Judicial Review

Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. The Knesset

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 5658/23
Date Decided: 
Monday, January 1, 2024
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset concerns challenges to Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary (the “reasonableness amendment”). In view of the controversy surrounding the amendment and the fundamental constitutional question it raised in regard to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review Basic Laws, the Court took the unprecedented step of sitting en banc. We translate here Chief Justice Hayut's majority opinion.

 

On January 1, 2024, a majority of the Court (12 of 15 justices) held that the Court held the authority to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws and to intervene in exceptional, extreme cases in which the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority. A majority of the Court (8 of 15 justices) further held that Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary represented an extreme deviation from the Knesset’s constituent authority that left no alternative but to declare the amendment void.

 

An abstract of the various opinions can be found here.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Full text of the opinion: 

HCJ 5658/23

HCJ 5659/23

HCJ 5660/23

HCJ 5661/23

HCJ/5662/23

HCJ 5663/23

HCJ 5711/23

HCJ 5769/23

 

Petitioner in HCJ 5658/23:               Movement for Quality Government in Israel

Petitioners in HCJ 5659/23:             Tal Oron et al.

Petitioner in HCJ 5660/23:               The Smoke Free Israel Initiative

Petitioners in HCJ 5661/23:             The Civil Democracy Movement et al.

Petitioners in HCJ/5662/23:             Yehuda Ressler et al.

Petitioners in HCJ 5663/23:             Israel Bar Association et al.

Petitioner in HCJ 5711/23:               Ometz Movement – Movement for Good Governance, Social and Legal Justice

Petitioner in HCJ 5769/23:               Roni Numa

 

v.

 

Respondents in HCJ 5658/23:          1. The Knesset

                                                            2. Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

                                                            3. Government of Israel

                                                            4. Attorney General

 

Respondents in HCJ 5659/23:          1.  Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

2. Chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

3.  Knesset

4.  Attorney General

5.  Government of Israel

 

Respondents in HCJ 5660/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Government of Israel

 

Respondents in HCJ 5660/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Government of Israel

 

Respondents in HCJ 5661/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

                                                            3. Government of Israel

                                                            4. Attorney General

 

Respondents in HCJ 5662/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Minister of Justice

 

Respondents in HCJ 5663/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Government of the State of Israel

                                                            3. Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

 

Respondents in HCJ 5711/23:          1. Knesset

                                                            2. Government of Israel

 

Respondents in HCJ 5769/23:          1. Prime Minister of Israel

                                                            2. Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee

                                                            3. Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

                                                            4. Knesset

 

Amici Curiae:                                    1.  Association for Civil Rights in Israel

2. Adam Teva V’Din – Israeli Association for Environmental Protection

 

                                               

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

Before: President (emer.) E. Hayut, Deputy President U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice N. Sohlberg, Justice D. Barak-Erez, Justice (emer.) A. Baron, Justice D. Mintz, Justice Y. Elron, Justice Y. Wilner, Justice O. Groskopf, Justice A. Stein, Justice G. Canfy-Steinitz, Justice G. Kabub, Justice Y. Kasher, Justice R. Ronen

 

Israeli Supreme Court cases cited:

[1]        HCJ 21/51 Binenbaum v. Tel Aviv Municipality, IsrSC 6, 375 (1952)

[2]        HCJ 129/57 Manshi v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 12, 209 (1958)

[3]        CA 311/57 Attorney General v. M. Dizengoff & Co., Ltd., IsrSC 13, 1026 (1959)

[4]        HCJ 332/62 Schpanier v. Minister of the Finance, IsrSC 17, 574 (1963)

[5]        CA 492/73 Speiser v. Sports Betting Board, IsrSC 29(1) 22 (1974)

[6]        HCJ 156/75 Dakka v. Minister of Transportation, IsrSC 30(2) 94 (1976)

[7]        HCJ 389/80 Dapei Zahav v. Broadcasting Authority, IsrSC 35(1) 421 (1980)

[8]        HCJ 73/53 Kol Ha’am Co., Ltd. v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 7, 871 (1953)

[9]        HCJ 5853/07 Emunah – National Religious Women’s Organization v. Prime Minister, IsrSc 62 (3) 445 (2007)

[10]      HCJ 3823/22 Netanyahu v. Attorney General, (July 17, 2023)

[11]      HCJ 935/89 Ganor v. Attorney General, IsrSC 44(2) 485 (1990)

[12]      HCJ 2624/97 Yedid Ronal, Adv. v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 51(3) 71 (1997)

[13]      HCJ 1993/03 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, IsrSC 57(6) 817

[14]      HCJ 3997/14 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Minister of Foreign Affairs, (Feb. 12, 2015)

[15]      HCJFH 3660/17 General Association of Merchants and Self-Employed Persons v. Minister of the Interior, (Oct. 26, 2017)

[16]      HCJ 4999/03 Movement for Quality in Government in Israel v. Prime Minister, (May 10, 2006)

[17]      HCJ 3017/12 Terror Victims Association v. Prime Minister, Feb. 4, 2013)

[18]      HCJ 3975/95 Kaniel v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 53(5) 459 (1999)

[19]      6407/06 Doron, Tikotzky, Amir, Mizrahi, Advocates v. Minister of  Finance, (Sept. 23, 2007)

[20]      HCJ 8948/22 Sheinfeld v. Knesset, (Jan. 18, 2023)

[21]      CA 4276/94 Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Ltd. v. Israeli Association of Publicly Traded Companies, IsrSC 50(5) 728 (1997)

[22]      HCJ 3017/05 Hazera (1939), Ltd. v. National Planning and Building Council, (March 23, 2011)

[23]      HCJ 6271/11 Delek – The Israel Fuel Corporation, Ltd. v. Minister of Finance, (Nov. 26, 2012)

[24]      HCJ 4769/90 Zidan v. Minister of Labor, IsrSC 47(2) 147 (1993)

[25]      HCJ 471/11 Chen Hamakom v. Ministry of Environmental Protection, (April 23, 2012)

[26]      HCJ 8396/06 Wasser v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 62(2) 1908 (2007)

[27]      HCJ 244/00 New Dialogue Society for Democratic Dialogue v. Minister of National Infrastructures, IsrSC 56(6) 25 (2002)

[28]      HCJ 5782/21 Leah Zilber v. Minister of Finance, (Jan. 12, 2022)

[29]      HCJ 6163/92 Yoel Eisenberg v. Minister of Building and Housing, IsrSC 47(2) 229 (1993)

[30]      HCJ 3894/93 Movement for Quality in Government v. State of Israel, IsrSC 47(5) 404 (1993)

[31]      HCJ 4267/93 Amitai, Citizens for Good Administration and Integrity v. Prime Minister IsrSC 47(5) 441 (1993)

[32]      HCJ 932/99 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Chairman of the Committee for the Examination of Appointments, IsrSC 53(3) 769 (1999)

[33]      HCJ 4668/01 MK Yossi Sarid v. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, IsrSC 56(2) 265 (2001)

[34]      HCJ 5403/22 Lavi – Civil Rights, Proper Administration and Encouragement of Settlements v. Prime Minister, (Sept. 22, 2022)

[35]      AAA 812/13 Bautista v. Minister of the Interior, (Jan. 21, 2014)

[36]      AAA 662/11 Yehudit Sela v. Head of the Kfar Vradim Local Council, Sivan Yehieli, (Sept. 9, 2014)

[37]      AAA 5634/09 Jalal v. Jerusalem Municipality, (Aug. 25, 2009)

[38]      HCJ 7150/16 Israel Reform Action Center – The Progressive Movement in Israel v. Minister of Justice, (Sept. 21, 2020)

[39]      HCJ 5555/18 Akram Hasson v. Knesset, (July 8, 2021)

[40]      HCJ 5969/20 Stav Shafir v. Knesset, (May 23, 2021)

[41]      HCJ 10042/16 Quintinsky v. Knesset, (Aug. 6, 2017)

[42]      CA 6821/93 United Mizrahi Bank v. Migdal Cooperative Village, IsrSC 49(4) 221 (1995)

[43]      HCJ 5119/23 Anti-Corruption Movement v. Knesset, (Oct. 26, 2023)

[44]      HCJ 98/69 Bergman v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 23(1) 693 (1969)

[45]      HCJ 246/81 Agudat Derekh Eretz v. Broadcasting Authority, IsrSC 35(4) 1 (1981)

[46]      HCJ 141/82 M.K. Rubinstein v. Chairman of the Knesset, IsrSC 37(3) 141 (1983)

[47]      HCJ 4908/10 M.K. Ronnie Bar-On v. Knesset, IsrSC 64(3) 275 (2011)

[48]      HCJ 8260/16 Academic Center for Law and Business v. Knesset, Sept. 6, 2017)

[49]      HCJ 2905/20 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset, (July 12, 2021)

[50]      CA 733/95 733/95 Arpal Aluminum, Ltd. v. Klil Industries, Ltd., IsrSC 51(3) 577 (1997)

[51]      HCJ 6427/02 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset, IsrSC 61(1) 619 (2006)

[52]      HCJ 5744/16 Shachar Ben Meir, Adv. v. Knesset, (May 27, 2018)

[53]      EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 12th Knesset, IsrSC 42(4) 177 (1988)

[54]      11280/02 Central Elections Committee for the 16th Knesset v. M.K. Ahmed Tibi, IsrSC 57(4) 1 (2003)

[55]      HCJ 466/07 M.K. Zahava Gal-On v. Attorney General, IsrSC 65(2) 1 (2012)

[56]      HCJ 971/99 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset House Committee, IsrSC 56(6) 117 (2002)

[57]      HCJ 1384/98 Avni v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 52(5) 206 (1998)

[58]      HCJ 1368/94 Shay Porat v. State of Israel, IsrSC 57(5) 913 (1994)

[59]      HCJ 428/86 Y. Barzilai, Adv. v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 40(3) 505 (1986)

[60]      HCJ 2311/11 Sabah v. Knesset, (Sept. 17, 2014)

[61]      HCJ 3803/11 Association of Capital Market Trustees v. State of Israel, (Feb. 5, 2012)

[62]      HCJ 3429/11 Alumni Association of the Arab Orthodox School in Haifa v. Minister of Finance, (Jan. 5, 2012)

[63]      HCJ 1308/17 Silwad Municipality v. Knesset, (June 9, 2020)

[64]      HCJ 3166/14 Gutman v. Attorney General, (March 12, 2015)

[65]      HCJ 1661/05 Gaza Coast Regional Council v. Knesset, IsrSC 59(2) 481 (2005)

[66]      HCJ 5026/04 Design 22 Shark Deluxe Furniture, Ltd. v. Tzvika Rosenzweig, Director of Sabbath Work Permits Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, IsrSC 60(1) 38 (2005)

[67]      EDA 1806/19 In re: Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset: Lieberman et al. v. Cassif et al., (July 18, 2019)

[68]      HCJ 1210/23 Arad v. Minister of Justice, (Feb. 14, 2023)

[69]      HCJ 1210/23 Oron v. Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, (Feb. 16, 2023)

[70]      HCJ 2144/20 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Speaker of the Knesset, (March, 23, 2020)

[72]      HCJ 6654/22 Kohelet Forum v. Prime Minister, (Dec. 13, 2022)

[73]      HCJ 4076/20 Shapira v. Knesset, (July 22, 2020)

[74]      HCJ 294/89 National Insurance Institute v. Appeals Committee under Section 11 of the Victims of Hostile Actions (Pensions) Law, 5730-1970, IsrSC 45(5) 445 (1991)

[75]      HCJ 4562/92 Zandberg v. Broadcasting Authority, IsrSC 50(2) 793 (1996)

[76]      HCJ 9098/01 Ganis v. Ministry of Building and Housing, IsrSC 59(4) 241 (2004)

[77]      HCJ 781/15 Arad Pinkas v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements under the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) Law, 5756-1996, (Feb. 27, 2020)

[78]      HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, IsrSC 58 (6) 685 (2004)

[79]      CA 8569/06 Director of Land Taxation, Haifa Office v. Polity, IsrSC 62(4) 289 (2008)

[80]      CFH 5783/14 Tzemach v. El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd., (Sept. 12, 2017)

[81]      HCJ 212/03 Herut – The National Jewish Movement v. Justice Mishael Cheshin, Chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the Sixteenth Knesset, IsrSC 57(1) 750 (2003)

[82]      HCJ 403/71 Alkourdi v. National Labour Court, IsrSC 66 (1972)

[83]      HCJ 1260/19 Kramer v. Ombudsman of Public Complaints against State Representatives in the Courts, (May 14, 2020)

[84]      HCJ 243/62 Israel Film Studios, Ltd. v. Levi Geri, Chairman of the Film and Theater Review Board, 16 IsrSC 2407 (1962)

[85]      HCJ 910/86 Major (Res.) Yehuda Ressler, Adv. v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 42(2) 441 (1988)

[86]      HCJ 581/87 Zucker v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 42(4) 529 (1989)

[87]      HCJ 320/96 Garman v. Herzliya City Council, 52(2) 222 (1998)

[88]      HCJ 5331/13 Tayib v. Attorney General, (Fb. 25, 2014)

[89]      CA 108/59 Pritzker v. “Niv” Agricultural Association, Ltd. (in liquidation), IsrSC 14 1545 (1960)

[90]      HCJFH 5026/16 Gini v. Chief Rabbinate of Israel, (Sept. 12, 2017)

[91]      HCJ 3267/97 Amnon Rubinstein v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 52(5) 481

[92]      HCJ 5113/12 Friedman v. Knesset, (Aug. 7, 2012)

[93]      HCJ 7146/12 Adam v. Knesset, IsrSC 61(1) 717 (2013)

[94]      HCJ 7385/13 Eitan - Israeli Immigration Policy Center v. Government, (Sept. 22, 2014)

[95]      HCJ 5469/20 National Responsibility - Israel My Home v. Government of Israel, (Apr. 4, 2021)

[96]      HCJ 76/63 Trudler v. Election Officers for the Agricultural Committees, IsrSC 17, 2503 (1963)

[97]      HCJ 68/07 Robinson v. State of Israel, (Aug. 9, 2007)

[98]      HCJ 2533/97 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 51(3) 46 (1997)

[99]      HCJ 1163/98 Sadot v. Prisons Service, IsrSC 58(4) 817 (2001)

[100]    HCJ 11163/03 Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel v. Prime Minister of Israel, IsrSC 61(1) 1 (2006)

[101]    HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party, IsrSC 49(1) 758 (1995)

[102]    HCJ 306/81 Shmuel Flatto Sharon v. Knesset House Committee, IsrSC 35(4) 118 (1981)

[103]    LCrimA 2060/97 Valinchik v. Tel Aviv District Psychiatrist, IsrSC 52(1) 697

[104]    HCJFH 219/09 Minister of Justice v. Zohar, IsrSC 64(2) 421 (2010)

[105]    HCJ 6069/00 Association for Perpetuating the Memory of the Victims of the Helicopter Disaster in She’ar Yishuv v. Minister of Defense, IsrSC 55(4) 75 (2001)

[106]    HCJ 3840/13 Anonymous v. Minister of the Interior, (Nov. 30, 2015)

[107]    HCJ 176/90 Machnes v. Minister of Labor and Welfare, IsrSC 47(5) 711 (1993)

[108]    HCJ 1829/93 Nazareth Transportation and Tourism Co. v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 48 (4) 42 (1994)

[109]    HCJ 5946/03 Keshet Prima Animal Feed Supplements v. Supervisor of Prices – Ministry of Industry and Welfare, (Feb. 25, 2007)

[110]    HCJ 8076/21 Selection Committee for the 1981 Israel Prize Computer Science Research v. Minister of Education, (March 29, 2022)

[111]    HCJ 8134/11 Moshe Asher, Adv. and Acct. v. Minister of Finance, Dr. Yuval Steinitz, (Jan. 29, 2012)

[112]    HCJ 5290/97 Ezra – National Hareidi Youth Movement v. Minister of Religious Affairs, 51(5) 410 (1997)

[113]    HCJ 2651/09 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of the Interior, (June 15, 2011)

[114]    HCJ 794/17 Ziada v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank, (Oct. 31, 2017)

[115]    HCJ 11437/05 Kav LaOved v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 64(3) 122 (2011)

[116]    HCJ 4988/19 Rosenzweig Moissa v. Public Utilities Electricity Authority, (Jan. 20, 2022)

[117]    HCJ 4500/07 Yachimovich v. Council of the Second Authority for Radio and Television, (Nov. 21, 2007)

[118]    HCJ 8756/07 “Mavoi Satum” Association v. Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges, (June 3, 2008)

[119]    AAA 343/09 Jerusalem Open House for Gay Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality, IsrSC 64(2) 1 (2010)

[120]    HCJ 986/05 Peled v. Tel-Aviv Yafo Municipality, (April 13, 2005)

[121]    AAA 1930/22 Jerusalem Open House for Gay Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality, (Oct. 11, 2023)

[122]    LCrimA 1611/16 State of Israel v. Vardi, (Oct. 31, 2018)

[123]    HCJ 376/81 Lugasi v. Minister of Communications, IsrSC 36(2) 449 (1981)

[124]    HCJ 287/69 Meiron v. Minister of Labor, IsrSC 24(1) 337 (1970)

[125]    HCJ 5657/09 Movement for Quality Government v. Prime Minister, (Nov. 24, 2009)

[126]    HCJ 1843/93 Pinhasi v. Knesset, IsrSC 49(1) 661 (1995)

[127]    AAA 867/11Tel-Aviv Yaffo Municipality v. A.B.C. Management and Maintenance, Ltd., (Dec. 28, 2014)

[128]    HCJ 8160/96 Abu Krinat v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 52(2) 132 (1998)

[129]    HCJ 7542/05 Portman v. Shitreet, (Feb. 11, 2007)

[130]    HCJ 1284/99 A v. Chief of General Staff, IsrSC 53(2) 62 (1999)

[131]    HCJ 3132/15 Yesh Atid Party led by Yair Lapid v. Prime Minister of Israel, Aug. 23, 2015)

[132]    HCJ 268/13 Chai v. Exceptions Committee for Appointments to Senior Positions in the Prime Minister’s Office, (March 20, 2013)

[133]    HCJ 1004/15 Movement for Governability and Democracy v. Minister of the Interior, (April 1, 2015)

[134]    HCJ 3884/16 A. v. Minister of Internal Security, (Nov. 20, 2017)

[135]    HCJ 8815/05 Landstein v. Spiegler, (Dec. 26, 2005)

[136]    HCJ 5167/00 Professor Hillel Weiss, Adv. v. Prime Minister of Israel, IsrSC 55(2) 455 (2001)

[137]    HCJ 7510/19 Yossi Or-Cohen, Adv. v. Prime Minister, (Jan. 9, 2020)

[138]    HCJ 9202/08 M.K. Limor Livnat v. Prime Minister, (Dec. 4, 2008)

[139]    HCJ 9577/02 Mafdal – The Mizrahi National Religious Party v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 57(1) 710 (2002)

[140]    HCJ 4065/09 Yosef Pinhas Cohen, Adv. v. Minister of the Interior, (July 20, 2010)

[141]    142/89 Laor Movement v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 44(3) 529 (1990)

[142]    HCJ 2060/91 Cohen v. Shilansky, IsrSC 46(4) 319 (1992)

[143]    HCJ 4128/02 Adam Teva V’Din – Israeli Association for Environmental Protection v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 58(3) 503 (2004)

[144]    HCJ 9409/05 Adam Teva V’Din – Israeli Association for Environmental Protection v. National Planning and Building Committee for National Infrastructure, IsrSC 64(2) 316 (2010)

[145]    HCJ 1756/10 Holon Municipality v. Minister of the Interior, Jan. 2, 2013)

[146]    HCJ 3758/17 Histadrut v. Courts Administration, (July 20, 2017)

[147]    HCJ 4838/17 Unipharm, Ltd. v. Director General of the Natural Gas Authority, (Jan. 4, 2018)

[148]    HCJ 4374/15 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Prime Minister, (March 27, 2016)

[149]    HCJ 6637/16 Levenstein Levi v. State of Israel, (April 18, 2017)

[150]    HCJ 217/80 Ze’ev Segal v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 34(4) 429 (1980)

[151]    HCJ 2605/05 Academic Center of Law and Business, Human Rights Division v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 63(2) 545 (2009)

[152]    HCJ 1715/97 Israel Investment Managers Association v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 51(4) 367 (1997)

[153]    HCJ 2208/02 Salameh v. Minister of the Interior, IsrSC 56(5) 950 (20020

[154]    HCJ 3234/15 Yesh Atid Party led by Yair Lapid v. Speaker of the Knesset, (July 9, 2105)

[155]    HCJ 706/19 Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Esawi Frej v. Speaker of the Knesset, (March 28, 2019)

[156]    HCJ 4676/94 Mitral, Ltd. v. Knesset of Israel, IsrSC 50(5) 15 (1996)

 

English cases cited:

[157]    Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd. v. Wednesbury Corp. [1948] 1 KB 223 (CA)

[158]    Kennedy v The Charity Commission [2014] UKSC 20

[159]    Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997 (HL)

[160]    R v Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) [2023] EWHC 791

Indian cases cited:

[161]    Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1980 S.C. 1789 (1980)

[162]    Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Ass'n v. Union of India, (2016) 4 SCC 1

Australian cases cited:

[163]    Minister for Immigration & Citizenship v Li (2013) 249 CLR 332

Canadian cases cited:

[164]    Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, [2019] 4 S.C.R. 653

 

 

Judgment

(January 1, 2024)

 

President (emer.) E. Hayut:

1.         Since the founding of the state, the courts have been conducting judicial review over all the bodies of the executive branch without exception, in accordance with the administrative causes for review developed in the case law over the years. A dramatic event occurred in Israeli law on July 24, 2023. On that day, in a second and third reading, the Knesset plenum approved Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment no. 3) (hereinafter, respectively: the Basic Law and the Amendment), according to which, sec. 15(d1) was added as follows:

Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, a holder of judicial authority under law, including the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice, shall not address the reasonableness of a decision by the Government, the Prime Minister or a Government Minister, and will not issue an order in such a matter; in this section, “decision” means any decision, including in matters of appointments, or a decision to refrain from exercising authority.

            In other words, the amendment establishes that the courts – including the Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice – no longer hold jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of the reasonableness of decisions made by the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers.

