One of the recent squabbles in Israeli politics was triggered by the Prime Minister’s decision to remove two of the judges on the panel that had been appointed to elect the winner of the prestigious Israel Prize for literature. Netanyahu openly conceded on his Facebook page that the reason for his decision was political, i.e., that the politics of those two judges (both distinguished professors of literature at top universities) were too leftist and therefore not sufficiently “Zionist” for his taste. Not surprisingly, the decision stirred public outcry.
In view of the importance of the Israeli Supreme Court’s recent decision in HCJ 5658/23 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. The Knesset (the “reasonableness” decision) and the broad interest in this landmark case, we have decided to publish a translation of President (emer.) Esther Hayut’s majority opinion at this time, rather than wait until the completion of the translation of the full 738-page judgment.
Recent Developments in Israeli Law
The various measures adopted by the Israeli Government to confront the Covid-19 pandemic brought a flurry of petitions before the Supreme Court. The petitions ranged from a request to declare a Jewish leap year in order to delay Passover, to objections to particular restrictions and closures, and a challenge to the constitutionality of the contact-tracing regime adopted by the Government. Below, we present summaries of sixteen cases decided by the Court on petitions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, April 30, 2020, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut decided that the hearings on the petitions in HCJ 2592/20 Movement for Quality Government v. Attorney General will be broadcast live on the Supreme Court’s website here.
The petitions challenge whether Benjamin Netanyahu, as a Knesset Member under indictment, can form the next Government and serve as Prime Minister.
The Supreme Court of Israel has begun an experimental trial of live broadcasts of hearings before the Court via the Internet. The project was instituted on the basis of the recommendations of the Public Committee for Examining the Opening of the Israeli Courts to Electronic Media, chaired by Chief Justice (emerita) Dorit Beinisch. The purpose of the project is to employ modern technology to better realize the open-court principle.
Due to the need for hospital beds for the treatment of coronavirus patients, the Israeli Ministry of Health decided to transfer patients from under-utilized geriatric hospitals to other facilities, and adapt the evacuated hospitals for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
Following the elections for the 23rd Knesset, the new Knesset was set to be sworn in on March 16, 2020. In anticipation of the swearing in, a majority of the Knesset requested that the acting Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein, include a motion for the election of a permanent Speaker on the agenda of that session. The Speaker refused.
Petitions were filed in the High Court of Justice challenging the Speaker’s decision.
On March 20, 2020, we reported the High Court of Justice’s interim order of March 19, 2020, in the matter of the emergency regulations issued to permit the collection, processing and use of the “technological data” of persons who have contracted the new coronavirus, in order to combat its spread.
On March 24, 2020, after receiving updates by the Respondents concerning the steps taken pursuant to the interim order, the Court issued its decision. The translation of that decision follows.
On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Supreme Court addressed a petition to order the Chief Rabbinate to intercalate the Hebrew calendar. The Petitioner sought to delay Passover by thirty days due to the current corona virus emergency.