Israeli ministers endorse bill to rein in Supreme Court

The president of Israel's Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, delivers a speech during her swearing-in ceremony at the Israeli Presidential residence in Jerusalem on October 26, 2017

A key Israeli government panel on Sunday endorsed a draft bill that would make it harder for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation it ruled unconstitutional.

A justice ministry statement said the ministerial committee on legislation voted to send the bill to parliament, where it must pass three rounds of voting in order to become law.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long argued that the court is too active in striking down bills which contravene international humanitarian law or existing Israeli legislation.

Israel has no written constitution but has a set of "basic laws," which the Supreme Court uses as a guide in its decisions.

Under the new bill, a majority of a single vote in the 120-seat parliament could overrule court decisions to quash laws.

According to the Israeli Democracy Institute think tank, the court intervenes significantly less often than in other democracies, vetoing just 18 laws between 1992-2017.

Opposing the new bill from within the government is Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

He is threatening to instruct his centre-right Kulanu party to use its 10 votes against the bill when it comes to the Knesset floor, perhaps later this week.

"It is a blow against the rule of law," he said of Sunday's decision. In a statement, he demanded the government and court address their differences through dialogue.

The president of Israel's Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, delivers a speech during her swearing-in ceremony at the Israeli Presidential residence in Jerusalem on October 26, 2017