Constitutional Crisis?

Amir Ohana in a harsh speech against the High Court: "We are before an abyss"

Ahead of the hearings in the Supreme Court on the petitions against the Probable Cause Law and the Obligation Law, and the fear of the High Court's intervention in basic laws, the Speaker of the Knesset in a special announcement to the media

Amir Ohana (Photo: Srugim)

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana convened a special press conference this evening (Wednesday - Israel) in the Knesset building, where he referred to the expected hearings in the Supreme Court on petitions against fundamental laws.

The background for the statement is the coalition's preparation for the possibility that High Court judges will intervene for the first time in history in basic laws approved by the Knesset, which is also authorized as the constituent authority.

Below are the main points of Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana's statement:

"First of all, I would like to start by wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded who were injured in the attack in Jerusalem today, another evidence that our enemies are plotting to kill us without anything to do with the internal differences between us - and we must add and stand firm against them - all of us together.

On New Year's Eve, the State of Israel is on the verge of a crossroads. The need to balance between the authorities becomes more acute than ever when it seems that even the one border that has not been crossed so far - and that is the cancellation of basic laws by the judiciary - may, God forbid, be crossed. Tonight, as Speaker of the Knesset, I would like to place a "stop" sign.

From 1977 until today, there has been a process of extracting powers from the elected level, which until then was almost all-powerful, to the appointed level, which is now almost all-powerful, a trend that intensified in the 1990s with the announcement by the Supreme Court that it has the power to invalidate laws of the Knesset if they are not appropriate to its view the values in the basic laws.

Now, we are facing a new and dangerous crossroads, when shortly the Supreme Court will hold discussions on the validity of the fundamental laws.

Israel is a democratic country. In a democracy, the sovereign is the people. His sovereignty, from the noble people to his chosen ones, every citizen according to his view and will - who accept, whether by broad agreement or by majority of votes, the decisions and laws for him - so it was - and so it will be.

In a democratic country, the legal system respects the sovereign, aka the people, and their choices, and this respect is mutual.

There is not and cannot be a dispute over the question of whether the Knesset authorized the High Court to invalidate or change basic legislation. The answer to that is clear and no one can claim otherwise: No. There is nothing in the legislation that authorizes, even by implication, the courts to do so.

The founding authority is vested in the Knesset, which represents the entire nation - and only her. It is important to understand: that another decision is not against the coalition or this or that party - another decision is against the Knesset and Israeli democracy.

In favor of the fundamental laws passed by the 25th Knesset under my leadership, a majority of the Knesset members voted, twice as many as those who voted in the 12th Knesset in favor of a fundamental law: human dignity and freedom, which did not prevent the judicial system from using it more than any other fundamental law to annul the decisions of the Knesset and the government.

I am aware that among many in the public, and not necessarily in the public that is automatically on a certain side of the political map, there are also concerns and fears. Even if I do not share these fears - I cannot dismiss them or those who hold them casually. There are not many among us who will not find in our family, social, or professional circle dear, good, and beloved people who share these concerns and fears.

But the answer to these concerns cannot be the transformation of Israel into a country where the elections do not change and the elected Knesset is not the legislative Knesset.

The judicial system is important and dear to me, for most of my adult life I was a part of it. There is no dispute about the importance of a strong and independent judicial system or the supreme importance of strengthening public trust in the judicial system.

The dispute is about the role of the judiciary with the other authorities and by implication - its role concerning the public.

As for myself, I believe in evolutionary processes, resulting from listening, study, and consideration, and less in revolutionary revolutionary processes. I welcome any dialogue aimed at trying to reach agreements and understandings both in the Knesset and outside it - despite the clear meaning: neither side will get everything they want here right now.

This is the meaning of leadership, and I urge the elected officials - the people's representatives - to make every effort and turn every stone in these efforts.

But even if the contacts do not succeed for a variety of reasons, and in my estimation they are mainly political - because there is actually a broad agreement on the basic principles and also on the need for amendments, even if the contacts do not succeed - this does not give the High Court the possibility of accepting a decision in their place. This state of affairs will lead to an unfortunate event A precedent in a democratic country.

One thing I can say. The Knesset will not humbly accept its trampling.

Gentlemen, I am not standing here before you either by my membership in the party or under my membership in the coalition, I am standing here before you by virtue of my position as Speaker of the Knesset.

And on that basis, I ask the court and its judges, whom I respect very much - and have always respected, even when I disagreed and did not agree: recognize the limitations of your power, not only those of the other authorities. Recognize that in a democracy - no authority is omnipotent. I think the executive authority internalized this, I know the Legislature internalized that. Now it's your turn."

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