2.         Shortly after the adoption of the Amendment, the eight petitions before us were filed. The primary relief requested is that we order that the Amendment is void. This, it is argued, in view of its severe harm to the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, due to the abuse of the Knesset’s constituent authority, and due to defects in the legislative process. The Attorney General supports the position of the Petitioners and is also of the opinion that the Amendment should be declared void, while the other Respondents argue that the petitions should be dismissed. Given the importance of the issues raised in these petitions, we held an unprecedented en banc hearing by all fifteen justices of the Supreme Court.

            At the outset, prior to addressing the various issued raised by the petitions, I have decided to provide a brief survey of the development of the reasonableness standard in Israeli law, and to present the course of events that led up to the enactment of the Amendment that is the subject of the petitions.

 

Background

  1. The Reasonableness Standard in Israeli law

3.         The reasonableness standard has been one of the grounds for administrative review since the earliest days of Israeli law. The source of this standard is to be found in English administrative law, where it was originally employed primarily for examining the lawfulness of bylaws (Daphne Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, vol. II, 723 (2010) [Hebrew] (hereinafter; Barak-Erez, Administrative Law)). The English case generally referred to as the central one in this regard is Associated Provincial Picture Houses, Ltd. v. Wednesbury Corp. [157] (hereinafter: Wednesbury), which held that when an authority makes a decision that is so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it, the court will intervene. As was explained, this concerns decisions that cannot be seen as falling within the powers granted to the authority. Examples of such decisions were given in the judgment in regard to situations as, for example, a person being dismissed because of the color of her hair or where the authority considers extraneous matters in making its decision. In other words, in its original English version, the reasonableness standard was intended to contend with decisions that were illogical or arbitrary, or that comprised other serious flaws in the exercise of discretion, such as irrelevant considerations (see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 723; Margit Cohn, “Unreasonableness in Administrative Law: Comparative Aspects and Some Normative Comments,” in Theodore Or Book 773, 778-782 (Aharon Barak & Ron Sokol, eds., 2013) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Cohn, “Comparative Aspects”)).

4.         In the beginning, the reasonableness standard was applied in our legal system in a manner similar to that of traditional English law (I. Zamir, Administrative Power, vol. V, 3550-3551 (2020) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Zamir, Administrative Power)). Thus, when the Court was asked to void a municipal bylaw for retroactivity, it was held that it should be done in accordance with the criterion that examines whether the retrospective provision “is illogical or unacceptable” to the point that it can be said that the legislature never empowered the authority to make it (HCJ 21/51 Binenbaum v. Tel Aviv Municipality [1] 385-386 (hereinafter: Binenbaum); and also see: HCJ 129/57 Manshi v. Minister of Interior [2] 215). Over the years, it was held that this standard also applies to the decisions of government ministers and to the Government as a whole (CA 311/57 Attorney General v. Dizengoff [3] 1031 (hereinafter: Dizengoff); HCJ 332/62 Schpanier v. Minister of the Finance [4]; CA 492/73 Speiser v. Sports Betting Board [5] 26).

5.         At that stage, the reasonableness standard was viewed as a cause that was strongly tied to that of deviation from authority, much as it had been in its English sources. Thus, in Dizengoff, it was noted that it is difficult to distinguish substantially between the test of reasonableness and other tests for examining an administrative act, such as lack of good faith, improper considerations, extraneous objectives. It was further noted that, in practice, all of these tests are nothing more than specific instances of abuse of power (ibid., 1038).

6.         The foundation for establishing reasonableness as an independent ground for review distinct from the other causes for review of administrative discretion was first laid in HCJ 156/75 Dakka v. Minister of Transportation [6]) (hereinafter: Dakka)). In that case, Justice M. Shamgar was willing, in principle, to recognize the unreasonableness of an administrative decision, even where it was not tainted by other administrative flaws, in cases in which a proper balance was not stuck among the necessary considerations in the matter, stating:

[…] unreasonableness can also appear alone: for example, there may be circumstances in which the ministerial authority did not weigh any consideration extraneous to the matter, and where only materially relevant considerations were assessed, but the relevant considerations were granted relative weight in such distorted proportions that the final conclusion was so entirely baseless as to be absolutely unreasonable (ibid., 105).

7.         This broader approach was adopted by this Court in HCJ 389/80 Dapei Zahav v. Broadcasting Authority [7] (hereinafter: Dapei Zahav)). In that case, Justice A. Barak set out four guiding principles in relation to the reasonableness standard, which in his opinion, reflected both the lege lata and the lege ferenda. First, he explained that the reasonableness standard “[…] stands on its own, and it can serve to invalidate unreasonable administrative discretion even if it is not the result of an arbitrary decision, and even if the decision was made in good faith while considering all of the relevant factors and only those factors” (ibid., 439). Second, relying, inter alia, upon Dakka, Justice Barak held that an administrative decision can be deemed unreasonable it did not grant appropriate weight to various interest that the authority had to consider in making the decision (ibid., 445-446). In that regard, Justice Barak pointed to several early judgments in which, although they did not use the word “reasonableness”, the Court intervened in an administrative decision when it found that the balance struck by the administrative authority among the various considerations was unreasonable (e.g., HCJ 73/53 Kol Ha’am v. Minister of the Interior [8] 892 (hereinafter: Kol Ha’am)). Third, he explained that unreasonableness had to be examined in accordance with objective criteria (“the reasonable public servant”), and that the reasonableness principle establishes a range of reasonable possibilities within which the Court will not intervene in a decision of an administrative authority and will not substitute its discretion for that of the authority (Dapei Zahav, 439-443). Fourth, it was noted that for the purpose of judicial intervention in an administrative decision, it is necessary to find material or extreme unreasonableness that goes to the very root of the matter (ibid., 444).

            Justice M. Ben-Porat concurred in the opinion of Justice Barak according to which reasonableness could serve as the sole justification for judicial intervention. President M. Landau was of the opinion that there was no need to broaden the reasonableness standard such that the balance among the various considerations in the administrative decision would also be examined. However, President Landau explained that, in practice, the difference between his position and that of Justice Barak was not significant, and that it was largely “a matter of terminology” (ibid., 432).

8.         Since Dapei Zahav, and for over four decades, it has been settled law that reasonableness is a distinct, independent ground, along with the other distinct grounds for examining administrative discretion (such as extraneous considerations, proportionality and discrimination), and that it “no longer signifies only arbitrariness or an absolute lack of sense in the decision” but rather “examines the internal balance struck by the authority among the considerations” (Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 724-725). In this framework, the court examines whether the administrative authority weighed all of the materially relevant considerations, and whether it assigned the appropriate relative weight to each of the relevant considerations (see, among many: HCJ 5853/07 Emunah v. Prime Minister [9] 486-487 (hereinafter: Emunah); HCJ 3823/22 Netanyahu v. Attorney General [10] para. 4, per Justice Barak-Erez (hereinafter: Netanyahu); HCJ 935/89 Ganor v. Attorney General [11] 514-516 (hereinafter: Ganor)).

            This is the reasonableness rule that applied – until the Amendment that is the subject of these petitions – to all administrative authorities, including the Government and its ministers (see: HCJ 2624/97 Ronal v. Government [12] 77; HCJ 1993/03 Movement for Quality Government v. Prime Minister [13] 840 (hereinafter: Hanegbi 2003)).

9.         Over the years, there has been criticism of this form of reasonableness in both the case law and the literature. The main argument made in this regard is that the standard, in its format since Dapei Zahav, creates uncertainty as to the method of its application and that, in practice, it leads to the court substituting its discretion for that of the authority (see, in this regard, the opinion of Justice A. Grunis in Emunah, 521-514 and HCJ 3997/14 Movement for Quality Government v. Minister of Foreign Affairs [14] para. 29 of his opinion (hereinafter: Hanegbi 2014); and see the opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg in HCJFH 3660/17 General Association of Merchants v. Minister of the Interior [15] paras. 35-36 (hereinafter: Merchants Association) and his article “On Subjective Values and Objective Judges,” 18 Hashiloach 37 (2020) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Sohlberg, “On Objective Values”) and “The Deri-Pinhasi Rule from the Reasonableness Perspective,” The Israel Law & Liberty Forum Blog (Jan. 16, 2022) [Hebrew]; and see: Yoav Dotan, “Two Concepts of Deference and Reasonableness,” 51 Mishpatim 673, 701-703 (2022) [Hebrew]).

            Nevertheless, even the standard’s critics did not recommend that it be abolished entirely and were of the opinion that the solution to the problems it presents lies in narrowing its scope. Thus, it was suggested, inter alia, that recourse to reasonableness be made only in extreme cases and as a last resort (see the opinion of Justice Grunis in Emunah, 524). Another suggestion was that the scope of incidence of “substantive” reasonableness be narrowed, and that it should be applied only to the decisions of the professional echelon, as opposed to decisions of the of the elected echelon that generally reflect a value-based worldview (Sohlberg, “On Objective Values”).

10.       In any case, over the long years in which the reasonableness standard was developed in the case law, this Court created “a comprehensive corpus of rules and criteria for its application that significantly limited the uncertainty of the rule in its initial abstract form” (Hanegbi 2014, para. 4 of my opinion). Thus, insofar as the identity of the decision maker, it was held that the more senior the authority, the greater the margin of discretion it is granted (HCJ 4999/03 Movement for Quality in Government v. Prime Minister [16] para. 18 of my opinion (hereinafter: HCJ 4999/03)). In particular, it was held that the Court must show greater restraint in all that concerns intervention in a Government decision, in view of “the status of the government as the head of the executive branch that is entrusted with establishing and implementing policy” (HCJ 3017/12 Terror Victims Association v. Prime Minister [17] para. 10).

            In regard to the characteristics of administrative authority, it was held that judicial intervention should be limited in regard to decisions that reflect broad policy (see, e.g., HCJ 3975/95 Kaniel v. Government [18] 497; HCJ 6407/06 Doron v. Minister of Finance [19] para. 66, per Justice E. Arbel); in regard to an exercise of authority that involves weighing political considerations (see, e.g., HCJ 8948/22 Scheinfeld v. Knesset [20], para. 52 of my opinion (hereinafter: Scheinfeld)); where the decisions reflect the expertise and professionalism of the authorized bodies (see, e.g., CA 4276/94 Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Ltd. v. Israeli Association of Publicly Traded Companies [21] 739; HCJ 3017/05 Hazera (1939), Ltd. v. National Planning and Building Council [22] para. 38, per Justice A. Procaccia; HCJ 6271/11 Delek v. Minister of Finance [23] para. 11)). In addition, it has long been held that the Court must act with particular caution in examining the reasonableness of regulations, particularly in the case of regulations approved by one of the Knesset’s committees (see, e.g., HCJ 4769/90 Zidan v. Minister of Labor [24] 172; HCJ 471/11 Chen Hamakom v. Ministry of Environmental Protection [25] para 31).

11.       In accordance with these principles, the reasonableness standard has been employed by the Court in intervening in administrative decisions in which the balance struck among the various considerations reflected extreme unreasonableness. This, inter alia, in regard to certain policy decisions (see: HCJ 8396/06 Wasser v. Minister of Defense [26] (hereinafter: Wasser); HCJ 244/00 New Dialogue v. Minister of National Infrastructures [27]; HCJ 5782/21 Zilber v. Minister of Finance [28] (hereinafter: Zilber]); in regard to appointments in the public service (see: HCJ 6163/92 Eisenberg v. Minister of Building and Housing [29] (hereinafter: Eisenberg); HCJ 3894/93 Movement for Quality in Government v. State of Israel [30] (hereinafter: Deri); HCJ 4267/93 Amitai, Citizens for Good Administration and Integrity v. Prime Minister [31] (hereinafter: Pinhasi); HCJ 932/99 Movement for Quality Government v. Chairman of the Committee for the Examination of Appointments [32]; HCJ 4668/01 Sarid v. Prime Minister [33] (hereinafter: Sarid); Scheinfeld); in regard to decisions by an interim government (see, e.g.: HCJ 5403/22 Lavi v. Prime Minister [34] (hereinafter: Lavi)); in regard to specific decisions that infringed individual rights and interests (see, e.g.: AAA 812/13 Bautista v. Minister of the Interior [35] (hereinafter: Bautista); AAA 662/11 Sela v. Yehieli [36] (hereinafter: Sela); AAA 5634/09 Jalal v. Jerusalem Municipality [37]) and in regard to decisions concerning filing criminal or disciplinary charges (see, e.g.: Ganor; HCJ 7150/16 IRAC v. Minister of Justice [38]).

B. The Legislative Process of the Amendment

12.       On January 1, 2023, six days after the swearing in of the 37th Government, Minister of Justice Yariv Levin gave a speech in which he presented what he referred to as “the first stage of the reform of governance”. That plan comprised a number of elements: changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, limiting judicial review of Knesset legislation, changing certain aspects of the work of the government legal advisors, and abolishing the reasonableness standard.

            About a week thereafter, the Minister of Justice sent the Attorney General a draft memorandum regarding  Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment – Reform in the Law) (hereinafter: the Draft Memorandum), which comprised recommendations for legislative changes in regard to the subjects he presented in his speech, among them the recommendation that the Court not void decisions by “the Government, its ministers, an agency under their responsibility, or anyone acting on their behalf” on the basis of their degree of reasonableness. In an opinion presented by the Attorney General’s on February 2, 2023, she explained that each of the recommended arrangements in the Draft Memorandum “raises material problems that strike at the heart of the principle of the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, protection of individual rights, the rule of law, and the ensuring of good governance”. In regard to abolishing the reasonableness standard, the Attorney General noted that this change might lead to significant harm to a citizen’s ability to “present the actions of an authority for independent, objective review and obtain relief from the court”.

13.       In the end, the Draft Memorandum did not advance, and no government bills were submitted on the subjects it comprised. However, in parallel to the Draft Memorandum, on January 11, 2023, the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee (hereinafter: the Committee or the Constitution Committee) began a series of meetings to discuss the various recommendations for changes in the field of law under the rubric “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment – Restoring justice to the legal system” (hereinafter: the plan for changes in the legal system). In the session, the Chair of the Committee, Member of Knesset Simcha Rothman, (hereinafter: MK Rothman) noted that the amendments that would be addressed by the Committee would include government bills, private member’s bills, and bills by the Committee under sec. 80(a) of the Knesset Rules of Procedure, which states:

The House Committee, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and the State Control Committee are entitled to initiate bills in the spheres of their competence as elaborated in these Rules of Procedure, on the following topics, and prepare them for the first reading: Basic Laws, matters that are required due to an amendment of a Basic Law, and are proposed side by side with it, the Knesset, Members of the Knesset, the elections to the Knesset, political parties, party financing, and the State Comptroller.

            MK Rothman explained that the first subject that would be brought up for debate concerned the government legal advice system, and that the Committee would be advancing a Basic Law bill in this regard.

14.       On January 16, 2023, the members of the Committee were presented with a Preparatory Document by the Committee’s legal advisors that explained that the legislative path of submitting a bill by the Committee was a relatively rare procedure and “in the overwhelming majority of cases, it was reserved by the Constitution Committee for subjects that were not controversial or to subjects with a strong connection to the Knesset and its activities” (also see: the statement of the Knesset Legal Advisor, Advocate Sagit Afik (hereinafter: Advocate Afik) in the Transcript of meeting no. 7 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 31 (Jan. 16, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of Meeting 7)). In her opinion of January 25, 2023, Advocate Afik explained that most of the elements in the plan for changing the legal system could advance as a Basic Law bill on behalf of the Committee, but that the Committee had to hold “a significant debate on all the issues and their ramifications”. However, in the matter of the legislation concerning the government legal advisors, Advocate Afik decided that the matter was one that should be arranged in regular legislation rather than in a Basic Law, and that it should not proceed as the Committee’s bill in view of the fact that it was a matter that clearly concerned the conduct of the Government. After that, the Committee ended its discussion of the bill in regard to the government legal advisors.

15.       In the meantime, on January 17, 2023, MK Rothman submitted the Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment – Strengthening the Separation of Powers) Bill (hereinafter: Basic Law Bill – Strengthening the Separation of Powers). The bill comprised provisions in regard to changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee and for restricting judicial review over Basic Laws and statutes. Section 2 of the bill concerned the reasonableness standard. It recommended adding the following provision to the Basic Law:

Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, a holder of judicial authority under law, including the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice, shall not hear and shall not issue an order against the Government, the Prime Minister, a government minister, or any other elected official as shall be established by law, in regard to the reasonableness of their decision.

16.       In the Committee’s meeting on January 22, 2023, MK Rothman presented the bill and noted that, as opposed to the draft published by the Minister of Justice, his bill in regard to the reasonableness standard focused only upon judicial review of the decisions of elected officials, which creates a “democratic problem” that, according to him, was also noted in Justice Sohlberg’s articles (Transcript of meeting no. 13 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 7 (Jan. 22, 2023)). Pursuant to that, the Committee held a number of additional meetings, which were followed by a vote on Basic Law Bill – Strengthening the Separation of Powers only in regard to the elements of the bill concerning changing the composition of Judicial Selection Committee and limiting judicial review of Basic Laws and statutes. These elements were approved in a first reading by the Knesset plenum on February 20, 2023, and March 13, 2023. On March 27, 2023, the Constitution Committee also approved the bill for changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee in a manner that would ensure the representatives of the Government and the coalition a majority on the committee. However, against the background of broad public protests against the plan to change the legal system, the Prime Minister announced that same day that advancing the bill would be delayed for the purpose of conducting negotiations with the representatives of the opposition.

17.       When a number of months passed without achieving agreements between the coalition and the opposition, the legislative proceedings for changing the legal system were renewed on June, 20, 2023, and at that stage, MK Rothman submitted the amendment that is the subject of the petitions to the Committee under the title “Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment – The Reasonableness Standard) Bill” (hereinafter: the Amendment Bill). The new bill was advanced as a Committee bill and its wording was identical to the paragraph regarding reasonableness in Basic Law Bill – Strengthening the Separation of Powers.

18.       On June 23, 2023, in advance of the debate on the Amendment Bill, the Attorney General issued a preparatory document (hereinafter: the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023). That document noted that the Amendment utterly abolished the reasonableness standard in regard to the elected echelon, including reasonableness in the sense of “irrationality” that existed prior to Dapei Zahav. In this regard, the Preparatory Document surveyed various problematic aspects of the bill, including the fear of creating “black hole” in areas in which judicial review rests primarily upon reasonableness. The document further noted that the appropriateness of the comprehensive distinction between the elected and professional echelons should be examined, bearing in mind that many of the decisions at the elected echelon are specific decision relating to matters of the individual. It was suggested that an alternative model be considered in which reasonableness would be abolished only in regard to certain types of decisions.

19.       Beginning on June 25, 2023, and over the next ten days, the Committee held five debates on the Amendment Bill and its preparation for a first reading. In the course of the debates, MK Rothman rejected suggestions for narrowing the scope of the reasonableness standard instead of abolishing it entirely in regard to the elected echelon, for example, by permitting a limited standard of extreme unreasonableness. MK Rothman explained that “[…] there is a structural problem, and the structural problem is like this: […] there is no way of drawing a line between extreme unreasonableness and non-extreme unreasonableness. There is no way to do it” (Transcript of meeting no. 105 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 7 (June 25, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 105)). MK Rothman further explained that the Amendment Bill does not nullify the possibility of judicial review on the basis of other causes like deviation from authority, infringement of rights, and extraneous considerations.

            The Committee’s legal advisor, Advocate Gur Blay (hereinafter: Advocate Blay), noted that the Amendment Bill is an exceptional bill that does not ground the principles of administrative law but only abolishes judicial review on the basis of the reasonableness standard in all that relates to the elected echelon. Advocate Blay emphasized that there are cases in which there are no extraneous consideration or infringed rights and where, in practice, the reasonableness standard is the only response to harm to a citizen, without which a “vacuum of judicial oversight” may result (ibid., 115). In this regard, Advocate Blay referred to the many individual decisions that may affect particular individual interests, among them, obtaining a permit, concession or license from the Government. Advocate Blay further noted that even among the critics of the reasonableness standard, the prevailing view is that it should be narrowed rather than abolished, and that this narrowing should be the product of the case law and not legislation, while leaving the courts a degree of flexibility.

            The Deputy Attorney General (Public Administrative Law), Advocate Gil Limon (hereinafter: Advocate Limon), conveyed the Attorney General’s objection to the bill. Advocate Limon noted that the government’s duty to act reasonably is an important guarantee for the realization of the state’s democratic values and that the bill effectively exempts the elected echelon from this duty and thereby seriously harms the basic values of Israeli democracy. Advocate Limon further noted that the bill would lead to “the creation of a normative black hole” and emphasized the inherent problem in “absolutely blocking judicial review of unreasonable decisions based exclusively upon the identity of the decision maker in regard to the most important decisions made at the highest level of governmental” (Transcript of meeting no. 108 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 10 (June 26, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 108)). Advocate Limon went on to survey the broad consequences of the Amendment Bill, particularly in all that concerned ethical behavior in regard to appointments to public offices, Government actions leading up to elections, and situations in which elected officials intentionally refrain from exercising their authority.

20.       In the course of preparing the Amendment Bill for a first reading, the Committee heard the opinions of experts from academia and other representatives of civil society. Thus, for example, Professor Yoav Dotan emphasized that despite his criticism of the reasonableness standard, the Amendment Bill is very sweeping “in the sense of throwing out the baby with the bathwater” (Transcript of meeting no. 114 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 42 (July 4, 2023)). Professor Dotan explained that “[…] the distinction between decisions that are of a political character and those that are not such cannot be based exclusively on the level at which the decision is made […] it is necessary first to distinguish between general policy decisions and individual decisions” (ibid.).

21.       To complete the picture, it should be noted that in the course of the meetings, Knesset members from the opposition argued that it was not possible to advance the bill under the procedure for submitting a bill on behalf of a committee and that it did not represent a bill that the committee had “initiated and prepared”, as required under sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules of Procedure. On July 2, 2023, Advocate Afik responded to a request by MK Gilad Kariv of the Labor faction (hereinafter: MK Kariv) on this subject and noted that she did not see any reason for intervening in the legislative process, and that there was no requirement that the Committee hold a preliminary debate on the question of Amendment Bill as a committee bill.

22.       In the end, on July 4, 2023, the Amendment Bill was approved for a first reading as a Basic Law bill on behalf of the Committee by a majority of nine in favor and four opposed. In the explanatory notes presented to the plenum, it was noted, on the basis of a quote from Dapei Zahav, that the reasonableness standard currently makes it possible to annul decisions that do not give “appropriate weight to the various interests that the administrative authority is required to consider in its decision” (Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment no. 5) (The Reasonableness Standard) Bill, Knesset Bills 5783 110). Inter alia, it was further argued in regard to the use of the reasonableness standard in that sense, particularly in relation to the elected echelon of government, that establishing the balance of values among various considerations “must be given to the public’s elected representatives and not to the court” (ibid.). The explanatory notes further clarified that the proposed amendment does not prevent the court from conducting judicial review on the basis of other administrative standards, among them that of proportionality.

