Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided on Sunday not to back a bill that would limit public access to High Court petitions, sponsored by MKs Danny Danon and Yariv Levin from the Likud. All of the ministers voted against the bill.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday that he would defend Israel’s courts but that there were certain distortions that need to be fixed.
“The state of Israel was founded as a Jewish and democratic state,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Israeli democracy is strong but that strength does not exempt us from acting to preserve it.”
In explaining their bill to limit High Court petitions, Levin and Danon wrote earlier this week that there was a need “to set criteria that balance the use of this critical tool, using parameters to assure the soundness of the process and to preserve the link between the alleged harm and the identity of the petitioner.”
Under the bill, human rights groups not registered in Israel and whose main activities are not in Israel would not be permitted to petition the High Court. Nor would a group be allowed to file a petition over a wrong ostensibly being done to someone, unless that individual himself petitioned the court as well.
Petitions of a general nature would only be permitted regarding issues of substantial constitutional import to the conduct of government, or if the harm that might be done to the public is substantial and palpable.
Moreover, any group who files such a public petition and accepts donations from abroad, would be required to report its funding sources to the court, to prevent the “irrelevant motives of interested or hostile groups” from getting a hearing under the guise of a public petition.
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