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High Court wipes out last petition against new basic laws

CM 29/07/2021

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The High Court of Justice on Thursday dismissed the last petition of a series that had challenged basic laws, and thus permitted the current government’s decision to extend the deadline for passing a budget to November 4.
Before the government extended the deadline with a new basic law, it would have had to pass the budget 45 days earlier – in mid-September.
In multiple verbal exchanges between Ariel Barzilai, lawyer for the Movement for the Quality of Government, and High Court President Esther Hayut and Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, the justices made it clear that they would rule against the petitioners, which would make it harder for them in future petitions.
Justice Yael Wilner was also on the panel, but known as a moderate conservative and the least likely to want to intervene, she sat silently and let her more activist colleagues pound Barzilai.
The Movement filed a similar petition in May 2020 to block the formation of the previous rotation government between the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz.

The Movement had objected that the Netanyahu-Gantz basic law changes, many of which were adopted or adapted by the current government, radically altered Israel’s democratic character by emphasizing short-term politics over the country’s long-term interest.
The NGO argued similarly in its petition to block a budget extension using a new basic law, that the new government was playing political games with proper and standard democratic governance.
In contrast, Hayut and Barak-Erez cited their nine-justice panel ruling on July 12, which  upheld all of the previous government’s changes as constitutional, even if some were problematic. This was a sign that the petition to block the government’s 45-day budget extension would also go nowhere.
Back in May 2020, the High Court green-lighted the formation of the Netanyahu-Gantz unity government. However, it had held out the possibility that it would intervene and nix specific aspects of the unusual government which shifted major powers between the prime minister and alternate prime minister posts as well as among members of the  Knesset.
In mid-November, the High Court expanded the panel of justices to hear the issue of basic law changes regarding unity governments, seemingly to signal that it was seriously considering nixing aspects of the new basic laws.
Had the High Court done so it would have been the first time that the High Court vetoed a basic law, something which some legal scholars and many politicians believe is beyond the court’s authority.
Instead, the justices seem to have adopted Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s suggested approach in December, to ratify some of the new problematic basic laws which were necessitated by the unusual political deadlock and because the changes did not cross a certain forbidden threshold.
Mandelblit had said that even if it were possible for the High Court to strike down a basic law, it would need to be a far more extreme law, one that was criminal or struck down democracy.
Although the NGO on Thursday tried to convince the justices that the budget issue was unique, and differed from the issues raised in the unity government saga, Hayut and Barak-Erez continued to press the Movement to withdraw, which it eventually did.
Hayut and Barak-Erez also cited the High Court’s recent decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Nation-State Law, even though it also had legal problems, showing how rarely the High Court should intervene to change a basic law.
With challenges to the unity government, the Nation-State Law and the budget basic laws all dismissed, an experimental era of testing how far the court will intervene in legislative affairs appears to have come to a close. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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