The plan follows the Supreme Court striking down as unconstitutional a number of proposed laws.

In a statement late Thursday Bennett, head of Jewish Home, said the recent vetoes had forced him to act.

"This new situation, in which cancelling laws had become routine, will force us, publicly elected legislators, to act and restore the needed balance between the authorities."

"That is what we are doing today."

Ministers and critics accuse the court of being dominated by liberals and of undermining the authority of the democratically elected government.

Rights groups view it as a check on the power of the government, the most rightwing in Israel's history.

Among those bills vetoed was the so-called Regulation Law, which would retroactively legalise dozens of Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land, as well an amendment to allow ultra-Orthodox Jews to continue to avoid military service.

The plan is not yet official government policy and will be presented to party heads on Sunday. If adopted by the coalition government it could be brought to the parliament in the coming months.

Israeli media commentators stressed the plan would face strong opposition from the court and possibly finance minister Moshe Kahlon of the centre-right Kulanu party.

Under a coalition government agreement, Kahlon has a veto over any legislation attempting to limit the independence of the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who comes from the rightwing Likud party, has not officially commented on the plan to curb the Supreme Court's powers.

Israel has no formal codified constitution and the Supreme Court often relies on so-called Basic Law for its rulings.