            On July 10, 2023, the bill was approved by the plenum in a first reading by a majority of 64 in favor and 56 opposed.

23.       The preparatory stage for a second and third reading began on the following day, and four debates on the bill were held over the next nine days, as well as three debates on objections that had been filed in that regard. In the course of the Committee’s debates during this stage of preparation of the Amendment Bill for a second and third reading, the opinions of several legal experts and professionals were heard. During the meeting on July 11, 2023, the legal advisor of the Ministry of Finance, Advocate Assi Messing, warned of the consequences of the bill and referred, inter alia, to its significance in regard to the appointment and dismissal of senior gatekeepers and to the fact that the bill would allow the Minister of Finance to intervene in professional decisions, contrary to the existing procedures in the Ministry of Finance.

24.       On July 12, 2023, the Committee addressed various possibilities for “softening” the application of the bill. Advocate Blay emphasized that the proposed framework was far more sweeping than other frameworks presented by those who had appeared before the Committee, in that it did not distinguish between different types of decisions by the elected echelon and did not allow for the possibility of intervening in “irrational” decisions. Advocate Blay pointed in particular to three subjects in which “more delicate and carful models” should be considered: intervention in the decisions of an interim government, appointments, and infringements of individual interests that do not infringe rights (Transcript of meeting no. 121 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 11-13 (July 12, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 121)). In that meeting, Advocate Limon emphasized that the Amendment Bill is “the most extreme bill possible for addressing the reasonableness standard” and noted that although the scope of cases in which the Court intervened in governmental decisions on the basis of reasonableness was not large, the standard had a very significant effect on the development and formulation stages of the decisions of government ministers (ibid., 34 and 39). Advocate Limon further noted the most serious and significant harm deriving from the Amendment Bill was to the gatekeepers in all that related to their appointment and the possibility of their dismissal for political reasons.

            That same day, a new draft of the amendment was distributed to the members of the Committee, which was the draft ultimately adopted. The draft included the removal of the wording in regard to the application of the section to “any elected official as shall be established by law” and the addition of a clarification of the scope of its application to the end of the original bill:

Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, a holder of judicial authority under law, including the Supreme Court, shall not address the reasonableness of a decision by the Government, the Prime Minister or another minister, or of any other elected official as shall be established by law, and will not issue an order against any of them in such a matter; in this section, “decision” means any decision, including in matters of appointments, or a decision to refrain from exercising authority.

25.       On July 13, 2023, the Committee held a third debate on the Amendment Bill in preparation for a second and third reading. In the course of that debate, the representative of the Attorney General, Advocate Avital Sternberg, argued that the changes introduced to the amendment constituted its “aggravation”. This was the case because the amended bill granted immunity to judicial review only to those holding the greatest governmental power, and according to it, the amendment also applies to individual decision and not just to fundamental policy decisions.

            In the course of the debate, MK Rothman noted that there was no need for grounding the duty of ministers to act reasonably in the Basic Law, and there was no need for a distinction between individual decisions and policy decisions  or between unreasonableness and extreme unreasonableness inasmuch as such distinctions “don’t work in the real world” (Transcript of meeting no. 125 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 15 (July 13, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 125)). As for the application of the Amendment Bill to decisions by a civil servant to whom the minister’s authority had been delegated, MK Rothman and Advocate Blay agreed that the identity of who actually made the decision should be examined, and if the person who made it was not the minister, the amendment would not apply. Advocate Blay noted, however, that this would not suffice to neutralize the incentive for the minister to make the decision in order to render it immune to judicial review. MK Kariv noted that the Amendment Bill was extreme in three ways: it did not apply exclusively to the government acting as a whole, but also to all decisions by ministers; it did not distinguish between policy decisions and individual decisions; and it did not suffice by returning the reasonableness standard to its former scope prior to the Dapei Zahav decision but entirely abolishes it.

            At the end of the meeting held on July 16, 2023, MK Rothman announced that objections to the Amendment Bill could be submitted until the following morning.

26.       At the Committee’s meeting on July 17, 2023, Advocate Afik noted that an unprecedented number of more that 27,000 objections had been submitted in regard to the Amendment Bill, and referred to the guideline of the Knesset’s legal advisor in regard to “Debating and Voting upon Objections in the Preparation of Bills for a Second and Third Reading” (Aug. 1, 2021) (hereinafter: the Objections Protocol), that was intended to contend with situations in which thousands of objections were submitted. Advocate Afik presented a number of possibilities for addressing the objections but suggested that in view of the exceptional number, if the members of the opposition preferred one of the possibilities, the Committee chair should adopt that one. When no agreement was reached between the coalition and the opposition, MK Rothman chose the option according to which there would be a summary presentation of all the objections, and following that, a vote would be held on the objections in groups of 20 at a time. The explanation of the objections took some 18 additional hours. In the end, all of the objections were defeated, and on July 19, 2023, the Committee approved the Amendment Bill by a majority vote of nine in favor and seven opposed. Objections raised by several members of the opposition factions in regard to defects in the Committee’s vote were rejected by Advocate Afik.

            On July 19, 2023, a debate was held in the Knesset House Committee on the application of sec. 98 of the Knesset Rules that allows the House Committee to lay down special procedures for debates on budget laws and “in other exceptional cases”, including laying down a framework for the debate, and the length of speeches in the plenum. The Knesset House Committee ruled that members of the opposition could explain their objections over the course of 26 hours, after which a vote on 140 objections would be held in the plenum at the choosing of the opposition. On July 23, 2023, the debate began in the Knesset plenum, and on July 24, 2023, the bill was approved in a third reading by a majority of 64 members of Knesset without opposing votes, after the opposition factions boycotted the vote.

            The Amendment came into force on July 26, 2023, upon its publication in the Official Gazette.

 

The Petitions

27.       Eight petitions against it were filed shortly after the approval of the amendment to the Basic Law, all of which asked the Court, inter alia, to declare the amendment void. The petitions were filed by civil society organizations and by individuals, and one was filed by the Israel Bar Association (the Petitioner in HCJ 5663/23). A decision by Justice D. Mintz on July 26, 2023, dismissed requests for an interim order to prevent the Amendment’s entry into force until the issuing of a decision on the petitions, and seven of the petitions were set for a hearing before a panel. An additional petition that was subsequently filed in HCJ 5769/23 (hereinafter: the Numa Petition) was joined with the other seven petitions, and addressing additional petitions against the Amendment submitted thereafter was put on hold until the issuing of a decision on the petitions before us.

            On July 31, 2023, I ordered that the petitions be hard before an expanded panel of 15 justices, and on August 9, 2023, the panel granted an order nisi as requested in the petitions for the sake of the efficient handling of the petitions and without expressing any position on the merits. In a decision issued that same day, we ordered the joining of the organization “Adam Teva V’Din – Israeli Association for Environmental Protection” (hereinafter: Adam Teva V’Din), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and 37 additional civil-rights organizations (hereinafter, for simplicity: the Association) as amici curiae.

28.       In preparation for the hearing of the petitions, the Respondents filed Affidavits in Response on their part. The Attorney General presented the position that the Amendment strikes a mortal blow to the fundamental principles of democracy, that the petitions should be granted, and that the Amendment should be declared void by reason of the Knesset’s deviation from the bounds of its constituent power and abuse of that power. As opposed to that, the Government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice (hereinafter: the Government Respondents) – who were represented by counsel independent of the Office of the Attorney General – and the Knesset and MK Rothman –who were represented by counsel independent of the Office of the Knesset Legal Advisor – argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction to intervene in the Amendment and that even on the merits, there were no grounds for intervening therein.

29.       On September 12, 2023, we heard the parties’ oral arguments. In the course of the hearing, the parties addressed the issues of principle concerning the conducting of judicial review over Basic Laws and the specific amendment at the focus of the petitions at length. At the end of the hearing, we permitted the Knesset and the Government Respondents to submit Supplemental Briefs in writing in regard to a number of issues that arose in the course of the hearing. The Supplemental Brief of the Government Respondents was submitted on October 16, 2023, and that of the Knesset on November 9, 2023.

 

Summary of the Arguments of the Parties

30.       The main argument of the Petitioners is that the amendment that is the subject of the petitions is an “unconstitutional constitutional amendment” and that it must, therefore, be declared void. In this regard, the Petitioners refer to this Court’s holdings in HCJ 5555/18 Hasson v. Knesset [39] (hereinafter: Hasson) that stated that the constituent authority is not authorized to deny the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but which did not decide upon the question of the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct judicial review in that regard. The Petitioners are of the opinion that jurisdiction is necessary by virtue of the institutional role of the Court in our system, due to the absence of a fixed procedure for legislating Basic Laws and for their amendment, and due to the structural weakness of the separation of powers in Israel. It was further argued that sec. 15 of the Basic Law, which sets out the broad jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice to grant relief “for the sake of justice” and to issue orders to “all state authorities” should also be viewed as a source of authority for review of the constituent authority. Not recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court in this regard, it is argued, means that any legislation by the Knesset enacted by a transient coalition majority would be immune to judicial review by means of labelling it a “Basic Law” even if it comprises a denial of the core characteristics of the State of Israel.

31.       According to the Petitioners, the amendment that is the subject of the petitions seriously infringes the nuclear characteristics of Israel as a democratic state.  First, it is argued that the Amendment infringes the principle of the rule of law, in that it permits the elected echelon to act however it wishes, without judicial oversight. According to the Petitioners, the significance of the Amendment is the effective abolition of the duty of the Government and its members to act reasonably. Second, the Petitioners argue that the Amendment severely infringes the separation of powers in that it concentrates unprecedented governmental power in the hand of the Government. It is further argued that, in practice, the Amendment denies the right of access to the courts in regard to many administrative decisions. The amici curiae went into detail in this regard as to the important rights and interests that could not, in their opinion, be protected in the absence of the reasonableness standard.

            The Petitioners add that the harm caused by the Amendment is particularly severe in view of Amendment’s broad language, which entirely denies the reasonableness standard in regard to every type of decision by the Government and its ministers, including decisions in concerning the individual, for which there is no justification that they be immune from judicial review. It is further argued that that there are entire areas in which the only limit upon the Government’s power is the reasonableness standard, among them the area of appointments and dismissals in the civil service and decisions made during period leading up to elections. The Numa petition further notes that the Amendment will seriously harm the ability of members of the armed forces to defend themselves against being charged for breaches of the rules of international law.

            The Petitioners also ask that the Court take note of the fact that, in parallel to the Amendment, additional steps are being advanced as part of a comprehensive plan for changing the legal system that is intended to weaken and seriously harm its independence and grant absolute power to the coalition majority.

32.       The Petitioners further argue that the Amendment should also be voided as an instance of abuse of constituent power. According to the Petitioners, the Amendment, as enacted, does not meet the supplementary tests established in HCJ 5969/20 Shafir v. Knesset [40] (hereinafter: Shafir) for identifying a constitutional norm. In this context, the Petitioners focus upon the generality test and the test of compatibility to the constitutional fabric. In regard to the generality test, it is argued that the Amendment – which went into immediate force – is a personal amendment primarily intended to benefit the current Government and grant it the ability to act without oversight. As for the compatibility test, it is argued that there is nothing in the Basic Laws that is anything like the provision treating of the abolition of a cause of action or a specific standard of judicial review, and that such a provision should be enacted in a regular statute. In the absence of any justification for grounding the provision in a Basic Law – other than the desire to make it immune to judicial review – it is argued that the Amendment should be decreed void. Alternatively, some of the Petitioners ask that the Amendment’s entry into force be postponed until the next Knesset.

33.       The Petitioners also claim that there were defects in the legislative process that also justify voiding the Amendment. Thus, they argue that the Amendment Bill could not be advanced as a bill on behalf of the Constitution Committee under sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules, and that the choice of that path was intended to circumvent the established arrangements that apply to government and private member’s bills. The Petitioners further argue that there was also a substantive flaw in the principle of the participation of the members of the Knesset as defined in HCJ 10042/16 Quintinsky v. Knesset [41] (hereinafter: Quintinsky). In that regard, it is argued that the debates upon the Amendment were conducted over only three weeks, without a comprehensive debate upon the consequences of the Amendment, among them the consequences for the armed forces and state security; that in the course of the debates the participants were subjected to insults and denied the right to speak, in a manner that undermined their ability to participate in the legislative process; that the use of sec. 98 of the Knesset Rules, which is intended to shorten the debate on bills in extraordinary, extreme circumstances, also undermined the legislative process.

34.       As noted, the Attorney General supports the view of the Petitioners and is of the opinion that the Amendment should be declared void. In her opinion, this Court’s jurisdiction to conduct judicial review over the content of Basic Laws should be recognized. Like the Petitioners, the Attorney General is of the opinion that such jurisdiction derives from the institutional role of the High Court of Justice to ensure that state authorities – including the constituent authority – do not deviate from their authority, and that its source is in the jurisdiction of the Court to grant relief under sec. 15(c) of the Basic Law. In this regard, the Attorney General also refers to the excessive ease by which Basic Laws can be constituted and to the unique institutional structure of the State of Israel and argues that in the absence of judicial review there is no way to contend with a constitutional amendment that denies the nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

35.       The Attorney General is of the opinion that the amendment that is the subject of the petitions is an exceptional case for which there is no recourse other than the Court’s intervention, inasmuch as it is an unprecedented amendment that strikes a mortal blow to the existing safeguards for restraining the power of the majority. According to the Attorney General, we are concerned with a sweeping amendment that applies not only to broad policy decisions but also to many ministerial decisions that are of a clearly professional, practical nature. It is further argued that as opposed to the arguments voiced by the supporters of the Amendment in the Committee’s debates, parliamentary oversight cannot serve as an effective alternative to judicial review on the basis of reasonableness, and that other standards – like that of proportionality – are insufficient for filling the “normative void” created by the abolition of the reasonableness standard.

            The Attorney General adds that the Amendment severely harms the rule of law, in that it places the elected echelon “above the law”, considering that the courts – and as a result, the government legal-advice system – are left without effective tools for overseeing that the Government and the ministers fulfil their duty to act reasonably. In her opinion, the Amendment may lead to irreversible harm to the independence of the gatekeepers, fundamentally change the core character of the of the civil service, and could harm equality in the electoral system, inasmuch as the ruling Government would be free to employ its power and resources during the period leading up to the elections without the Court being able to examine the reasonableness of its decisions. The Attorney General emphasizes that the Amendment itself strikes a mortal blow to the core characteristics of the state’s democratic regime. The Attorney General adds that note should also be taken of the fact that the Amendment is part of a broader plan to change the legal system, which may cause irreversible harm to the Court’s ability to fulfil its constitutional role in a democratic state.

36.       Like the Petitioners, the Attorney General further argues that the Amendment was enacted through an abuse of constituent power, while primarily emphasizing in this regard its not meeting the constitutional-fabric test. She argues that grounding a provision that abolishes a specific standard of judicial review in regard to the Government and its ministers in the Basic Laws is foreign to the overall constitutional fabric. There is good reason why limitations upon the authority of judicial institutions have, until now, been enacted in regular statutes and regulations. The Attorney General emphasizes that grounding the Amendment in a Basic Law does not allow for a review of its constitutionality by means of the tests of the limitation clause. The Attorney General adds that the Amendment also presents a problem in terms of the generality test and the distinction test.

37.       According to the Attorney General, it is questionable whether the Petitioners’ arguments in regard to defects in the legislative process would justify voiding the Amendment, but those defects aggravate the other defects in the Amendment. Lastly, the Attorney General notes that while an interpretive solution would generally be preferable to voiding of the Amendment, in the present matter, the Amendment cannot be interpreted in a manner that would leave it in force without the Court rewriting the Amendment. Therefore, and in the absence of alternative remedies that could rectify the severe defects in the Amendment, the Attorney General is of the opinion that there is no alternative to declaring it void.

38.       As opposed to this, the Knesset is of the opinion that the petitions should be dismissed. The Knesset argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction to conduct judicial review over Basic Laws, inter alia, in view of the absence of any clear authorization for such review and the absence of any provisions restricting the constituent authority in constituting Basic Laws. The Knesset emphasizes that sec. 15 of Basic Law: The Judiciary cannot be taken as a source of authority for judicial review of other norms that are also grounded in Basic Laws. In addition, the Knesset argues that conducting judicial review over Basic Laws undermines the basis for conducting judicial review of primary legislation, and that the Court must not establish principles that place limits upon the constituent authority that were not established by the sovereign (the people). The Knesset adds that inasmuch as the Israeli constitutional project has yet to be completed, the theories put forward to ground the doctrine of an unconstitutional constitutional amendment are inappropriate to Israel. Therefore, it is argued that even if there are limitations upon the constituent authority, the Court should not be permitted to oversee their being abided.

39.       In any case, the Knesset is of the opinion that the petitions should be dismissed in limine for lack of ripeness, as no factual foundation has been formed for examining the consequences of the Amendment. It argues that the language of the Amendment is ambiguous, and it is not yet clear how it will be interpreted by the courts. In addition, it is not yet clear whether the Knesset has the ability to employ parliamentary tools to enforce the reasonableness duty that continues to apply to the Government and the ministers. The Knesset further argues that the petitions are also not ripe because the implementation of the Amendment is dependent upon the conduct of the Government and the ministers in the new legal situation.

40.       Should the Court choose to decide upon the question of the constitutionality of the Amendment at this time, the Knesset is of the opinion that it does not reach the level of an unconstitutional constitutional amendment, inasmuch as it does not harm the core of the nuclear characteristics of the state. In this regard, it is argued that in the course of the Committee’s debates, the Knesset legal advisors noted the problems that arise from it and suggested alternative wordings for the Amendment, but not accepting the said recommendations does not mean that the Amendment, as approved, is unconstitutional. The Knesset is of the opinion that the threshold for conducting judicial review over the content of basic legislation must be higher, similar to the criteria for disqualifying candidates for election to the Knesset under sec. 7A(a) of Basic Law: The Knesset. In the matter before us, it is argued, we are concerned with an amendment that does not entirely deny the judicial review of decisions by the Government and its ministers, but concerns only the abolition of the reasonableness standard, which continues to apply in regard to other governmental agencies. It was further noted that judicial review in regard to the Amendment cannot be based upon the assumption that it is part of a broad, comprehensive process of future changes that would harm the democratic identity of the state.

            The Knesset adds that it is possible to narrow the scope of the Amendment’s application through interpretation. In its view, it can be interpreted in a manner that it would not apply to irrational decisions that could have been voided even prior to Dapei Zahav. The Knesset further notes that new judicial tools can be developed for judicial review in the area of appointments and dismissals and in regard to the decisions of an interim government.

41.       The Knesset emphasizes that the Amendment does not represent an abuse of constituent power because it is a general, stable, and abstract amendment that is appropriate, in its view, to the existing constitutional fabric. As for the Amendment’s immediate entry into force, it is argued that while it is preferable that the application of Basic Laws in regard to the regime be forward looking, in practice many such amendments were enacted with immediate effect and the case law has already made it clear that this fact alone is insufficient grounds for voiding a Basic Law. As for the constitutional-fabric test, the Knesset notes that the “natural place” for establishing rules in regard to judicial review by the Court is Basic Law: The Judiciary, and there is nothing wrong with an amendment that provides an answer to a specific issue and that does not address all of the aspects of judicial review over administrative decisions.

42.       Lastly, the Knesset argues that there was no defect in the legislative process that would justify voiding the Amendment, even though “it was possible to adopt a better legislative procedure than the one actually followed” (para. 224 of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response). Thus, it is argued that it was possible to advance the Amendment Bill as a bill on behalf of a committee in accordance with the Knesset Rules and that arguments raised in regard to the principle of participation do not even minimally meet the test established in Quintinsky for voiding a law on that basis.

43.       The Chair of the Constitution Committee, MK Rothman, concurs with the Knesset’s position that this Court lacks jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws, and in his opinion, debates concerning Basic Laws should be conducted in the Knesset alone. In the course of the hearing on Sept. 12, 2023, MK Rothman addressed the possibility of narrowing the scope of the Amendment through interpretation, which was suggested in the Knesset’s response, and emphasized that he does not agree with such a position and that in his view, the Amendment deprives the Court of jurisdiction to consider and decide upon arguments that relate to the reasonableness of Government and ministerial decisions in any manner (pp. 37-39 of the Transcript of the hearing).

44.       The Government Respondents argue that the petitions should be dismissed while establishing in principle that there can be no judicial review of Basic Laws. In their view, since the Court established that the it draws its jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of legislation from the Basic Laws, it cannot address their validity, and this is particularly the case in regard to Basic Law: The Judiciary. The Government Respondents note that adopting a doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendments in our system would make the State of Israel the only state in which it is possible to apply judicial review to constitutional amendments in the absence of an “eternity clause” in the constitution and in the absence of a complete constitution. In the opinion of the Government Respondents, “in Israel there are no substantive limitations upon the constituent authority” (para. 255 of the Affidavit in Response of the Government Respondents), and it is not possible to rely upon the fundamental principles of the system, the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or on the values of the Declaration of Independence – which does not constitute a binding legal source – as grounds for justifying judicial review of the content of Basic Laws.

            The Government Respondents further argue that the amendment that is the subject of the petitions is part of a “legitimate constitutional dialogue” between the governmental branches and it is a very far cry from causing harm to the minimum requirements of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. According to the Government Respondents, limiting judicial review does not present any constitutional problem, particularly when it does not concern basic rights and where it only concerns limiting the use of only one administrative standard. The Government Respondents incidentally note that there is no substance to the arguments raised in the Numa petition in regard to an increased danger of bringing international criminal charges against members of the armed forces as a result of the Amendment, and in any case, the Court does not have jurisdiction to decide whether a law or a Basic Law is good and proper in terms of its significance.

45.       As for the arguments concerning abuse of constituent power, the Government Respondents note that the tests established in Shafir are not binding precedent, and that the doctrine should not be adopted in our system. In any case, it is argued that the Amendment does not violate the tests for identifying a constitutional norm that were established in Shafir. In their opinion, we are concerned with an amendment that is stable, not enacted as a temporary provision, that applies generally and comprehensively to all future Governments, and that is appropriate as an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, which establishes the scope of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to issue orders to governmental authorities. The Government Respondents also reject the possibility of judicial review over the procedure for enacting Basic Laws, but emphasize that, in any event, the procedure for enacting the Amendment does not “even come close” to the circumstances addressed in Quintinsky.

