A reservist military officer has filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against the “reasonableness” law on the grounds that it will expose IDF officers to criminal prosecution by international legal bodies.
The petition claims that security chiefs could face prosecution “as a result of the damage to the independence of the law enforcement system in Israel,” after this week’s passage of the law that prevents the court from reviewing cabinet and ministerial decisions.
The petition, which was first reported Saturday by Channel 13 news, was submitted by a lawyer on behalf of a reservist colonel, 55, who advises the Israel Defense Forces on the southern front. His name is barred from publication due to the sensitive nature of his work.
The petition claims the bill was passed under a “significantly faulty procedure” because of “the prime minister’s unprecedented refusal to meet the IDF chief of staff.” According to media reports, military chief Herzi Halevi sought to share intelligence on the security consequences of the bill before the vote but was snubbed by Netanyahu.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee also didn’t meet before the vote, with the petition arguing coalition lawmakers approved the law without being fully aware of its security consequences.
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“The confession of MK Yuli Edelstein’s, chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, that he ‘fell asleep while on guard,’ emphasized the importance of this petition, which is also directed at the committee,” attorney Oded Saburai, the lawyer representing the petitioner said in a statement, adding that a meeting of the committee may have led lawmakers to question whether to push the law through.
File: IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The powerful committee will reportedly meet Monday to discuss the military’s concerns, as waves of reservists make good on threats to stop volunteering for service following the passage of the controversial bill. The refusals to serve have sparked concerns by the IDF that the protests will impact its combat readiness.
The High Court is expected to hear arguments against the “reasonableness” law in September, along with petitions demanding Justice Minister Yariv Levin convene the country’s Judicial Selection Committee, setting up a fall showdown.
Seven other petitioners argue that the law passed Monday is an illegal power grab that opens the door to serious abuses of authority, noting that it was rushed through the Knesset without opposition buy-in.
“This amendment represents the opening notes of the closing chapter of democracy in Israel, no less,” the Movement for Quality Government in Israel wrote in its filing. “The court is perhaps the last redoubt standing before the collapse of the democratic regime in the State of Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under fire this week for refusing to say his government would respect a court ruling striking down the law in a CNN interview.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a clarification Friday in which it said, “The governments of Israel always respect court rulings.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview aired Thursday, July 27, 2023, days after his government passed the controversial reasonableness law. (Screenshot/CNN, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
But the statement still did not clearly commit to doing so in this case. It qualified its apparent assurance by noting that, at the same time, “the court has always viewed itself as obligated by Basic Laws, to which it confers the status of a constitution.”
“Like the majority of Israelis, the prime minister believes both principles must be maintained,” the statement said.
The Supreme Court has indeed never struck down changes to a Basic Law, though never has any Basic Law legislation caused such uproar and division within the public as the “reasonableness” law.
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