            In regard to the remedy, the Government Respondents explain that there is no place for an affirming interpretation that would change the meaning of the Amendment as it arises from the language of the law and the debates in the Knesset. In their view, the result of the Amendment is that “there is no longer any possibility for judicial review on the basis of the reasonableness standard of any kind”, including in regard to decisions that are unreasonable in the extreme or utterly irrational (para. 45 of the Government Respondents Supplemental Brief). It was additionally argued that there is no basis for granting relief in the form of cancelling the Amendment’s immediate entry into force.

 

Examination and Decision

46.       The proceedings before us raise two primary questions. The first question is whether it is possible to conduct judicial review of the content of Basic Laws when it is argued that the Knesset deviated from its constituent power. This is a complex question, and until now, the Court has refrained from deciding it. But it is now the basis of the petitions and requires an answer. In practice, even the Government Respondents, who believe that the petitions should be dismissed, are of the opinion that this matter of principle should be decided.

            The second question, for which the answer is dependent upon the answer to the first question, is whether the amendment that is the subject of the petitions – Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary – should be voided. In this context, we must address the list of defects that, according to the Petitioners and the Attorney General, justify voiding the Amendment, first among them the argument that it severely harms the core character of the State of Israel as a democratic state and that the Knesset exceeded its constituent power in adopting it.

            I will address these questions in their order, and accordingly, I will first address the question of principle in regard to conducting judicial review of Basic Laws.

 

Part I: Judicial Review of Basic Laws

  1. The Power to adopt a Constitution

47.       In order to conduct a comprehensive examination of all that relates to conducting judicial review upon the constituent power of the Knesset, we must again examine the sources of that power and its substance. These aspects have been explained more than once in the case law of this Court and in the legal literature (see, inter alia, CA 6821/93 United Mizrahi Bank v. Migdal Cooperative Village [42] (hereinafter: Mizrahi Bank); Aharon Barak, “The Declaration of Independence and the Knesset as a Constituent Authority,” 11 Hukkim   9 (2018) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Barak, “Declaration of Independence”); Rivka Weill, “United Mizrahi Bank's Twentieth Anniversary: On the Piquant Story of the Hybrid Israeli Constitution,” 38 Iyyunei Mishpat 501, 501-570 (2016) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Weill, “Hybrid Constitution”)). I will therefore suffice with a brief survey.

48.       The Israeli constitutional project began on Friday evening, 5 Iyar 5708 (May 14, 1948), when, at a session of the People’s Council, David Ben Gurion read one of the most important documents in our history: The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (hereinafter: Declaration of Independence). Along with setting out the historical and international justification for the establishment of the state and presenting its vision, the Declaration included an “operative part” (Barak, “Declaration of Independence”, 13):

Accordingly we, members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

We declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel.”

            As we see, on the day the state was founded, its obligation to adopt a constitution for Israel was established. This is consistent with what was stated in Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly of November 29, 1948 (hereinafter: the General Assembly Resolution), which served as a “basis for the international legitimacy” of establishing the State of Israel (see: Hasson, para. 6, per Justice M. Mazuz). The General Assembly Resolution established, inter alia, that each of the countries that will be established in Mandatory Palestine will hold elections for a constituent assembly that will draft a democratic constitution in the framework of which the state institutions would be established, and basic rights would be granted to all of its residents (secs. 9 and 10 of Part 1(B) of the General Assembly Resolution; and see in this regard: Joseph Weiler and Doreen Lustig, “A Good Place in the Middle – The Israeli Constitutional Revolution from a Global and Comparative Perspective,” 38 Iyunei Mishpat 419, 455-457 (2016) [Hebrew]).

49.       A few months after the establishment of the state, the Provisional Council of State – which served as the legislature (see: sec. 1 of the Proclamation of the Provisional Council of State of May, 14, 1948 and sec. 7(a) of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 5708-1948) – enacted the the Constituent Assembly Elections Ordinance, 5709-1948, and pursuant to that, the Constituent Assembly (Transition) Ordinance, 5709-1949, which established: “The Constituent Assembly shall […] have all the powers vested by law in the Provisional Council of State” (and see: HCJ 5119/23 Anti-Corruption Movement v. Knesset [43], paras. 11-14, per Justice A. Stein) (hereinafter: Anti-Corruption Movement)). Following the elections, which were ultimately held at the beginning of 1949, the Transition Law, 5709-1949, was enacted. It established: “The legislative body of the State of Israel shall be called the Knesset. The Constituent Assembly shall be called ‘The First Knesset’” (sec. 1). Therefore, the First Knesset held both legislative power (which it inherited from the Provisional Council of State) and the power to establish a constitution (Mizrahi Bank, 362-364).

            Over the course of several months, the First Knesset held a debate upon the need for a constitution in principle and in regard to its contents. The debate ultimately ended in a compromise known as the “Harari Decision”, which was adopted by the Knesset plenum on June 13, 1950. The decision stated: “The First Knesset instructs the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee to prepare a draft State Constitution. The constitution will be built chapter by chapter, in such a way that each will constitute a separate Basic Law. The chapters shall be presented to the Knesset when the committee completes its work, and all the chapters together shall comprise the Constitution of the State” (Knesset Record – June 14, 1950, 1743). Unfortunately, as a result of that decision, we find ourselves today – more than seventy-three years since its adoption – without a complete state constitution, or as Prof. Aharon Barak aptly described it in his article “The Basic Law Project – Where To?” 14 Mishpat Ve-Asakim 111 (2012) [Hebrew]: “The Harari Decision saved the constitutional project from destruction, at the price of directing it to a parallel track where it moves very slowly” (ibid., 112).

            The First Knesset did not enact any Basic Laws but transferred its constituent power to the ensuing Knessets. It enacted the Second Knesset (Transition) Law, 5711-1951, in which it established: “The Second Knesset and its members shall have all the powers, rights and duties which the First Knesset and its members had” and added that this shall also apply “to the Third  and any subsequent Knesset” (see: secs. 5, 9 and 10 of the law).

50.       In 1958, the Third Knesset enacted the first Basic Law – Basic Law: The Knesset, and several more Basic Laws were enacted thereafter concerning the state’s institutions. The first judgments in which the Supreme Court addressed the status of the Basic Laws primarily concerned breaches of the principle of equality in elections, which was established in Basic Law: The Knesset, which also established that it could not be changed, expressly or impliedly, except by a majority of the Knesset members in each legislative stage (sec. 4 and 46 of Basic Law: The Knesset). In some of those judgments, the Court decreed that provisions that did not meet the special-majority requirement required by Basic Law: The Knesset were invalid (see: HCJ 98/69 Bergman v. Minister of Finance [44] (hereinafter: Bergman); HCJ 246/81 Agudat Derekh Eretz v. Broadcasting Authority [45] (hereinafter: Agudat Derekh Eretz); HCJ 141/82 Rubinstein v. Chairman of the Knesset [46] (hereinafter: HCJ 141/82)). However, in those proceedings, the Court was not required to address the question of the Knesset’s authority to adopt a constitution for Israel on the merits.

51.       In 1992, the first Basic Laws – and the only ones to date – that treat of individual rights were enacted: Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. These Basic Laws were the first to include a “substantive” entrenchment provision (the “limitation clause”), which establishes that the rights under those Basic Laws cannot be violated “save by means of a law that corresponds to the values of the State of Israel, which serves an appropriate purpose, and to an extent that does not exceed what is required, or on the basis of a law, as aforementioned, by force of an explicit authorization therein” (sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity; sec. 4 of Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation). Thereafter, proceedings in which arguments were raised concerning the unconstitutionality of laws infringing basic rights and that did not meet the conditions of the limitations clause began to come before the Court.

52.       In the Mizrahi Bank case, a panel of nine justices addressed matters of principle in regard to the status of the Basic Laws. In that case, contrary to the dissent of Justice M. Cheshin, the Court held that in enacting Basic Laws, the Knesset acts by virtue of its constituent power to write a constitution for Israel, and that in terms of the normative hierarchy, the status of those Basic Laws is superior to that of “regular” primary legislation. Therefore, the Court further held in Mizrahi Bank that it is possible to conduct judicial review of primary legislation, and even decree it void, if it does not meet the conditions set out in the Basic Laws. This was the case, in view of the Court’s jurisdiction to examine whether a “a normative provision of a lower status deviates from a higher normative provision” (ibid., 427).

            The judgment presented two competing approaches for grounding the Knesset’s power to enact Basic Laws that enjoy supra-legal normative status that would eventually become the constitution of the State of Israel. President (emer.) Shamgar relied upon “the doctrine of the unlimited sovereignty of the Knesset” according to which the Knesset is not limited in its power, except by the boundaries that it set for itself. In this regard, President (emer.) Shamgar noted:

The Knesset operates in that capacity without any internal allocation or division into different institutions based on one body’s supremacy over another. The Knesset has discretion to decide whether its legislative product will belong to the supreme constitutive level or the regular legislative level, and in enacting constitutional legislation, by virtue of its unlimited powers, it also establishes the supremacy of the constitutional law over the regular law, and is authorized to determine conditions applicable to regular legislation for the purposes of adjusting it to the norms determined in the constitutional legislation (ibid., 285).

            The other justices concurred with this approach in the Mizrahi Bank case.

53.       Another approach, which has taken root in the case law, was presented by President Barak and is referred to as the “constituent authority doctrine” (see, inter alia: HCJ 4908/10 Bar-On v. Knesset [47] 291 (hereinafter: Bar-On); Hasson, para. 17 of my opinion, and para. 4 of the opinion of Justice N. Hendel; Amnon Rubinstein and Barak Medina, The Constitutional Law of the State of Israel, vol. I: Institutions 78 (6th ed., 2005) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Rubinstein & Medina); Uri Aharonson, “The Constitutional Revolution: The Next Generation,” 34 Mechkarei Mishpat 1, 4 (forthcoming) [Hebrew]). According to this approach – with which Justices D. Levin, I. Zamir and E. Mazza concurred (the other justices refrained from expressly deciding between the two approaches) – the Knesset wears two primary “hats” or “crowns”: the constituent authority hat, by virtue of which it constitutes a constitution, and the legislative authority hat, by virtue of which it enacts laws (Mizrahi Bank, 356).

            In his opinion, President Barak emphasized that the Knesset did not create its constituent power, and that it is a power that “derives from the sovereign, i.e. the people” (ibid.). President Barak went on to survey a list of “constitutional data”, among them – the Declaration of Independence, the Harari Decision, the adopting of twelve Basic Laws, the case law, the Knesset’s reaction to the decisions of the courts, and the view of the legal community that, in his view, testify to the constituent power of the Knesset. On the basis of this data, President Barak presented three legal-theory models that, in his view, all lead to the conclusion that the Knesset is indeed granted constituent power. President Barak found all the more support for this conclusion in that the three models led to an identical conclusion:

  1. The Constitutional Continuity model, according to which the “grundnorm” of the State of Israel – “its superior norm, which is not itself part of the body of positive law, but provides a basis for the other legal norms of the state” (ibid., 359) – is that the Provisional Council of State is the supreme legislative institution of the State. According to this model, which is based upon the approach of constitutional law scholar Hans Kelsen, the Provisional Council of State decreed in the Declaration of Independence that a constitution would be enacted by the Constituent Assembly, and that power passed by the “constitutional continuity” described above to every Knesset from then until today.
  2. The Rule of Recognition of the System model, based upon the approach of Prof. H.L.A. Hart, according to which the rule that determines how primary norms are created in the state and their relative normative status is that “the Knesset is endowed with both constituent and legislative authority” and this reflects the “system of national life” of the State (ibid., 357).
  3. The Best Interpretation of Social and Legal History model of the system in a given time, based upon the approach of Prof. Ronald Dworkin, according to which “the interpretation that best fits the entirety of Israel’s social and legal history since its establishment is that the Knesset is empowered to enact a constitution for Israel” (ibid., 358).

54.       As we see, since the judgment in Mizrahi Bank, and even though the process of constituting a constitution has not been completed, the Basic Laws are viewed “in the political and public tradition as part of the constitution of the State” (Bar-On, 299). Accordingly, the view that the “legislative products of the Knesset in its hat as a legislative authority are subject, in terms of their normative level, to the Basic Laws that hold constitutional status” has become established (Hasson, para. 17 of my opinion).

55.       A form test was established in Mizrahi in regard to the question how one can identify constitutional norms. According to this test, “the Knesset uses its constituent authority… when it gives external expression in the name of the norm, denoting it a ‘Basic Law’ (without specifying the year of enactment)” (ibid., 403). Along with this holding, the Court in Mizrahi Bank left two questions for further consideration. First, the question was asked what would happen in regard to “future Knesset legislation that might ‘abuse’ the term ‘Basic Law’ by designating as such regular legislation with no constitutional content” (ibid., 406) (emphasis added). President Barak noted in this regard that “this question is by no means simple; its answer extends to the very root of the relationship between the constituent authority (of the Knesset) and the judicial authority (of the courts)” (ibid.). Second, it was noted that a need for “a determination as to whether certain provisions set forth in the Basic Law deviate from constituent authority” might arise (ibid., 394) (emphasis added). In this regard, President Barak noted that courts around the world examine the constitutionality of constitutional amendments, and that more than one such amendment has been invalidated for substantive reasons as well, but this issue was also left for further consideration in Mizrahi Bank.

            Over the last few years, as will be explained in detail below, these questions have been raised in a number of petitions filed against Basic Laws and amendments to Basic Laws enacted by the Knesset.

 

  1. Abuse of Constituent Power

56.       As noted, Mizrahi Bank did not thoroughly examine the possibility that the Knesset might abuse its constituent power and recognize a norm as a Basic Law although inappropriate to be part of a future constitution in terms of its characteristics. The need to address this possibility and to reexamine the form test for identifying Basic Laws first arose against the background of increasing use of constituent power to enact amendments to Basic Laws as temporary provisions. Thus, Bar-On addressed an amendment to a Basic Law that established in a temporary provision that the state budget for the years 2011 and 2012 would be a two-year budget. President Beinisch noted in this regard that a temporary provision inherently “contradicts the basic idea whereby the provisions of the constitution are fixed, and some would say even eternal” (ibid., 300). She added that “in certain circumstances, which cannot be determined in advance, it is possible that the enactment of a basic law as a temporary provision may amount to ‘misuse’ of the title ‘Basic Law’” (ibid., 301). In regard to the specific amendment addressed in Bar-On, the Court rejected the argument that it should be voided due to abuse of constituent power, but explained that it would be better if the Knesset refrain in the future from using temporary provisions for amending constitutional provisions (ibid., 307).

57.       Despite the Court’s comments in Bar-On, the Knesset continued to change Basic Laws by means of temporary provisions in order to approve two-year budgets. The fifth time that occurred, the Court granted relief for the first time on the basis of the “abuse of constituent power” doctrine, and issued a nullification notice according to which, in the future, it would not be permissible to adopt a budget that it not annual by means of a temporary provision (HCJ 8260/16 Academic Center v. Knesset [48] (hereinafter: Academic Center)). Deputy President (emer.) E. Rubinstein held that “where an abuse of the majority’s power is identified in a constitutional text, the political need retreats before ‘the constitutional core’ and its ‘sanctity’, its legal importance and its importance in terms of values” (ibid., para. 30). Deputy President (emer.) S. Joubran added that the “abuse” doctrine is not limited to circumstances of enacting basic legislation as a temporary provision, and that “basic legislation as a temporary provision is, therefore, just one unfortunate expression of exploiting this ‘constitutional gap’ left by the form test” (ibid., para. 7 of his opinion).

58.       Some four years later, judgment was handed down in Shafir, which addressed Amendment no. 50 to Basic Law: The Knesset that was enacted as a temporary provision and comprised, inter alia, an indirect amendment of Basic Law: The State Economy that resulted in the raising of the continuation-budget ceiling for 2020 by 11 billion shekels. In that case. The nature of the abuse of constituent power doctrine was examined along with the source of the Court’s authority to conduct judicial review thereunder:

The center of gravity of the doctrine of abuse of constituent power is, as noted, the question whether the norm grounded in the Basic Law is, indeed, on the constitutional plane under our tests for identifying such legislation. The task of identifying a norm as a legal norm on a particular normative level, including the constitutional level, is at the core of the Court’s role […] In other words, the Court’s role is to defend the developing constitution against the infiltration of norms that are not of the appropriate status into the constitutional fabric in a manner that might erode and trivialize the status of the Basic Laws (ibid., para. 31 of my opinion).

            It was explained that this doctrine is concerned with the identification of the norm under discussion as a constitutional norm in accordance with its the formal-procedural characteristics, as opposed to judicial review of the content of the norm. For that purpose, my opinion presented a two-stage test intended to guide the Court in examining whether the Knesset abused its constituent power. At the first stage, “the identification stage”, the Court will examine whether the Basic Law or its amendment bears the formal characteristics and hallmarks of constitutional norms. To that end, several supplementary tests were established, which do not form a closed list: (1) The stability test, which examines the question of whether we are concerned with an arrangement that is permanent, stable and forward-looking, as is required of constitutional norms intended to establish the character of the state over time; (2) The generality test, which addresses whether the norm has general, abstract application that relates to a non-specific group, as opposed to a personal norm; (3) The compatibility to the constitutional fabric test, which examines whether the norm is consistent with the character of those subjects already arranged in the Basic Laws. If the law does not meet one or more of those characteristics, then, in the second stage – “the justification stage” – the burden shifts to the respondents to show a special justification for establishing an arrangement that is not of a constitutional character specifically in the framework of the Basic Laws (and compare the opinion of Justice Barak-Erez in Shafir, who was of the opinion that instead of the compatibility to the constitutional fabric test, we should adopt a “distinction” test that examines whether the arrangement grounded in the Basic Law clearly intrudes into an area that is the responsibility of one of the other three branches of government, and recommended that we abandon the justification stage, such that a provision that does not meet the recognition tests cannot be deemed basic legislation).

            The judgment held, by a majority of six of the nine justices on the panel, that Amendment no. 50 of Basic Law: The Knesset lacked the identifying characteristics of a constitutional norm and that the Knesset had abused its constituent power. However, it was held in that matter that it would suffice to issue a “nullification notice” stating that Basic Law: The State Economy could not be amended in a similar way in order to increase the continuation-budget ceiling. The minority (Justices Sohlberg, Mintz and Elron) dissented in regard to adopting a doctrine that deviates from the form test for identifying Basic Laws based upon their title.

59.       The abuse of constituent power doctrine – first presented in Bar-On, recognized and first applied in Academic Center, and developed into concrete tests in Shafir – has taken root in the case law, and additional constitutional amendments have been examined in accordance with it over the last years (see: HCJ 2905/20 Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset [49] (hereinafter: the Rotation Government case); and Scheinfeld). This was, inter alia, in view of a pattern of significant regime changes “executed ad hoc, sometimes by means of temporary provision, for immediate implementation (sometimes exclusively) by the Knesset that executed them” (the Rotation Government case, para. 11 of my opinion; and see Scheinfed, para. 42 of my opinion, and para. 4 of the opinion of Justice O. Groskopf). There is, therefore, no substance to the claim by the Government Respondents that the abuse of constituent power doctrine “was never accepted as binding precedent by the Court” (para. 148 of the Government Respondent’s Affidavit in Response). As detailed above, this doctrine was addressed more than once before expanded panels of this Court and was repeatedly adopted by a majority of the Court. In two of those proceedings, the petitions were even granted by reason of the Knesset’s abuse of constituent power, although the constitutional remedy granted was forward looking.

            We can summarize in saying that in the framework of the abuse of constituent power doctrine, the Court focuses on identifying the norm under review and upon the question of whether it is appropriate, in terms of its characteristics, to be found at the constitutional level (the Rotation Government case, para. 2 of my opinion). It does not conduct judicial review of the content of basic legislation in the framework of this doctrine (see: Academic Center, para. 5, per Deputy President (emer.) Joubran).

 

  1. Deviation from the Knesset’s Power as a Constituent Authority

60.       A separate question is that of whether there can be situations in which there is no flaw in titling a norm as a “Basic Law”, but the substantive content of the norm leads to the conclusion that it constitutes a “deviation from constituent authority” of the Knesset (Mizrahi Bank, 394). This issue is examined in comparative law by means of the “unconstitutional constitutional amendment” doctrine, which is accepted in various legal systems. In accordance with this doctrine, there are substantive limits upon the power to amend the constitution, and the courts void constitutional amendments that deviate from those limits (for a detailed discussion of this subject, see: Yaniv Roznai, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: The Limits of Amendment Powers (2017) (hereinafter: Roznai).

61.       Research conducted on the subject found that some 40% of the constitutions in the world comprise explicit restrictions upon amending the constitution. These restrictions are grounded in “eternity clauses” established in the constitution itself, and they prohibit changing or amending certain parts of it (Yaniv Roznai, “Misuse of Basic Laws”, in Judge Elyakim Rubinstein Book, vol. II 1349, 1353 (Aharon Barak et al. eds.) (2021) [Hebrew]). Eternity clauses reflect the decision of the constituent body that certain provisions of the constitution are basic conditions of the state’s identity and existence, and it must, therefore, be ensured that “they will survive for generations without reliance upon the one majority or another” (Hasson, para. 13 of my opinion). In some of those constitutions, the eternity clause is accompanied by an express provision empowering the court to examine the constitutionality of constitutional amendments in accordance with those clauses (see: Aharon Barak, “An Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment,” in Gavriel Bach Book 361, 373 (David Hahn et al. eds. 2011) (hereinafter: Barak, “Constitutional Amendment”)). Similarly, there are countries in which even in the absence of such and explicit provision, the court is viewed as the body authorized to examine whether the eternity clause has been breached (see: Roznai, 203). The most salient example in this regard is Germany. The German Basic Law establishes that the provisions regarding, inter alia, human dignity, the federal division of the states, and Germany’s being a social democracy (sec. 79(3) of the Grundgesetz). Over the years, the German Constitutional Court has viewed itself as holding jurisdiction to decide whether a constitutional amendment breaches the restrictions established in the constitution in this regard even though there are no express grounds for this jurisdiction in the text of the constitution (see, e.g.: 30 BVerGE 1 (1970); 109 BVerGE 279 (2004). A similar example can be found in Brazil, on which see: Conrado Hübner Mendes, “Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments in the Brazilian Supreme Court,” 17 Fl. J. Int’l. L. 449 (2005)).

            Another model of the unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine relies upon the existence of implied limitations upon amending the constitution. Thus, in India we find the “basic structure” doctrine, according to which the power to amend the constitution does not include the power to entirely rewrite its identity or basic character (see: Roznai, 42-47). The Indian Supreme Court held that it holds the authority to conduct substantive judicial review of constitutional amendments by virtue of this doctrine, and over the years it has voided a number of constitutional amendments (see, inter alia: Minerva Mills v. Union of India [161]; Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Ass'n v. Union of India [162]; on other countries that have implied restrictions upon the constitution, see: Roznai, 47-69).

62.       In any case, the above models apply in countries that have complete constitutions constituted upon the “original” constituent power, and the express or implied limitations are applied thereby upon the “derivative” power to amend the constitution (in regard to the distinction between “original” or “primary” constituent authority and “derivative” or “secondary” constituent power, see: Claude Klein, “The Constituent Power before the Supreme Court: After the Bank Hamizrahi Case”, 28 Mishpatim 341, 355-356 (1997) [Hebrew]; Aharon Barak, Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, vol, I – The Theory of Constitutional Rights (I. Zamir, ed., 2023) (hereinafter: Barak: Theory of Constitutional Rights)). These models cannot be applied as such in Israel, where the task of drafting a constitution has not yet been completed and is still being created “chapter by chapter”. That being the case, the use of the term “constitutional amendment” raises problems in our system (see: Barak, “Constitutional Amendment”, 379). Indeed, although this Court has referred to the existence of basic principles at the foundation of the state’s identity on several occasions (see, e.g.: CA 733/95 733/95 Arpal Aluminum v. Klil Industries [50] 629-630 (hereinafter: Arpal); HCJ 6427/02 Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset [51] 717 (hereinafter: The Tal Law case)), the question of the applicability of the “unconstitutional constitutional amendment” doctrine in Israel was left for further consideration, while emphasizing the difficulty in adopting models from comparative law into our system in this context (see: Bar-On, 309-311; Academic Center, para. 35, per Deputy President (emer.) E. Rubinstein, and para. 15, per Justice U. Vogelman; HCJ 5744/16 Ben Meir v. Knesset [52] para. 25 of my opinion (hereinafter: Ben Meir)).

63.       The most significant discussion on the limits of the constituent authority appears in Hasson, which addressed the constitutionality of Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People (hereinafter: Basic Law: The Nation). In that matter, it was noted that the question of adopting a comprehensive doctrine for examining the constitutionality of amendments to the constitution would best be addressed when the completed Basic Law project has become a full constitution. However, it was emphasized that “the significance of that is not necessarily that in the absence of a comprehensive doctrine, the constituent power of the Israeli constituent authority is unlimited” (ibid., para. 15 of my opinion) (emphasis original). In this regard, we explained that two separate questions needed to be addressed: “The first question is whether there already are any substantive (content-based) limitations on the Knesset’s constituent power; the second – if there are such limitations, do they grant this Court the authority to conduct substantive judicial review of Basic Laws […]” (ibid., para. 16 of my opinion) (emphasis original). The first question was answered with a ringing, clear “yes” in Hasson. Answering the second question was not required for deciding Hasson, and it now stands before us.

 

C. 1.    The Limits upon the Power of the Constituent Authority

64.       The judgment in Hasson first established in no uncertain terms that the power of the Knesset wearing its constituent authority hat is not unlimited and it is not authorized to deny – in law or in practice – the core identifying characteristics of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In this regard, it was noted that “our constitutional edifice is not complete, and it is certainly possible that floors and extensions may be added to it along the way, but its support columns – the Jewish column and the democratic column – have already been set in place. Negating either of them leads to the collapse of the entire structure” (ibid., para. 18 of my opinion). Nine of the eleven justices on the panel concurred with this conclusion (Justices Sohlberg and Mintz refrained from directly addressing this issue and focused upon the problems related to judicial review of the Basic Laws).

65.       The conclusion in regard to the existence of restrictions upon the power of the Knesset to adopt a constitution can be learned from the constitutional text and the constitutional system as a whole, as developed since the earliest days of the state. The Declaration of Independence, which charged the “Elected Constituent Assembly” with the task of adopting the constitution, defined Israel as a Jewish state and gave clear expression to its democratic character as a state committed to equal rights and the freedoms of the individual. While the attorney for the Government Respondents repeatedly emphasized, in writing and orally, that the Declaration itself does not have binding legal status, it would seem that no one disputes that, in practice, this Declaration grounds “the foundational concepts of the State until this day” (EA 1/88 Neiman v. Chairman of the Central Elections Committee [53], 188 (hereinafter: Neiman)). This is the “birth certificate” of the state and it expresses the national vision (Kol Ha’am, 884; Mizrahi, 309): Israel is a Jewish state. Israel is a democratic state.

            The Basic Laws also reflect the fact that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and this is its “identity card” (Hasson, para. 19 of my opinion). Thus, sec. 1A of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and sec. 2 of Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation refer to “the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”; and sec. 7A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset makes it possible to deny the right to be elected to the Knesset to a person who negates “the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”. Similarly, there are “regular” laws that expressly include the term “Jewish and democratic state”, along with many other laws that establish the identity of the state as such by their substance, among them the Law of Return, 5710-1950 (hereinafter: the Law of Return) and laws concerning the prohibition of discrimination (for a detailed list, see Hasson, para. 22 of my opinion). The case law has also noted over the years that the Jewish character of the state is “its clear hallmark among the nations and the states” and that its democratic character is its “life breath” (EA 11280/02 Central Elections Committee v. Tibi [54], 101 (hereinafter: Tibi); Neiman, 188; and also see: HCJ 466/07 Gal-On v. Attorney General [55] 63).

            From the above we can conclude:

The Declaration of Independence defined the character of the state as Jewish and democratic; the Basic Laws expressly grounded these elements in the identity of the state; the legislation and case law strengthened and fortified them; and the history of the nation has repeatedly demonstrated that this is its character since its inception. Therefore, it would appear that even though the constitutional project has not yet been completed, the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state cannot be disputed (Hasson, para. 23 of my opinion; and also see: ibid., para. 2, per Deputy President H, Melcer).

66.       The conclusion in regard to the boundaries of the constituent power directly derives from those “constitutional data” that ground the very existence of the constituent power. In other words, the basis for the conclusion as to the boundaries of the constituent power granted to the Knesset is, in my opinion, the existing constitutional system in its entirety – i.e., those “constitutional data” upon which the upon which the theory of the constituent power was formed from the outset. This, as opposed to other approaches that deduce the existence of limitations upon the constituent power from “framework rules” established in the Declaration of Independence (Barak: Theory of Constitutional Rights, 282-283; and see: Ariel Bendor, “The Legal Status of the Basic Laws,” in Berenson Book, vol. II (A. Barak and H. Berenson, eds., 2000) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Bendor, “Legal Status”)) or from unwritten supra-constitutional principles (see the approach of Justice Cheshin in Arpal, 629 and in The Tal Law, 761). Justice Hendel defined this well in noting that the most appropriate interpretation of the entire constitutional history of the State of Israel since its inception is that the Knesset’s power to adopt a constitution is subject to preserving the “kernel of its Jewish-democratic identity”, and that the constitutional data shows the existence of “recognition rules” that limit the Knesset’s power to abolish the kernel of the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel by means of first-order rules (Hasson, para. 4 of his opinion).

67.       Hasson held that the Knesset’s constituent power comes from the sovereign (the people) and passed from Knesset to Knesset to this day. Therefore, the possibility of establishing a constitutional provision that would tumble the building blocks of the state as Jewish and democratic “is not within the constituent power of the Knesset” (ibid., para. 24 of my opinion; and see: The Tal Law, 717). It was further held in Hasson that the limitations upon the constituent power apply both to the adoption of a new Basic Law and to the enactment of an amendment to an existing Basic Law. However, given the present stage of the Israeli constitutional project, these limitations are extremely narrow and concern “situations in which a Basic Law facially negates or contradicts ‘the “nuclear” characteristics that form the minimum definition’ of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” (ibid., paras, 27 and 29 of my opinion; and also see: ibid., para. 4 of the opinion of Justice (emer.) Mazuz).

 

C.2. The Role of the Court

68.       Given the substantive limitations upon the Knesset in exercising its constituent power, the main question that remains to be decided is whether this Court should be granted the possibility of conducting judicial review in order to ensure that those limitations are indeed observed, and in order to intervene in those exceptional, rare instances in which the Knesset has deviated from them.

            As noted, this question was left undecided in Hasson, where the majority was of the opinion that Basic Law: The Nation does not negate the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state, and therefore, there was no need to determine the question of the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct substantive judicial review of Basic Laws.

69.       As noted in Hasson, establishing that the Knesset, as a constituent authority, is not “all powerful” and that it is subject to certain limitations does not, itself, necessarily lead to the conclusion that a deviation by the Knesset from its power in this regard will constitute grounds for judicial review (ibid., para. 32 of my opinion). Thus, for example, art. 89 of the French Constitution comprises an eternity clause according to which: “The republican form of government shall not be the object of any amendment”. However, the French Conseil Constitutionnel ruled that it does not have jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of constitutional amendments (CC decision No. 2003-469 DC, Mar. 26, 2003, Rec. 293). In such countries, the limitations upon amending the constitution are non-enforceable. Their influence is only in internalizing the rules of the constitutional game by the elements involved in establishing the constitutional norms, and if such rules be breached – the public can make its voice heard on election day (Hasson, para. 33 of my opinion; see in this regard: European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Report of Constitutional Amendment 44 (2010)). As opposed to that, as noted above, in no insignificant number of states, the constitutional courts have established their authority to review constitutional amendments and void them if the amendment violates the express limitations in the constitution (e.g., Germany) or implied constitutional limitations (e.g., India), even without that power being expressly set out in the constitutional text. In those systems, the court’s role is to ensure that the limitations upon amending the constitution will not remain purely declarative, and in cases in which the boundaries of the amending power are “breached”, it will be possible to protect that unchangeable constitutional core in practice.

70.       In Israel, the Basic Laws do not expressly refer to the question of jurisdiction to conduct substantive judicial review of the Basic Laws. Likewise, the constitution-in-formation does not comprise an eternity clause or a complete “basic structure” that can be pointed to at present, which makes it difficult to adopt a comprehensive unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine. However, even at this stage of the constitutional project, we can state that “‘Jewish and democratic’ are the Jachin and Boaz [I Kings 7:21 – trans.], the central pillars of the State of Israel” (Hasson, para. 1, per Justice I. Amit), and that suffices to establish a limitation – albeit narrow – upon the constituent power of the Knesset. Against this background, Justice Vogelman noted in Hasson that he tended to the approach that the authority to conduct judicial review “derives from the substantive limitations upon the power of the constituent authority. This, in order that those limitations not be rendered a dead letter” (ibid., para. 4 of his opinion; see and compare: ibid., para 4, per Justice Hendel; Academic Center, para. 35, per Deputy President (emer.) Rubinstein).

71.       I will begin hysteron proteron by saying that I am also of the opinion that in those rare cases in which the Knesset deviated from the boundaries of its constituent power, the Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice possesses the authority – and is even required – to declare that we are not concerned with a valid constitutional norm. As I will explain below, this conclusion derives directly from the unique characteristics of our constitutional structure and from the manner of exercising constituent power, which distinguishes our system from other legal systems and leads to the conclusion that the limitations upon the Knesset’s constituent power cannot be left unenforceable.

The Uniqueness of the Constitution-in-Formation “Israel style”

72.       The uniqueness of the Israeli constitutional project is expressed in three primary aspects: (1) the fact that it is built in stages, “chapter by chapter” over the course of decades; (2) the absence of a special procedure for adopting constitutional norms; (3) the exceptional control of the political majority – the Government, in particular – over the exercise of constituent power.

            Below, I will briefly address each of these aspects.

 

  1. “Chapter by Chapter”

73.       As opposed to the constitutions of other countries that were adopted upon the establishment of the state or pursuant to a revolution, war or other extreme change in national life, in Israel, upon the adoption of the Harari Decision and the dissolution of the constituent assembly (the First Knesset) without the adoption of a constitution, “the opportunity for adopting a constitution at the ‘revolutionary moment’ of the establishment of the state was lost” (Rubinstein & Medina, 76). The “Israel-style” constitution was, therefore, not completed in a single process and it is still being crafted “chapter by chapter” (Bar-On, 297-299; Academic Center, para 15, per Justice Vogelman). As a result, elements generally present in constitutions throughout the world have not yet been established in the Basic Laws, including some of the basic rights and the manner of amending the constitutional text (Basic Law: Legislation) (Bar-On, 297; Rivka Weill, “Shouldn't We Seek the People's Consent? On the Nexus between the Procedures of Adoption and Amendment of Israel’s Constitution,” 10 Mishpat Umimshal 449, 450 (2007) [Hebrew]). In addition, we are concerned with a process spread out over a long period, which has no counterpart in the constitutional history of other states, and that has no discernable end point (Mizrahi, 402). As a result, Israel finds itself in the unusual situation in which there is no single constituent assembly, and in practice, there have, at present, been 25 constituent assemblies whose members have changed every few years (or months) in accordance with the results of the Knesset elections. From a comparative perspective, as noted in the literature, “there is no example to be found of such a strange constituent assembly – all the known examples are of constituent assemblies elected specifically for that purpose, that addressed the adoption of a constitution over the course of a few months or years, and that then dispersed” (Iddo Porat, “Constitutional Politics and Regular Politics – The Nation Law, The Constituent Power Doctrine, and Constitutional Dualism,” 20 Democratic Culture 217, 246 (2021) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Porat, “Constitutional Politics”)).

74.       Indeed, the fact that the Israeli constitution has not yet been completed justifies refraining from adopting a comprehensive doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendment. However, prolonging the completion of the constitutional project and its continuation over the course of decades increase the fear of the possible weakening of the founding narrative that defines our existence and that stood at the basis of the establishment of the state, and perhaps, Heaven forbid, even disengagement from it. Moreover, the view that there is no possibility for judicial review of the content of Basic Laws until the completion of the constitution serves as a negative incentive for the Knesset to continue to delay the adoption of a constitution (Hasson, para. 2, per Justice. A. Baron). The words of Justice G. Karra, in his dissent in Hasson, are apt in this regard:

If the argument of waiting for the completion of the constitutional project is accepted, then, under the aegis of the absence of arrangements for conducting judicial review, and despite the fact that the “project of adopting a constitution” has not yet ended even after over 70 years since the establishment of the state – the constituent authority will be found “immunizing” itself, de facto, from judicial review. Thus, on the face of it, it has the unbridled, unlimited ability to establish Basic Laws however it may see fit, including Basic Laws that materially violate fundamental democratic values. Such a “normative vacuum” cannot be tolerated (ibid., para. 9 of his opinion).

 

  1. The Absence of a Special Procedure for adopting Constitutional Norms

75.       Another characteristic that sets the Israeli constitutional project apart in comparison to other constitutions around the world is the fact that there is no real difference between the procedure for adopting a Basic Law and the procedure for enacting “regular” laws. The procedure for enacting Basic Laws is set out in the Knesset Rules of Procedure, and new Basic Laws can be adopted by a simple majority of those present in the chamber (see: Bar-On, 298). The same is true for amending an existing Basic Law. This is the case except in regard to entrenched Basic Laws, like Basic Law: The Knesset, which can only be amended by a majority of 61 members of Knesset in each reading. But in the normal course of events, that is the majority enjoyed by every coalition. In addition, there are a few provisions that can only be amended by a majority of 80 members of Knesset (secs. 9A(a), 44, and 45 of Basic Law: The Knesset, treating of postponing elections and suspension by means of emergency regulations; and secs. 6-7 of Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel in regard to transferring part of the city to a foreign entity).

            Against this background, “the unbearable lightness of enacting and amending Basic Laws” has been emphasized on more than one occasion (Ariel Bendor, “Defects in the Enactment of Basic Laws,” 2 Mishpat Umimshal 443, 444 (1994) [Hebrew]; and see: Mizrahi Bank, 302; Hasson, para. 5, per Justice (emer.) Mazuz).  This Court has repeatedly called for the adoption of Basic Law: Legislation, which would establish a special, fixed legislative procedure that would distinguish adopting Basic Laws and their amendment from the process of enacting “regular” laws. Unfortunately, the adoption of this Basic Law remains in abeyance (Hasson, para. 91 of my opinion; and also see: Bar-On, 313; Shafir, para 3, per Justice Amit).

76.       The simple procedure by which constitutional norms can be adopted in Israel is markedly exceptional in relation to other states. A comparative survey recently conducted at the request of the legal advisor to the Constitution Committee examined the arrangements for amending constitutions in 22 western democracies (Gabriel Bukobza, “Arrangements for Amending Constitutions” (Knesset Research and Information Center, 2023)). All of the countries surveyed have a special, rigorous procedure for amending the constitution, which comprises at least one (and usually more) of the following mechanisms: ratification by two houses of the parliament; ratification of the amendment by a special majority (e.g., three-fifths or two-thirds); ratification of the amendment both by the federal legislature and by the states of the federation; ratification of the amendment only after elections for the parliament; ratification of the amendment by plebiscite. It would not be superfluous to note that the procedure for adopting a new constitution is generally “more burdensome than regular legislative process and separate from it” (Porat, “Constitutional Politics,” 227).  Thus, “in many countries, there are different procedures for amending the constitution, but there is no country that has a model similar to that of Israel, in which a constitutional amendment – i.e., the enactment of a new Basic Law or the amendment of an existing Basic Law – can be enacted by the regular legislative process, by a majority, in a single legislative house” (Amir Fuchs & Mordechai Kremnitzer, Distribution of Power, Not Separation of Branches: Preventing the Concentration of Political Power in Israel, 65 (Policy Paper 133, Israeli Democracy Institute, 2019) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Distribution of Power)).

77.       In this regard, we should emphasize that there are significant reasons for maintaining a distinction between the enactment of regular laws – which, by there nature, are designed in accordance with the rules of “day-to-day politics” and expressed in a decision of a simple majority – and “constitutional politics” by which constitutional norms are adopted in a lengthy, deliberative, consensual process (Porat, “Constitutional Politics,” 218; Yoav Dotan, “A Constitution for Israel? The Constitutional Dialogue after the Constitutional Revolution,” 28 Mishpatim 149, 162 (1996) [Hebrew]; William Partlett & Zim Nwokora, “The Foundations of Democratic Dualism: Why Constitutional Politics and Ordinary Politics are Different,” 26 Constellations 177 (2019). Special, rigorous procedures for adopting and amending a constitution help prevent “constitutional grabs” by a “narrow” majority, ensure the stability of the most substantial arrangements of the political and legal system, require balancing and compromises among different sectors of the state, and grant the constitutional text broad legitimacy (Hasson, para. 2, per Justice Karra; Porat, “Constitutional Politics,” 230-236).

78.       Inherently, the more rigorous and burdensome the process required for amending the constitution, the weaker the justification for substantive judicial review of constitutional norms. This is so because meeting the complex requirements for amending the constitution is itself “a guarantee of a significant debate upon the content of the amendment and its appropriateness to the system” (Hasson, para. 12, per Justice Barak-Erez). For example, in the United States – where the Supreme Court refrains from conducting judicial review of constitutional amendments (see: Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939)) – a proposal to amend the Constitution will be adopted subject to its approval by two-thirds of each of the houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states. These are very rigorous demands, and it comes as no surprise that the last amendment to the Constitution (the 27th Amendment) was ratified over 30 years ago.

            As opposed to this, the Israeli system is a clear edge case in which the simple procedure for adopting constitutional norms grants a chance majority the possibility of fundamentally changing the state’s constitutional structure and the national identity quickly and easily (see and compare: Bar-On, 313; Academic Center, para. 102, per Deputy President Melcer, who was in the minority in regard to the result). Therefore, in Israel, there is justification for conducting substantive judicial review of Basic Laws in the absence of any of the other guarantees provided by a rigorous process like those found in other countries for adopting constitutional norms.

 

  1. Control of the Exercise of Constituent Power by the Political Majority

79.       As noted, our constitutional history has led to a situation in which the same body – the Israeli Knesset – exclusively holds both the legislative and the constituent powers. In other words, the same members of Knesset who are elected in parliamentary elections in accordance with their party affiliation are entrusted with enacting both “regular” laws and Basic Laws. Alongside that, the Israeli regime structure grants the government significant influence over legislation by means of such mechanisms as party discipline and the Ministerial Committee for Legislation (Matan Gutman, “The Coalition State: ‘Rubber Stamp” or “Cheerleading Squad’,” Salim Joubran Book 197 (Aharon Barak et al., eds, 2023) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Gutman)). One might have expected that these mechanisms would be reserved for proceedings concerning the Knesset’s role as a legislative authority, as MK Yizhar Harari (for whom the Harari Decision was named) well expressed in his comments to the Knesset plenum in the debate on Basic Law: The President:

[…] in the matter of the constitution and the chapters of the constitution, there is a complete blurring between the present interests of the factions in supporting or opposing the government, and it would be well if, in general, the members of the Knesset would vote with complete freedom, because the constitution that we are adopting is not for this Knesset or this government, but rather for a period that I hope will be at least like that of the Constitution of the United States (Knesset Record, June 9, 1963, 2031).

            However, the reality is that this hope expressed by MK Harari was not realized. In practice, coalition discipline became an integral, inseparable part of our parliamentary system, which is also expressed in the proceedings for adopting Basic Laws (Amnon Rubinstein and Yuval Geva, “The use of Political Discipline in adopting Basic Laws” (ICON-S-IL Blog (March 25, 2020) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Rubinstein & Geva)). The combination of the institutional identity of the Knesset as a legislature and as a constituent authority and the Government’s dominance in the legislative process lead to the Government holding “power (that it uses frequently) to create constitutional amendments and thereby change the Basic Laws, and with them, the rules of the game” (Distribution of Power, 66). Expressions of the political majority’s effective control over the adoption of Basic Laws can be found, inter alia, in the establishing of special “ad hoc” committees to consider proposals for Basic Laws instead of the permanent committees (see, for example, the joint committee established for the purpose of enacting Basic Law: The Nation; Hasson, para. 2 of my opinion), and in the signing of coalition agreements and specific undertakings to support initiatives for the adoption of Basic Laws, while denying Knesset members the possibility of forming an independent opinion on the matter (see: Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov, “The Law of Lawmaking,” 37 Iyunei Mishpat 645, 696 (20160 [Hebrew] (hereinafter: “Law of Lawmaking”)).

80.       Israel’s institutional structure thus increases the fear that long-term planning may be tainted by short-term political interests in a manner that may lead to very serious harm to the constitutional order (the Rotation Government case, para. 103, per Deputy President (emer.) Melcer). Thus, the political majority’s extraordinary control of the legislative process also adds to the need for judicial review of the content of Basic Laws (see and compare: Hasson, para. 2, per Justice Baron; Roznai, 219).

81.       The three structural aspects described above – adopting a constitution “chapter by chapter”, the absence of a special procedure for adopting constitutional norms, and the control of the exercise of constituent power by the political majority – and all the more so when taken cumulatively, make our constitutional system unusual by any standard. In this situation, leaving the limitations upon the Knesset’s power unenforceable and not subject to any possibility for the court to examine whether the Knesset exceeded its autority – even in extreme cases – presents a very serious problem. Justice (emer.) Mazuz emphasized this in Hasson, noting:

[…] the absence of a complete constitution, and the existence of an anomalous situation in which Israeli constitutional norms are, in practice, enacted by the regular legislative process, in the absence of institutional and procedural separation between legislating constitutional provisions and regular laws, and not in a rigorous, unique procedure for enacting a constitution or constitutional amendments as is usual in regard to constitutions throughout the world, gives rise to the need and importance of there being limitations upon the exercise of the constituent power and in conducting judicial review specifically at this stage (ibid., para 5 of his opinion).

 

            The Exercise of Constituent Power in Practice

82.       The problematic practice that has developed over the last few years for the adoption of Basic Laws also reinforces the need for substantive judicial review of Basic Laws.

            First, over the years we see a change in the conception of the role of the members of the Knesset in adopting chapters in our developing constitution. Thus, the process for adopting the first Basic Law – Basic Law: The Knesset – took a number of years, and the Basic Law was ultimately approved by a majority of 96 with none opposed. The Basic Laws addressing human rights – Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation – were, indeed, approved by a smaller majority and without opposition, but their adoption was preceded by a process that took several years. It began with the preparation of a government bill prepared by the Ministry of Justice and addressed in many meetings of the Government, and concluded with private member’s bills based upon that Government bill, which were supported by Knesset members of the coalition and the opposition factions as one (for a detailed discussion, see: Amnon Rubinstein, “The Knesset and the Basic Laws on Human Rights,” 5 Mishpat Umimshal 399 (2000) [Hebrew]; Uriel Lynn and Shlomi Loya, How the Israeli Political System was Changed: 1990-2020, 57-82 (2022) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Lynn & Loya)). The then chair of the Constitution Committee, MK Uriel Lynn of the Likud faction, emphasized at the time of the approval of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty in the second and third reading that: “This law was prepared with the understanding that we must create broad consensus of all the factions of the house. We were aware that we cannot adopt a Basic Law that anchors the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state if we do not achieve a broad consensus of all the factions of the house” (Knesset Record, March 17, 1992, 3782). Two years later, a new version of Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation was approved along with an indirect amendment of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty by a large majority of the Knesset (for a detailed discussion, see: Lynn & Loya, 82-83); Amichai Cohen, The Constitutional Revolution and Counter-Revolution 102-103 (2020) [Hebrew]). As opposed to that, the new Basic Laws approved over the last decade were adopted on the basis of the votes of the members of the coalition factions alone, while imposing the mechanism of coalition discipline (see: Constitutional Law, 696; Porat, “Constitutional Politics,” 252-253; Rubinstein & Geva). This would seem to accurately reflect the different times and the fact that over the last years, the task of adopting a constitution is no longer conceived as a joint national project but rather as an additional source of power in the hands of the chance political majority in the Knesset.

83.       Second, recent research has noted that since the adoption of the first Basic Law (Basic Law: The Knesset in 1958) and until January 2023, 139 changes have been made in the Basic Laws (see: Elad Gil, “Changing the Rules of the Game during the Game – An Israeli ‘Pathology’,” (Tachlit –Institute for Israeli Public Policy (Jan. 18, 2023) [Hebrew]). According to that research, that is the highest rate of constitutional change in the world by a large margin. For the sake of comparison, the Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times, of them only 8 constitutional amendments in the last hundred years. If that were not enough, in the last eight years, the number of changes to the Israeli Basic Laws (an average of 4.75 changes per year) doubled in comparison to the number of changes (an average of 2.15 changes per year) over the decades since 1958. The research further found that 62% of the changes made to Basic Laws concerned Basic Law: The Knesset and Basic Law: The Government – in other words, the overwhelming majority of the rules that were changed directly concerned the authority of the members of the Knesset and the Government themselves, and over the last few years, a significant part of those regime changes were adopted immediately after the Knesset elections and prior to the formation of the Government (see, inter alia, the amendments addressed in the Rotation Government case and in Scheinfeld). In fact, as the above research also shows, over the last few years, the process of forming a Government is systematically accompanied by changes in the rules of the game in favor of the incoming Government. In this regard, I only recently noted in Scheinfeld that “it is hard not to see Amendment no. 11 to the Basic Law as a high point, or more accurately, a low point of that worrisome phenomenon that I noted in the Rotation Government case, in which members of the Knesset exploit the ease by which it is possible to amend the Basic Laws for specific political needs” (ibid., para. 43 of my opinion).

            Until now, this phenomenon of trivializing the Basic Laws was mentioned primarily in the context of the unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine, which examines, inter alia, whether a constitutional norm is actually a personal norm intended to serve a specific government or Knesset. Nevertheless, this phenomenon also illustrates the danger posed by leaving the limitations upon the constituent power as limitations “on paper” alone. Indeed, in view of the gaps that make it possible to change constitutional norms with such great ease, and the increasing willingness of the political majority to exploit those gaps, there would appear to be a problem in relying upon the self-restraint of the Knesset as the only check upon violating the core characteristics of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic (see and compare: Roznai, 182).

84.       The Knesset noted in its Affidavit in Response that “[…] if, Heaven forbid, the Knesset were to adopt Basic Laws that would strike a mortal blow to the pride and joy of Israel’s democracy, it can be expected that the sovereign – the people – would lawfully protest and replace its members on election day” (para. 353 of the Affidavit in Response). In view of the core principles in the balance – the Jewish character and the democratic foundations of the state – I believe that this argument understates the severity of the danger presented by situations in which the Knesset deviates from its constituent power. I do not believe that waiting for “election day” (normally, every four years) provides a sufficient response to a situation in which a political majority decides to exploit the (easily exploited) opportunity to fundamentally change the existing constitutional system. This is particularly so because the rules for conducting the elections themselves can also be changed easily (with the exception of the entrenched provision regarding the date for holding elections).

85.       Under these circumstances, there is a need for an apolitical institution that can serve as an “external brake” upon such extreme situations in which the Knesset might breach the boundaries of its constituent power. Therefore, as will be explained below, there would seem to be no alternative to recognizing the possibility of conducting judicial review by this Court, sitting as High Court of Justice, in order to ensure an effective response in such edge cases.

 

The Court as the Proper Institution for Overseeing the Boundaries of the Power of Constituent Authority

86.       In my opinion, the conclusion that this Court is the appropriate body for guarding against a breach of the boundaries of the Knesset’s constituent power derives from the nature of its function.

            The Court is entrusted with protecting the fundamental concepts and values of Israeli society, and it serves as “the principal tool for ensuring the existence and respect of the constitution” (Mizrahi Bank, 317; and see: Eliahu Mazza, “Judicial Responsibility,” in Eliahu Mazza Book 995, 997 (Aharon Barak et al., eds., 2015) [Hebrew]). I addressed the role of the Court in Hasson:

One of the primary functions of the Court is “protecting the Basic Laws that are at the core of our legal system” […] Therefore, it can be argued that alongside the Court’s judicial review of primary legislation and administrative actions in order to ensure that they not lead to severe harm to values and principles grounded in the Basic Laws, it must make sure that  the Basic Laws themselves not comprise provisions that might strike a mortal blow to the core of the entire constitutional system, while denying Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state […] (Hasson, para. 34 of my opinion; and see: ibid., para. 8, per Deputy President (emer.) Melcer).

            The Court’s role in protecting the constitutional project is of particular importance in view of the unique character of Israel’s constitutional-institutional system, which I addressed above (and see: Shafir, para. 32 of my opinion). In fulfilling that role, the Court is currently required to prevent unjustified harm to the Basic Laws caused by regular legislation and administrative decisions, to enforce procedural requirements and “rigid” provisions, and to identify provisions in Basic Laws that, in terms of their character, do not belong at the constitutional level and whose penetration into the constitution-in-the making would lead to the erosion and trivialization of the status of Basic Laws. Conducting judicial review in those rare cases in which the Knesset deviates from its constituent power and from the (narrow) limits upon it in adopting Basic Laws is, in my opinion, entirely consistent with the Court’s role as the defender of the constitutional project.

87.       We should further bear in mind that one of the primary roles of this Court is to ensure that all governmental agencies act within the bounds of their authority. To that end, the Court is granted, inter alia, the broad authority to grant relief “for the sake of justice” and to issue orders to all state authorities under secs. 15(c) and 15(d)(2) of Basic Law: The Judiciary (see: HCJ 971/99 Movement for Quality Government v. House Committee [56] 140, 164-165 (hereinafter: HCJ 971/99); and see: Yoav Dotan, Judicial Review of Administrative Action, vol. I, 97-99 (2022) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Dotan, Judicial Review); Zamir, “Administrative Authority,” 1590).

            As has been made clear on more than one occasion, substantive judicial review over the products of the constituent authority is restricted to the question whether the constituent authority exceeded its authority. Thus, it the Tal Law case, it was noted that “there are grounds for the view that a law or Basic Law that would deny the character of Israel as a Jewish or democratic state is unconstitutional. The people, the sovereign, did not empower the Knesset to do that. It was authorized to act within the framework of the fundamental principles of the regime. It was not authorized to abolish them” (ibid., 717, emphasis added); and see: Mizrahi, 394). Bar-On similarly mentioned the possibility that the Court might be called upon “to decide whether the Knesset has overstepped its constituent authority and violated the basic foundations of the state as a Jewish and democratic state” (ibid., 312, emphasis added); Hasson, para. 29 of my opinion, para. 6 per Deputy President (emer.) Melcer, para. 13 per Justice (emer.) Mazuz). As noted, the legal issue of deviation from authority is given to the Court, and it can, therefore, be brought for its decision to the extent that it may arise – in extreme, extraordinary cases – in regard to the adoption of a Basic Law or its amendment.

88.       Lastly, it should be emphasized that in Israel there is no body other than the Court, which is not involved in enacting constitutional norms, that can act as an “external brake” upon breaching the boundaries of constituent power (compare: Aharon Barak, The Judge in a Democracy 109 (2004) [Hebrew]). Parenthetically, I would note that in other countries in which the limitations upon amending the constitution are enforceable, the body generally authorized to conduct the task of review is the court (see: Roznai, 201 and 209).

89.       The Government Respondents and the Knesset raised a number of problems concerning the recognition of this Court’s jurisdiction to conduct substantive judicial review of Basic Laws.

            According to the Government Respondents, recognition of the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct such judicial review would make Israel the only country in the world in which the Court “arrogates to itself authority to review constitutional amendments in the absence of an eternity clause, in the absence of a complete constitution, without being able to draw upon the basic structure of a nonexistent constitution” (para. 107 of the Affidavit in Response). This argument relies upon a comprehensive survey presented in their Affidavit in Response in regard to constitutional amendments in various countries. However, in my view, the question of judicial review of constitutional norms cannot be divorced from the constitutional environment in which they are adopted. In this regard, it is worth remembering that Israel is also the only country whose constitution remains in the process of creation for over seven decades, without any end date in sight; in which the political majority enjoys complete control over the adoption of the constitution-in-formation, and that has the power to approve constitutional norms in a very simple process that is identical to the process for approving regular legislation. Indeed, there is good reason for noting that “trying to learn from the experience of other constitutional systems in this regard is complex” (Hasson, para. 12, per Justice Barak-Erez).

90.       Another argument raised by the Knesset and the Government Respondents is that placing judicial review of Basic Laws in the hands of the Court – as a non-representative body – violates the principles of the sovereignty of the people. This argument cannot be accepted. Approving a Basic Law that would violate the core of the Jewish and democratic identity of the state does not express a realization of the sovereignty of the people but its opposite. It is a clear deviation from the limited power held by the Knesset when wearing the constituent authority hat that it was given in trust by the people (see and compare: Hasson, para. 5, per Deputy President (emer.) Melcer; Yaniv Roznai, “Radical Conservatism and the Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment Doctrine,” ICON-S Essays: Essays in Public Law (2022) [Hebrew]). Indeed, “in a democratic state sovereignty rests in the hands of the people. The Knesset does not have sovereignty; neither does the government, nor the courts” (Mizrahi Bank, 399). Therefore, in exceptional circumstances in which the public’s elected representatives breach the people’s trust and deviate from their constituent power, the fact that the Court is not a representative body is not to its detriment in this regard. Its being an apolitical, independent body is what makes it the institution that the can provide an effective response in such edge cases (compare: Barak Medina, “Does Israel have a Constitution? On Formal and Liberal Democracy,” 44 Iyunei Mishpat 5, 29-30 (2021); Dotan, Judicial Review, 71).

91.       The Knesset and the Government Respondents further argue that judicial review of Basic Laws is incompatible with the holding in Mizrahi Bank that premised the authority to conduct judicial review of regular legislation upon the fact that Basic Laws are at the top of the normative pyramid. I find this argument perplexing. Mizrahi Bank focused upon the issue of the normative superiority of Basic Laws over regular legislation. But there is no necessary connection between the supreme status of one type of norm as opposed to a norm of a another type and the existence of limitations upon the power to create that superior norm (Barak, “Declaration of Independence,” 35). Indeed, the possibility of conducting judicial review in cases in which the Knesset might deviate from its constituent power was already mentioned in Mizrahi Bank, but resolving that issue was not required in that case (ibid., 394). In any case, to remove all doubts, we should make it clear that substantive judicial review of Basic Laws focuses upon maintaining the boundaries of the power of the constituent authority and does not rely upon the existence of any norms that stand above the Basic Laws in the normative hierarchy (compare: Hasson, para. 8, per Justice Sohlberg; and see: Alon Harel, “‘Jewish and Democratic’ – The Legal Justification for voiding Basic Laws,” Dyoma (Aug. 14, 2023) https://dyoma.co.il/law/1972).

            Another argument concerning Mizrahi Bank is that the unique structural characteristics of our constitutional system – like the ease in enacting Basic Laws – were already known, and nevertheless, they were given superior normative status, whereas now, those characteristics serve as a justification for conducting judicial review over the Basic Laws themselves. Indeed, no one disputes that the possibility of adopting and changing Basic Laws by a simple procedure is not ideal in a constitutional democracy. There have even been those of the opinion that this can justify, to some degree or other, denying their superior normative status (see, e.g.: Porat, “Constitutional Politics,” 222; and also see: Ruth Gavison, “The Constitutional Revolution – Reality or Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” 28 Mishpatim 21 (1997) [Hebrew]). I consider this a far-reaching conclusion. It is possible to recognize that there are flaws in our constitutional system without relinquishing the important advantages that inhere in the existence of supreme constitutional norms that define the character of the state, express the “agreement upon the shared rules of the game”, ensure that all the actions of the governmental agencies will conform with them, serve as a source for interpreting all the legal norms, and that embody an important educational value for the entire nation” (Rubinstein & Medina, 54-55; and see: HCJ 1384/98 Avni v. Prime Minister [57] 210). On the contrary, recognizing the possibility of granting relief in those exceptional cases in which our system’s structural flaws may be exploited in a manner that might yield a destructive result defends the continued existence of the Israeli constitutional process.

92.       The Knesset and the Government Respondents further argue that the Court does not have the jurisdiction to perform judicial over Basic Laws because its authority derives from a norm of the same status, i.e., Basic Law: The Judiciary. This argument does, indeed, raise a theoretical problem of some significance, and I accept that the “constitutionality” of Basic Laws cannot be reviewed in accordance with the tests set out in the limitation clause by which the constitutionality of regular laws is examined (see: Ben Meir, para. 20 of my opinion; HCJ 1368/94 Porat v. State of Israel [58] (hereinafter: Porat)). A possible conflict between one Basic Law and another also does not, itself, constitute grounds for judicial intervention (Hasson, para. 49 of my opinion). Indeed, as long as we are concerned with a valid constitutional norm, and as long as the constituent authority acts within the boundaries of its authority, its actions are not subject to judicial review. This is the case in view of the fact that Basic Laws are to be “found at the apex of the positive normative hierarchy” (Hasson, para. 32 of my opinion).

            However, in those situations in which a Basic Law or an amendment to a Basic Law was adopted through a clear deviation from the boundaries of the Knesset’s constituent power, no valid constitutional norm was actually created. In other words, alongside the other conditions examined to date, among them the procedural requirements like changing a Basic Law by a particular majority in accordance with the “rigidity” clause (see and compare: Porat; Ben Meir, para. 10, per Justice Mazuz), and identifying a norm as one that is, indeed, on the constitutional level (in accordance with the abuse of constituent power doctrine) – it must be ascertained that the constituent authority acted with authority when it adopted it. If the constituent authority exceeded  its powers, the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct judicial review relies upon the fact that no valid constitutional norm was created that can be recognized as superior to other norms.

93.       Lastly, the Government Respondents point out that there is no place for permitting judicial review over Basic Laws inasmuch as if the constituent authority is intent upon destroying the democratic regime, a judgment of this Court will not prevent it from doing so. In this regard, they note that “a regime is not designed and authorities are not established on the basis of horror scenarios” (para. 279 of the Government Respondents’ Affidavit in Response).

            I take a different view. In my opinion, the need to forestall extreme scenarios is the basis for many constitutional arrangements, and in this regard, I need only turn to what was already decided in this regard in the 1980s: “[…] constitutional norms cannot be built on hopes. Basic principles of government are not shaped on the assumption that all will proceed as planned. Quite the contrary. The entire constitutional edifice is testimony to the realization that checks and balances must be provided” (HCJ 428/86 Barzilai v. Government [59] 606). Moreover, the Government Respondents’ argument ignores the possibility that the severe harm to the state’s democratic core might be carried out in stages, and that judicial review may aid in putting a stop to the democratic decline before the total collapse of the system (see: Rosalind Dixon & David Landau, “Transnational Constitutionalism and a Limited Doctrine of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment,” 13 Int’l J. Const. L. 606, 636 (2015)).

94.       Thus, having recognized that the constituent authority is not unrestricted and may exceed its authority, the problems raised by the Government Respondents and the Knesset do not, in my view, negate the need for judicial review to examine whether the Knesset deviated from its constituent power. This review is necessary given the unique structural characteristics of Israel’s constitutional project and the extremely problematic practice that has taken root in our system in all that relates to exercising constituent power. It is also consistent with the nature of the Court’s function and with it being the most appropriate (in fact, the only) body for carrying out such review.

            Therefore, I am of the opinion that in those extreme cases in which the Knesset adopts or changes a Basic Law such that it presents an element that facially denies or contradicts the core characteristics of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, this Court’s authority to decide that the Knesset deviated from its constituent power and that the constitutional norm is invalid must be recognized.

95.       It is important to emphasize that the possibility of conducting substantive judicial review of Basic Laws is very exceptional. It derives from the Israel’s unique governance regime, and therefore, the Court must exercise it with maximum restraint and “take great care in order to prevent slipping into a ‘routine’ of petitions challenging Basic Laws or provisions in Basic Laws on the claim of deviation from constituent power” (Hasson, para. 13, per Justice (emer.) Mazuz).

            It is also important to emphasize that my conclusions in regard to the question of judicial review of the Knesset’s constituent power rely upon the existing constitutional situation. As has already been clarified in the case law of this Court: “The legitimacy of judicial review is tied, at least in part, to the process that led to the constitutional amendment. In other words, the more complex, inclusive, and comprehensive the work of the constituent authority, the greater the democratic legitimacy that will be ascribed to its results, and accordingly, the appropriateness of judicial review will decrease” (ibid., para. 2, per Justice Baron; Roznai, 219-220). Therefore, if a rigorous, dedicated process for adopting and amending Basic Laws is established in the future, it will be appropriate to reexamine the issue of judicial review in regard to Basic Laws adopted through that process. However, as long as that is not the constitutional reality, I am of the opinion that this Court’s jurisdiction to intervene in those extreme cases in which the Knesset exceeds its powers as a constituent authority should be recognized.

 

  1. Interim Summary

96.       The constitutional history of the State of Israel is exceptional and unusual. The promise to establish a constitution for the state – a promise expressly included in the Declaration of Independence – has not yet been realized even after more than 75 years. Instead, the Knesset decided to create our constitution “chapter by chapter” by means of enacting Basic Laws. In Mizrahi Bank, the Court affirmed that these Basic Laws are constitutional norms that stand at the apex of the normative pyramid. However, in that same matter, two questions were left undecided – one relating to a situation in which the Knesset may abuse the title “Basic Law”, and the second concerning a situation in which the Knesset might exceed its constituent power.

            Over the last few years, against the background of the improper trend of changing Basic Laws at a dizzying pace at the initiative of the political majority in the Knesset, the Court has been forced to address these questions. In regard to the first question, the Court employed the abuse of constituent power doctrine to examine whether arrangements established in a Basic Law were properly established at the constitutional level in terms of their formal-procedural characteristics. As for the second question, concerning the content of basic legislation, Hasson first made it clear that the power of the constituent authority is not unlimited, and that it is not authorized to facially deny or negate the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Today, we must take another step and hold that in rare cases in which “the beating heart of the ‘Israel-style’ constitution” is harmed (Hasson, para. 18 of my opinion), this Court may declare that a Basic Law that reflects a deviation from the Knesset’s constituent power is void. This is the case in view of the unique structural characteristics of the Israeli constitutional system, and given the constitutional practice over the last years that demonstrates the ease by which our system can be changed fundamentally.

 

Part Two: Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary

97.       Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary, which is the focus of the petitions at bar, blocks any possibility of holding a judicial hearing or of issuing judicial orders in regard to the reasonableness of decisions by the Government, the Prime Minister, and the government ministers. The petitioners, as noted, pointed to three serious defects that they believe require the voiding of the Amendment. The first defect – which was the focus of the hearing on Sept. 12, 2023 – concerns the content of the arrangement. In this regard, it is argued that the Amendment inflicts very serious harm upon the core characteristics of Israel as a democratic state, and that the Knesset deviated from its constituent power in enacting it. The second defect focuses upon the formal characteristics of the arrangement. In this regard, the Petitioners argue that the arrangement established by the Amendment does not bear the hallmarks of a constitutional norm. Therefore, enacting it constituted an abuse of constituent power. The third defect concerns a list of serious defects that the Petitioners claim occurred in the process of adopting the Amendment.

I will begin hysteron proteron in saying that in Israel’s current constitutional situation, the amendment that is the subject of the petitions, which comprehensively abolishes judicial review of the reasonableness of all the decisions at the elected echelon, indeed inflicts severe harm to the principle of separation of powers and the principle of the rule of law. This severe harm to two of the clearest characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state can have significant, unprecedented influence upon the individual and upon the public as a whole. I am, therefore, of the opinion that there is no recourse but to hold that in adopting Amendment no. 3. The Knesset deviated from its constituent power and the Amendment must be declared void. In view of this conclusion, I will primarily address the reasons that ground it, and suffice with a few comments upon the other two defects raised by the Petitioners.

  1. Threshold argument: The ripeness of the petitions

98.       The Knesset is of the opinion that the petitions should be dismissed in limine because, in its view, the factual and legal foundation required for deciding upon the issues raised by the petitions has not yet crystallized. In this regard, it is argued that the consequences of the Amendment are not yet entirely clear and largely depend upon the manner in which the Amendment will be interpreted by the courts, its influence upon the operation of the Government and its ministers, and upon the Knesset’s ability to impose the duty of reasonableness upon the elected echelon. Under these circumstances, the Knesset argues, “it would be inappropriate to use the ‘doomsday weapon’ of voiding a Basic Law on the basis of doubts and speculations” (para. 358 of the Affidavit in Response).

99.       The ripeness doctrine, adopted by our legal system over the last few years, reflects the fundamental conception of restraint and caution that the Court exercises in conducting judicial review (Ben Meir, para. 3, per Justice Mazuz). This doctrine serves the Court as a tool for controlling and regulating the constitutional issues that need to be addressed and decided, and it concerns an evaluation of the point in time when it would be proper for the Court to examine a given issue (ibid.; HCJ 2311/11 Sabah v. Knesset [60] para. 12, per President Grunis (hereinafter: Sabah)). It is intended “to spare the Court from the need to address matters that are not yet ripe for a judicial decision because their claimed harm is purely speculative and may never come to pass” (HCJ 3803/11 Association of Capital Market Trustees v. State of Israel [61] para. 15. per Deputy President E. Rivlin; and see: HCJ 3429/11 Alumni Association v. Minister of Finance [62] para. 28, per Justice M. Naor).

100.     Typically, the question of a petition’s ripeness arises in situations in which the challenged legislation has not yet been implemented in practice. However, it has already been held that a lack of implementation is not itself sufficient to show that a particular petition is not ripe for deciding (see: Sabah, para. 15, per President Grunis; HCJ 1308/17 Silwad Municipality v. Knesset [63], para. 35 of my opinion). Thus, for example, it has been held that a petition is ripe for decision when the constitutional question that it raises is primarily legal and the response to it does not require a detailed factual situation or concrete implementation (Ben Meir, paras. 8-9 of my opinion; and see: HCJ 3166/14 Gutman v. Attorney General [64] para. 43, per President Grunis). It was further held that in deciding upon the ripeness of a petition, the Court must weigh the public interest in addressing it and consider the consequences of postponing the judicial decision upon the harm to the rule of law and legal certainty (Sabah, para. 16, per President Grunis).

101.     In my opinion, application of the ripeness doctrine is inappropriate in the case at bar. The questions raised by these petitions are purely legal questions that concern, inter alia, the extent of the Amendment’s harm to the core of the constitutional project and to the Knesset’s observance of the limitations upon it when wearing its constituent authority hat. The aspects necessary for deciding these questions were presented to us, and I do not think that a future factual development would materially contribute to deciding upon the petitions. In this sense, one can say that we have before us a real, clear dispute and a concrete implementation of the Amendment is unnecessary for its crystallization (see and compare: Hasson, para. 12 of my opinion).

            The Knesset argues that if unreasonable decisions are made by the Government, the Prime Minister, or one of the ministers in the future and a petition is filed arguing that the decisions are unreasonable in the extreme, “it will be possible to examine the consequences of the amended Basic Law on the basis of a concrete factual foundation” (para. 298 of the Affidavit in Response). This argument is surprising inasmuch as the Amendment expressly forbids the courts, including this Court, “to address” the reasonableness of decisions by the Government and its ministers. That being the case, it is not clear how the courts might address petitions in such matters, should they be filed. Similarly, the Knesset’s argument that the petitions be dismissed because the ramifications of the Amendment for the Government’s conduct and the effectiveness of Knesset oversight have not yet become clear also raises a considerable problem. This is so, inter alia, because the Amendment already directly influences the relationship between the individual and the government and is relevant to many decisions made on a daily basis by the Government and its ministers. Indeed, as the Knesset itself points out, there are already pending proceedings that raise arguments concerning the reasonableness of decisions by the elected echelon (para. 274 of the Affidavit in Response).

102.     Under these circumstances and given the clear public interest in addressing the petitions on the merits, I am of the opinion that the Knesset’s claim of a lack of ripeness should be dismissed.

 

  1. Examining the harm to the “core characteristics” of the State of Israel

103.     The Petitioners’ main argument – in which the Attorney General joins – is that the Amendment that is the subject of the petitions represents a deviation from the boundaries of the Knesset’s constituent power.

            The Knesset exceeds its constituent powers if it enacts a Basic Law or an amendment to a Basic Law that “denies or facially contradicts the ‘core characteristics’ that form the minimal definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” (Hasson, para. 29 of my opinion). The core characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish state as previously held in the case law are primarily – “the right of every  Jew to immigrate to the State of Israel, in which Jews will be a majority”; the Hebrew language as the country’s primary language; and the holidays, symbols and heritage of the Jewish people being part of the state’s identity (Tibi, 22). As for the democratic characteristics, reference is usually made to “recognition of the people’s sovereignty as expressed in free, equal elections; recognition of the core of human rights, among them dignity and equality, maintaining the separation of powers, the rule of law and an independent judiciary” (ibid., 23; and see: HCJ 1661/05 HCJ 1661/05 Gaza Coast Regional Council v. Knesset [65] 565, (hereinafter: Gaza Coast); HCJ 5026/04 Design 22 v. Rosenzweig [66] 53-54; EDA 1806/19                           Lieberman et al. v. Cassif et al. [67] para. 13 of my opinion (hereinafter: Cassif)).

            We are not concerned with a closed or comprehensive list, but to the extent that it is claimed that there are additional nuclear characteristics, they must reflect the core Jewish and democratic identity of the state at a level of importance similar to the characteristics noted above.

104.     The Hasson case addressed the question of how to examine the presence of harm to “the core characteristics” only in brief. That was the case inasmuch as in that matter there was no need to decide upon the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct substantive judicial review of Basic Laws.

            The matter before us requires that we decide that issue. Therefore, I will first address matters of principle raised by the parties in this regard.

105.     The Association and the other civil society organizations argued that Amendment no. 3 constitutes a deviation from constituent power in accordance with the standard established in Hasson. However, in their view, the reality of the Israeli regime requires establishing a lower bar for intervention in Basic Laws that would examine whether there was a disproportionate violation of a core principle of the constitution or of the Basic Law (paras. 251-260 of the Association’s Brief. This suggestion is based upon Roznai, 220-221).

            I cannot accept this suggested standard in regard to the Basic Laws. The very existence of judicial review of the contents of Basic Laws is no small matter. This review derives from Israel’s exceptional constitutional reality, as I noted (see paras. 72-83, above), and in my opinion, it is proper that it limit itself only to those edge cases in which a Basic Law will lead to unusual harm to the Jewish or democratic hallmarks of the state. I do not think that it would be proper in this regard to adopt tests materially similar to those that serve the judicial review of primary legislation and of administrative acts (see and compare: The Tal Law, 717; Ben Meir, para. 36 of my opinion).

106.     On the other hand, I am not of the opinion that the already high bar for intervention should be raised to the point that we will eviscerate the possibility of intervening in situations in which the Knesset exceeded its authority. In particular, and as opposed to the argument of the Knesset Legal Advisor in the hearing on Sept. 12, 2023, we emphasize that the question is not whether the Basic Law turns the State of Israel “into a state that is not democratic, i.e., a dictatorship” (p. 27 of the Transcript). The question that should be asked is whether the Basic Law or the amendment to the Basic Law causes harm to the core characteristics of the state that is so severe that it shakes the building blocks of our constitution-in-formation. To the extent that that is the case, the conclusion is that we are concerned with a Basic Law that exceeds the constituent power of the Knesset.

107.     Another argument raised by the Knesset in its Affidavit in Response is that judicial review of the content of basic legislation must be in accordance with the bar established in regard to disqualifying candidates and lists from participation in the elections, in accordance with sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset (and compare: Weill, “Hybrid Constitution,” 566-567). In other words, according to the Knesset, intervention in a Basic Law is possible only if we are concerned with a constitutional change where supporting it would lead to the disqualification of a candidate or a list from standing for election. In my view, this approach compares apples with oranges. The tests established in regard to the grounds for disqualification in sec. 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset are all based upon the specific context of that section and in particular, upon the fact that disqualifying a candidate or list severely infringes the right to vote and to be elected, which is “the life breath of every democratic regime” (Cassif, paras. 3 and 12 of my opinion). The abuse of constituent power doctrine concerns an entirely different situation – it examines a completed constitutional product that was placed at the apex of the normative hierarchy and that affects the entire system. Establishing that such a provision in a Basic Law is invalid, in circumstances in which the Knesset exceeded its authority, is intended to remedy severe harm to the constitutional order, and it does not involve the a priori (sec. 7A of the Basic Law) or post facto (sec. 42A(3) disqualification of a person or list from the Knesset. That being the case, although, as in disqualifying candidates and lists, intervention in basic legislation should be reserved only for exceptional, rare cases, we must examine each of these issues in accordance with the standards relevant to the matter.

108.     Harm to the core characteristics can be in theory or in practice (see: Hasson, para. 30 of my opinion). In other words, there are two possible situations in which a deviation from constituent power may occur. One situation is that of a declaratory disengagement from the character of the state or from a specific core characteristic. For example, rejecting the definition of Israel as a Jewish state or rejecting the status of the Hebrew language. In cases such as these, even without examining the influence of the constitutional change in practice, it is clear that we are concerned with a change that facially contradicts the constituting narrative of the Israeli constitution, and it cannot be left in place without it leading to a fundamental change of the constitutional project.

109.     Harm in practice to the core characteristics of the state is a case of such a clear deviation from the Knesset’s constituent power that, should such a thing ever occur, grounds for the Court’s intervention would clearly arise. The cases in which the question might arise in regard to the Knesset’s exceeding its constituent power are primarily cases of actual harm to one of the core characteristics of the state. In such cases, we must seek out the effect of the constitutional change in terms of its result. This test cannot take place in a vacuum. In order to understand the nature and magnitude of the harm, we must examine, as a starting point, the existing constitutional system alongside the change in the Basic Law and decide whether, under the circumstances, any of the core characteristics of the state were negated or facially contradicted.

            We cannot rule out a situation in which a consecutive series of amendments to the Basic Laws will cumulatively lead to harm to the constitutional core (see and compare: Tom Ginsburg & Aziz Z. Huq, How to Save a Constitutional Democracy 90-95 (2018); David Landau, “Abusive Constitutionalism,” 47 UCLA L. Rev. 189 (2013)). However, particular care must be taken in this context, including in regard to the arguments raised by the Petitioners and the Attorney General that in the framework for examining the actual influence of an amendment to a Basic Law, weight should be given to other legislative initiatives that are “in the pipeline” but that have not yet been adopted. A fundamental principle that derives from the principle of separation of powers is that the Court does not examine bills before they have been approved and have made their way into the lawbook. This is so, inter alia, because it is not at all clear how they will be adopted in the end, if at all (see and compare: HCJ 1234/23 Arad v. Minister of Justice [68] para. 3; HCJ 1210/23 Oron v. Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee [69] para. 3).

110.     In the matter before us, Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary does not blatantly declare the abandonment of any particular core characteristic of our system. The severe harm pointed out by the Petitioners and the Attorney General is primarily focused upon the result. Therefore, we must examine the significance of the Amendment in practice, against the background of the existing constitutional situation in regard to those aspects addressed by the Amendment. I shall now proceed with that examination.

            C. The importance of judicial review of the Government’s actions

111.      The issue addressed by Amendment no. 3 is that of judicial review, or more precisely – the abolition of judicial review in all that concerns the reasonableness of decisions by the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers. As noted, in order to understand the significance and consequences of the Amendment, one must understand the broad constitutional context and the place of judicial review in our system. In the first part of this opinion, I noted the Government’s exceptional control over the proceedings for adopting Basic Laws. As will be explained below, this is but one aspect of the great, almost unlimited power concentrated in the hands of the ruling majority in Israel. Therefore, in the absence of an effective system of checks and balances, judicial review is, in fact, the only effective check upon that power.

112.     First, as already noted, in our parliamentary system the Government “controls” the Knesset in practice (Quintinsky, para. 39, per Justice Sohlberg). While the Government serves on the basis of the Knesset’s confidence, in practice, in the usual course of things, the Government enjoys an “automatic majority” in the Knesset, and it can be said that “in many ways, it is not the government that is the Knesset’s ‘executory agent’, but rather the Knesset is the government’s ‘legislative agent’” (Distribution of Power, 76). As already noted, this is expressed in the mechanisms of coalition discipline and the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which lead to a situation in which, in effect, the Government – in particular the Prime Minister and the senior ministers (the “nucleus of control” of the coalition majority) – are the ones who decide the fate of bills in the Knesset (Gutman, 217; Amichai Cohen & Yaniv Roznai, “Populism and Israeli Constitutional Democracy,” 44 Iyunei Mishpat 87, 122-123 (hereinafter: Cohen & Roznai); and see: HCJ 2144/20 Movement for Quality Government v. Speaker of the Knesset [70] para. 11 of my opinion (hereinafter: Edelstein); Academic Center, para. 14, per Deputy President (emer.) Rubinstein). As noted, this Government control over legislative proceedings is also relevant to the enactment of Basic Laws, given the simple procedure required for their enactment or amendment, and this allows the Government to change the constitutional “rules of the game” as it sees fit.

            The institution of non-confidence, which is one of the Knesset’s primary tools for overseeing the Government, has also been significantly diminished over the years, and it now requires a vote of confidence in another Government by a majority vote of the Knesset (a system referred to as a “constructive vote of no confidence”; sec. 28 of Basic Law: The Government; for a detailed discussion, see: Rotation Government, paras. 4-5 of my opinion). This, while the Prime Minister, with the consent of the President, is granted the authority to dissolve the Knesset by means of an order (sec. 29(a) of Basic Law: The Government). This constitutes something of a challenge to the very principle that “the Government rules by virtue of [the confidence of] the Knesset and not the reverse” (Shimon Shetreet, The Government: The Executive Branch – Commentary on Basic Law: The Government 509 (Itzhak Zamir, ed., 2018) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Shetreet).

            To this we should add additional aspects that strengthened the Government’s hold upon the Knesset over the last few years, first among them the lengthy tenure of transition governments that hold powers similar to those of a regular government, even though they do not act on the basis of the Knesset’s confidence (HCJ 6654/22 Kohelet Forum v. Prime Minister [72] para. 6 of my opinion (hereinafter: Kohelet Forum). We should also take note of the enactment of the “Norwegian Law”, which allows Members of Knesset who have been appointed as ministers or deputy ministers to resign from the Knesset such that they are replaced by the next in line on their list, but at the end of their tenure in the Government, they may return to serve in the Knesset in  place of the “replacement” Members of Knesset (sec. 42C of Basic Law: The Knesset; see: HCJ 4076/20 Shapira v. Knesset [73]). Thus, those “replacement” Members of Knesset may feel an excessive sense of obligation to the Government, knowing that their continued tenure depends upon its goodwill (Shetreet, 324-325). Over the last few years, the arrangement has been expanded in a manner that permits more ministers and deputy ministers to resign, and as of September 2023, more than a quarter of the Members of Knesset from the coalition replaced members of the Government who had resigned from the Knesset (para. 225 of the Attorney General’s affidavit).

            Against this background, it can be said that “the Government shook the Israeli system of government, almost completely eradicated the distribution of powers between the political branches, and at present, it effectively concentrates both executive and legislative power in its hands” (Gutman, 198).

113.     Despite the unprecedented power concentrated in the executive-legislative branch, which makes it a kind of “super branch”, there is almost no limitation upon that power. It is worth noting in this regard research that examined five mechanisms for the distribution of political power in 66 countries classified as “free countries’ by Freedom House: (1) separation of the legislature into two bodies or “houses”, (2) a presidential system that creates a clear separation between the legislature and the executive, (3) a federal system based upon a division of power between the central government and the “states” of the federation, (4) a regional system of elections that requires elected representatives to grant weight to “local” interests, (5) membership in international bodies like the European Union or regional human rights courts that influence the conduct of the state (see a summary of the research in Cohen & Roznai, 117-122; for a more detailed discussion, see Amichai Cohen, Checks and Balances: The Override Clause and Its Effect on the Three Branches of Government 14-23 [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Cohen, Checks and Balances). The research found that Israel is the only country that has none of those structural limitations upon the power of the political majority (Cohen & Roznai, 122). To that we should add the fact that Israel does not have an entrenched, stable constitution that provides significant protection from governmental power. Prof. Itzhak Zamir described this well:

[…] I doubt that there is another democratic country in the western world in which the Government enjoys as much power as the Government in Israel. As opposed to that power, the system of checks and balances that is accepted throughout the world as a vital system for preventing abuse of governmental power is more meagre and weaker than in other democracies (Zamir, Administrative Power, 3610).

114.     Under these circumstances, judicial review over the legislative and executive branches in Israel is the only effective mechanism that can serve to limit the centralized power of the majority in any real way (Cohen, Checks and Balances, 25; Distribution of Power, 64). There are, of course, gatekeepers and other oversight and control mechanisms in our system (see: Zamir, Administrative Power, 2319-2320), but judicial review is the most important mechanism in the state’s system of checks and balances (ibid., 101), and “without it, governmental discretion becomes unlimited, and nothing is more foreign to the democratic character of our system” (Gaza Coast, 756).

115.     The primary institution responsible for conducting judicial review in our system, particularly when Government and ministerial decisions are concerned, is the Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice (see: Daphne Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, vol. 4 – Procedural Administrative Law 49 (2017) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Barak-Erez, Procedural Administrative Law)). This Court was given broad authority to grant relief for the sake of justice and to issue orders to all state authorities, which has its roots in the Mandatory period (art. 43 of the Palestine Order-in-Council, 1922-1947 (hereinafter: the Order-in-Council); sec. 7 of the Courts Ordinance, 1940), as well as in “regular” legislation (sec. 7 of the Courts Law, 5717-1957), and as noted, it is now anchored in the provisions of sec. 15 of Basic Law: The Judiciary, which grounded the status of the High Court of Justice as “a foundation stone of the system of checks and balances between the branches in Israel (Barak-Erez, Procedural Administrative Law, 51; and see: HCJ 971/99, 140).

116.     Given the fact that the system of checks and balances in Israel is ab initio weak and fragile, significant harm to the jurisdiction of the courts – and the High Court of Justice in particular – to conduct judicial review may bring about a facial contradiction in regard to at least two of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state – the separation of powers and the rule of law, regarding which is has already been stated:

The rule of law cannot be maintained in the absence of judicial review […] Indeed, the effective existence of law requires effective judicial review. Without judicial review over the executive branch, the separation of powers is undermined. With it, human liberty is impaired and the foundations of a free regime are impaired (HCJ 294/89 National Insurance Institute v. Appeals Committee [74] 450 (hereinafter: National Insurance Institute) (emphasis added); compare: Zamir, Administrative Power, 98).

D.        The significance of the Amendment

117.     Having addressed the Israeli constitutional reality in which Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary was adopted, I will now examine the Amendment itself.

            D.1.     Interpretation of the Amendment

118.     In order to provide a complete picture, I will present the full text of sec. 15 of Basic Law: The Judiciary, to which the amending provision was added in sec. 15(d1):

                        The Supreme Court

                        15. (a) The seat of the Supreme Court is Jerusalem.   

(b) The Supreme Court shall hear appeals against verdicts and other rulings of the District Courts.   

(c) The Supreme Court shall also sit as a High Court of Justice. When so sitting, it shall deliberate matters in which it deems it necessary to provide relief for the sake of justice, and are not under the jurisdiction of another court or tribunal.   

(d) Without prejudice to the generalness of the provisions in clause (c), the Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice, is authorized -     

(1) To grant orders for the release of persons unlawfully detained or imprisoned;   

(2) To grant orders to state authorities, to local authorities, to their officials, and to other bodies and persons holding public office under the law, to act or refrain from acting while lawfully exercising their duties, and if they were unlawfully elected or appointed - to refrain from acting;   

(3) To grant orders to courts, to tribunals, and to bodies and persons with judicial or quasi-judicial authority under the law - save courts that this law relates to, and save religious courts - to deal with a certain matter, or avoid dealing with, or continue to deal with a certain matter, and cancel a proceeding held or a ruling given unlawfully;    

(4) To grant orders to religious courts to deal with a certain matter on the basis of their jurisdiction, or  to avoid dealing or continuing to deal with a certain matter that falls outside their jurisdiction, provided that the court shall not entertain a request under this paragraph, should the appellant not have raised a question  of jurisdiction at the earliest opportunity that he had;  and if he did not have a reasonable opportunity to raise the question of jurisdiction before the ruling by the Religious Court, the court is entitled to quash a proceeding that took place, or a ruling that was given by the Religious Court without authority.   

(d1)      Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, a holder of judicial authority under law, including the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice, shall not address the reasonableness of a decision by the Government, the Prime Minister or a Government Minister, and will not issue an order in such a matter; in this section, “decision” means any decision, including in matters of appointments, or a decision to refrain from exercising authority.

(e) Other powers of the Supreme Court shall be prescribed by law. 

119.     The parties to these proceedings disagree as to the interpretation of sec. 15(d1) of the Basic Law. The Knesset is of the opinion that the Amendment can be construed narrowly such that it would apply only to the reasonableness standard as set out in Dapei Zahav, and not to “absurd” decisions that could have been voided on the basis of the standard as it was prior to that judgment. According to the Knesset, this construction, along with the broad construction of other laws and standards of review would lessen the problems raised by the Amendment, and that is preferable to its being voided.

120.     All the other parties to the petitions – the Petitioners, the Attorney General, and like them, the Government Respondents and the Chair of the Constitution Committee as well – do not agree with the Knesset’s position and are all of the opinion that such narrow interpretation is not possible. The Petitioners emphasize that the interpretation suggested by the Knesset would actually constitute judicial lawmaking, and that “absurdity” is part of the reasonableness standard that cannot be addressed separately from it (see: paras. 103-105 of the Summary Brief of the Petitioners in HCJ 5659/23; and pp. 123-154 of the Transcript of the hearing of Sept. 12, 2023). The Attorney General is of the opinion that adopting a construction that would narrow the application of the Amendment to a particular meaning of “reasonableness” or to a particular category of “decisions” is not consistent with the language of the Amendment, contradicts the constituent intent – which expressly rejected those distinctions in the framework of the legislative process – and it constitutes a kind of redrafting of the arrangement by the Court (paras. 428 and 435 of the Attorney General’s affidavit).

            The Government Respondents are also of the opinion that there is no place for adopting such a narrow construction. In their view, it contradicts the language of the Amendment and the constituent intent, and they emphasize that in the absence of an actual possibility to distinguish the various meanings of the reasonableness standard, the constituent authority chose to make a “conclusive distinction” that would limit the boundaries of the standard on the basis of the identity of the decision maker alone. Therefore, it is the position of the Government Respondents that the Amendment should be construed in a manner that applies it to “any and every type” of reasonableness “even if someone might think that the decision was unreasonable in the extreme in accordance with Wednesbury” (para. 45 of the Government Respondents’ Supplemental Pleadings); and see: the statement of the Government Respondents’ attorney at pp. 60-63 of the Transcript of Sept. 12, 2023). The Chair of the Constitution Committee, MK Rothman, expressed a similar view, noting that the Amendment prevents all judicial review of the reasonableness of decisions by the elected echelon in all the senses of the standard (pp. 37-39 of the Transcript of Sept. 12, 2023).

121.     The question before us is, therefore – as the Knesset’s attorney suggested – is it possible to interpret the Amendment in a manner that limits its application only to a particular meaning of “reasonableness”?

            I do not think so. In my opinion, such a construction lacks any foothold in the language of the Amendment, it expressly contradicts the legislative history and the subjective purpose of the Amendment, and deviates from the legitimate boundaries of interpretation, as will be explained below.

122.     Indeed, we have a rule that “it is preferable to limit the scope of a law through interpretation, rather than achieve that very same limitation by declaring a part of that law as being void” (HCJ 4562/92 Zandberg v. Broadcasting Authority [75] 814 (hereinafter: Zandberg); and see: HCJ 9098/01 Ganis v. Ministry of Building and Housing [76] (hereinafter: Ganis); HCJ 781/15 Arad Pinkas v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements [77] para. 21 of my opinion (hereinafter: Arad Pinkas)). This rule in regard to the preference for employing interpretative tools rather than addressing the validity of the law, which was established in regard to the interpretation of primary legislation, is all the more appropriate to the interpretation of Basic Laws (Hasson, para. 59 of my opinion).

123.     However, interpretation, and constitutional interpretation in particular, must be grounded in the language of the text, and it is first and foremost derived from it (Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Constitutional Interpretation 135 (1994); Aharon Barak, “The Interpretation of Basic Laws,” 22 Mishpatim 31, 34-35 (1992). In this regard, it has been held:

The constitutional reasons that limit the power of a judge as an interpreter apply with full force when the judge interprets a constitutional text. Specifically in this situation, he must demonstrate great caution not to cross the linguistic border and create a new constitutional text (HCJ 2257/04 Hadash-Ta’al Faction v. Chair of the Central Elections Committee for the 17th Knesset, [78] 710).

            Therefore, the language of the constitutional text is always the starting point for the interpretation of its provisions. The linguistic basis, although it is not the only element in translation, it the one that distinguishes between “the writing of a new work and the interpretation of an existing work” (Aharon Barak, Interpretation and Judging: Principles of an Israeli Theory of Interpretation,” Selected Essays, vol. 1, 121, 138 (2000) [Hebrew]; and see: CA 8569/06 Director of Land Taxation v. Polity [79] 307 (hereinafter: Polity); CFH 5783/14 Tzemach v. El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. [80] para. 52).

124.     I have not lost sight of the interpretive principle established in regard to restricting judicial review – which is the subject of the Amendment – according to which the legislature is presumed not to intend to infringe the authority of the Court and therefore, such legislation should be interpreted “strictly and narrowly” (National Insurance Institute, 451; HCJ 212/03 Herut v. Cheshin [81] 756 (hereinafter: Herut)). However, this is not a presumptio juris et de jure and the said rule can be rebutted where a legal provision adopts “explicit and unequivocal language that leaves no room for doubt” (HCJ 403/71 Alkourdi v. National Labour Court [82] 72) (emphasis added); and see: National Insurance Institute, 451; HCJ 1260/19 Kramer v. Ombudsman of Public Complaints against State Representatives [83], para. 11).

125.     In my opinion, the comprehensive, unqualified language of the Amendment is, indeed, “explicit and unequivocal”. It lacks any foothold for the suggested narrow interpretation, and leaves “no room for doubt” as to the application of the Amendment to the reasonableness standard in its entirety. In my view, according to its language, there are no grounds for the proposed distinction among various understandings of the reasonableness standard as it has developed in the case law, and in this regard, it was already held in another matter that: “the judge interprets a text created by the legislature, and even realizing a goal, as lofty as it may be, requires an ‘Archimedean point’ in the language of the law. Deviation from this principle goes to the very root of the matter and is incompatible with the accepted principles of interpretation” (Polity, 303; and see: Zandberg, 803; Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law – Statutory Interpretation 83 (1993) [Hebrew] (hereinafter: Barak, Statutory Interpretation)).

126.     An examination of the linguistic meaning of the term “reasonableness”, as it has developed and taken root over the years in the case law of this Court in all that concerns judicial review of the exercise of discretion by an authority, demonstrates that in the absence of express linguistic grounds, it is no longer possible to distinguish among the various senses of the standard. In other words, the term “unreasonableness” means, inter alia, also absurdity. Therefore, abolishing the reasonableness standard in accordance with the distinction established by the Amendment concerning the identity of the decision maker, necessarily leads to its abolition even in regard to absurd decisions by that group.

            As was explained in detail at the beginning of this opinion, the reasonableness standard has been part of our legal system since the earliest days of the state. In the beginning, the standard allowed for the voiding of an administrative decision if it was found to be “absurd”, “illogical” or “outrageous”, in a manner similar to the English standard established in Wednesbury (Binenbaum, 385-386; Dizengoff, 1039). The broadening of the reasonableness standard is usually ascribed to the judgment in Dapei Zahav, although, in fact, this Court had previously voided administrative decisions on the basis of improper balancing of the relevant interests, even if it did so without expressly noting the reasonableness standard (see, e.g.: Kol Ha’am; HCJ 243/62 Israel Film Studios. v. Levi Geri [84]). The connection between the meaning of the term “reasonableness” as simply absurd and its also applying to a defect in balancing the various relevant considerations was already expressly noted in Dakka, which was handed down years before Dapei Zahav, and in which Justice Shamgar held that the reasonableness standard could also lead to the voiding of administrative decisions where “the relevant considerations were granted proportions so distorted in relation to one another that the final decision became inherently absurd and therefore absolutely unreasonable” (ibid., 105 (emphasis added)).

127.     Thus, we find that Dapei Zahav was not created in a vacuum. It relied upon extensive case law of this Court that had developed in accordance with the principles of Common Law and added to the narrow meaning of the unreasonableness standard, which focused upon the absurdity of the decision, a broader test that examined the balance struck by the authority among the various considerations before reaching the decision. This does not mean that absurd decisions no longer fall within the scope of the term “reasonableness”. As noted in Dakka, giving distorted weight to the various relevant considerations in making an administrative decision may demonstrate its absurdity and thus also its unreasonableness. This Court has reiterated this point over the course of the last decades in a series of judgments. Thus, for example, Ganor noted that “the source of the unreasonableness of the Attorney General’s decision is in a material deviation that goes to the very heart of the matter, to the point that the final decision is inherently absurd and therefore completely unreasonable” (ibid., 523 (emphasis added); and see, inter alia: HCJ 910/86 Ressler v. Minister of Defense [85] 503 (hereinafter: Ressler); HCJ 581/87 Zucker v. Minister of the Interior [86] 545; Pinhasi, 464; HCJ 320/96 Garman v. Herzliya City Council [87] 239; HCJ 5331/13 Tayib v. Attorney General [88] para. 28, per Justice Rubinstein).

128.     In accordance with the long-standing principles of administrative law, absurdity is thus rooted in the reasonableness standard, and in the absence of express linguistic grounds, it is not possible to establish an arbitrary interpretive boundary that would break the standard down into it parts and sever the existing relationship among all its meanings.

            Therefore, as the Government Respondents and the Chair of the Constitution Committee also emphasized in their arguments, the clear, unequivocal meaning of the language of the Amendment is that it prevents all judicial review of the elected echelon on the basis of the reasonableness standard in all its senses, including absurd decisions.

129.     Even if I were to assume, only for the sake of argument, that the language of the Amendment can somehow bear the construction proposed by the Knesset’s attorneys, it is hard to ignore the fact that this interpretation clearly contradicts the subjective purpose of the Amendment, as it can be understood from its legislative history and as it is understood by all those involved in its enaction, among them the Knesset Legal Advisor himself. Thus, throughout the legislative process, the legal advisors to the Committee and the Government, as well as jurists and other professionals addressed the problems that inhered in the comprehensive, unqualified language of the proposed amendment, which entirely rules out judicial review on the basis of the reasonableness standard without distinguishing among its various meanings or among different types of decisions of the elected echelon. This position was already expressed, inter alia, in the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023, in which the Committee’s legal advisor pointed out to the Committee that the proposed amendment does not abolish the reasonableness standard only in its sense in Dapei Zahav, but categorically abolishes its use, even in the narrow sense of “absurdity” (p. 8 of the Preparatory Document).

130.     Although the Explanatory Notes of the Amendment Bill, as presented for the first reading on July 5, 2023, included a quote from Dapei Zahav in order to describe the reasonableness standard today, and noted that it has been argued in regard to the reasonableness standard in this sense that “establishing a value-based balance among the various considerations related to an administrative decision should be given to the public’s elected representatives and not to the court”. However, the Committee’s legal advisor, Advocate Blay, again explained even after the publication of the Explanatory Notes, that the wording of the Amendment “does not leave a standard of extreme unreasonableness in the sense of absurdity in regard to elected officials” (Transcript of meeting 121, p. 11). In other words, in the opinion of the Committee’s legal advisor, who composed the Explanatory Notes (see: the clarification by MK Rothman and the Knesset’s attorney in the hearing before us, pp. 38, 193-194 of the Transcript of the hearing on Sept. 12, 2023); para. 6(d) for the Knesset’s Supplemental Brief), the mention of Dapei Zahav in the Explanatory Notes does not mean that the Amendment was intended to apply to the reasonableness standard only in the sense addressed there. A similar view was expressed by the Deputy Attorney General, Advocate Limon, who was of the opinion that we are concerned with a most extreme proposal that “entirely annuls the Supreme Court’s case law on the subject of reasonableness, not only the judgment in Dapei Zahav […] but from the earliest days of the state” (Transcript of meeting 121, p. 33). The members of the Committee also addressed the problem inherent in the proposed amendment that, in effect, comprehensively abolishes the reasonableness standard in all its senses. Thus, for example, MK Gilad Kariv argued that the Amendment Bill “grants immunity even to extreme unreasonableness or absurdly unreasonable decisions by the political echelon. You are not proposing a return to the situation prior to Dapei Zahav” (Transcript of meeting 105, p. 100; and see the position of MK Orit Farkash-Cohen in the Transcript of meeting 126 of the Constitution Committee, the 25th Knesset, 94 (July 16, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 126).

131.     Against the above background, various alternatives were proposed in the Committee’s meetings for softening the comprehensive language of the Amendment. However, these proposals were expressly rejected by the Chair of the Committee and the coalition’s representatives on the Committee. The Chair of the Committee, MK Rothman, who initiated the Amendment, noted that there is no way “to draw the line” between the various meanings of the reasonableness standard and that adopting the proposed distinctions would lead to a blurring of its standard’s boundaries by the Court and would effectively empty the Amendment of meaning (Transcript of meeting 105, p. 113; Transcript of meeting 125, p. 15). Therefore, MK Rothman was of the opinion that there is no alternative to the comprehensive abolition of the reasonableness standard in regard to all decisions of the elected echelon, and in all the senses of the standard. In the course of presenting the Amendment Bill to the Knesset for a second and third reading, MK Rothman added in this regard:

Others proposed to return to the unreasonableness standard of Wednesbury, but this solution, as many have noted, does not prove itself, since Justice Barak himself in the Dapei Zahav judgment claimed that he was relying upon the extreme unreasonableness standard. […]

Therefore, it is proposed to establish in Basic Law: The Judiciary […] that a judicial authority will not be able to address the matter of the reasonableness of the Government in a plenary session […] of the Prime Minister, or of another minister, or issue an order against any of them in regard to the reasonableness of its decision, whether by virtue of the original reasonableness standard or whether by virtue of the new reasonableness standard, and that also in regard to appointments and decisions not to exercise authority […] as far as I am concerned, and I believe that I am speaking on behalf of the members of the coalition of course, these [things] reflect the principles and foundations grounding this bill (Transcript of session 97 of the 25th Knesset, 551-552 (July 23, 2023) (emphasis added).

132.     Thus, tracing the legislative history of the Amendment shows that the Amendment’s silence in regard to the term “reasonableness” is not a “legislative mishap” or the result of not taking a stand on the issue, which needs to be remedied through interpretation (see and compare: CA 108/59 CA 108/59 Pritzker v. Niv [89] 1549; Herut, 759). On the contrary, the comprehensive language of the Amendment was the result of a conscious choice of the drafter who sought to prohibit the use of the reasonableness standard in regard to all decisions at the elected echelon and in regard to every sense of the standard. Under these circumstances, interpretation that seeks to narrow the scope of the Amendment only to the reasonableness standard in its sense in Dapei Zahav is not only incompatible with the language of the provision, but also clearly contrary to the subjective, declared purpose of the Amendment.

133.     Actually, even the Knesset’s attorney emphasized that “from the language of the amended Basic Law, it would appear that the amended Basic Law applies to reasonableness in all its aspects, without distinguishing between the traditional reasonableness standard and the new reasonableness standard” (para. 14 of the Knesset’s Supplemental Brief). He also does not dispute that the subjective purpose leads to the same conclusion. However, according to his approach, the Basic Law should not be interpreted on the basis of those tests, and that primacy should be given to the principle that “narrow interpretation of a law should be preferred to its being voided” (ibid.).

134.     Indeed, according to the doctrine of purposive interpretation employed in our system, the subjective purpose is only one element of interpretation, and as a rule, it should not be given decisive weight over the objective purpose, which treats of the values and principles that a legislative act is intended to realize in a modern democratic society (Barak, Statutory Interpretation, 202; Anti-Corruption Movement, para. 62, per Deputy President Vogelman; HCJFH 5026/16 Gini v. Chief Rabbinate [90] paras. 24-25, per President Naor). However, while there is no doubt about the existence of important objective purposes that will be realized if the Amendment is subjected to narrow interpretation, I do not believe that, under the circumstances, they can be granted primacy over the express language of the Amendment and its declared subjective purpose.

135.     In my opinion, this conclusion derives from the inherent limitations upon interpretation. Thus, the fundamental principle in our system states that we are obligated to seek out an interpretive solution that will avoid the need to decide upon the validity of a piece of legislation (see, among many: HCJ 3267/97 Rubinstein v. Minister of Defense [91] 524 (hereinafter: Rubinstein); HCJ 5113/12 Friedman v. Knesset [92] para. 5, per Justice Arbel; Anti-Corruption Movement, para. 31, per Deputy President Vogelman). However, at times, the Court is forced to decide that no such interpretation is possible. This is particularly the case when such an interpretation is artificial and leads to emptying the legal arrangement of all content or leads, in practice, to rewriting the law (see: HCJ 7146/12 Adam v. Knesset [93] 848; HCJ 7385/13 Eitan - Israeli Immigration Policy Center v. Government [94] para. 200, per Justice Vogelman (hereinafter: Eitan); Arad Pinkas, para. 21 of my opinion; and see my comment in this regard in HCJ 5469/20 National Responsibility - Israel My Home v. Government of Israel [95] para. 39 of my opinion).

            Such is the case before us. In my opinion, an interpretation that would narrowly construe the application of the amendment that abolishes the reasonableness standard in regard to the elected echelon only in its sense in Dapei Zahav would be a dubious interpretation that would effectively constitute a redrafting of the Amendment by the Court in a sense that would be completely different from that of the existing Amendment. This is all the more so because we are concerned with interpretation that touches upon the core of the constitutional arrangement and not its ancillary aspects, such as the time of its entry into force (see, e.g., Ganis, 258; Anti-Corruption Movement, paras. 33-34, per Deputy President Vogelman).

136.     For all the above reasons, I do not believe that we can adopt the distinction among the various meanings of the reasonableness standard proposed by the Knesset in regard to the application of the Amendment by means of interpretation. My conclusion is, therefore, that the Amendment should be interpreted in accordance with its plain meaning, i.e. – as a provision that comprehensively abolishes judicial review on the basis of the reasonableness standard, in all its senses, as regards decisions by the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers.

 

            D.2.     The language of the Amendment – extreme and exceptional

137.     Before addressing the significance and consequences of the amendment that is the subject of the petitions. I would like to dwell upon the language of the Amendment and point out five different aspects that testify to how extreme and exceptional it is:

            First, as explained above, the Amendment relates to all the senses of the reasonableness standard, and therefore prevents intervention even in absurd, patently unreasonable governmental decisions as long as they so not comprise any other administrative defect.

            Second, the Amendment applies to every court, and in effect to any “holder of judicial authority under law”, including the High Court of Justice that is granted general authority to grant “relief for the sake of justice” in accordance with sec. 15 (c) of Basic Law: The Judiciary. The fact that the Amendment explicitly abolishes even the jurisdiction of the Hight Court of Justice in this regard testifies to its extremeness in comparison to other provisions that limited recourse to the courts but that were interpreted as leaving the possibility, in principle, of filing a petition to the High Court of Justice (see, among many examples: HCJ 76/63 Trudler v. Election Officers [96] 2511-2512; HCJ 68/07 Robinson v. State of Israel [97] para. 3).

            Third, the Amendment not only prevents granting relief by virtue of the reasonableness standard in regard to the elected echelon (“will not issue an order”), but also prevents the very addressing of the question of the reasonableness of those decisions (“shall not address”). In other words, following the Amendment, a person who is directly harmed by a decision of a minister due to unreasonableness will not be able to bring that matter before the Court.

            Fourth, the Amendment applies to every decision, as long as it was made by the Government, the Prime Minister, or a Government Minister. To remove all doubt, the end of the section clarifies (“‘decision’ means any decision, […]”). The case law and legal literature have noted more than once in regard to the reasonableness standard that the judicial review derives from the type of decision made and from the nature of the authority exercised (HCJ 2533/97 Movement for Quality Government v. Government [98] 57-58; HCJ 1163/98 Sadot v. Prisons Service [99] 846; Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 762-757; Rubinstein & Medina, 223).  It has been held in this context in regard to decisions by the Government or any of its members that “the bounds of the ‘range of reasonableness’ […] widen or narrow depending on the type of the power exercised” (Hanegbi 2003, 841). Nevertheless, the Amendment applies comprehensively to all decisions, without exception. The Amendment does not distinguish between Government decisions that establish broad policy and “individual” decisions that are made on a daily basis and directly affect the personal matters of a particular person of body. Likewise, the Amendment does not distinguish between decisions made by the Government by virtue of the Knesset’s confidence and decisions made by a transition government. It even does not distinguish between areas in which there is a sufficient legal response by means of other standards of review and areas in which the reasonableness standard is, in effect, the only standard by which a remedy can be obtained from the Court, as shall be addressed in detail below.

            Fifth, the Amendment also prevents intervention in a “decision to refrain from exercising authority”. The Knesset, on its part, emphasized that the Amendment does not apply to situations in which an authority refrains from making a decision unless a positive decision was made not to exercise authority (para. 22 of its Supplemental Brief). I accept this interpretation, but even this clarification leaves the door open for the Government and its members to knowingly shirk exercising a particular authority, and prevents the Court from granting a remedy for omissions that severely harm an individual or the entire public.

138.     The Knesset, the Committee Chair, and the Government argued that the Amendment relies upon the principled distinction presented by my colleague Justice Sohlberg in his academic writing between decisions of the elected and the professional echelons. As I understand it – although Justice Sohlberg criticized certain trends in the Court’s decisions – he did not propose completely and comprehensively restricting the use of the reasonableness standard, and certainly not by means of enacting a Basic Law. However, the Amendment, by the extreme language adopted, does not leave the Court any flexibility and discretion in this regard: it deprives every court of the very possibility to consider and hear arguments upon the subject, it entirely abolishes the reasonableness standard in regard to the elected echelon and in regard to every decision, including a decision to refrain from exercising authority.

139.     In the course of the Committee’s debates, and in the framework of the Committee’s legal advisors attempts to “soften” the Amendment’s extreme language, the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023 had already suggested considering an alternative model by which the restriction of the reasonableness standard would apply “in regard to all the decisions made by the elected echelon, but only in regard to a certain type of decisions” (p. 12 of the Preparatory Document – emphasis original). In the meeting of June 25, 2023, the Committee’s legal advisor, Advocate Gur Blay, again proposed “to focus the restriction [on the use of the reasonableness standard] to certain decisions of the elected echelon” and explained that the significance of the Amendment’s comprehensive language is the elimination of judicial review of administrative decisions “even in extreme situations […] in which it was possible to intervene even under the old Wednesbury rule” (Transcript of meeting 105, pp. 86, 106). Two days later, Advocate Blay emphasized the need “to make an exception for every decision that directly affects an individual, whether it is what the literature refers to as an individual right or an individual interest” (Transcript of meeting 109 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 45 (June 27, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 109)). After the Amendment Bill was approved in a first reading, Advocate Blay again insisted that the Amendment was more sweeping than every other course of action considered in regard to the reasonableness standard, and noted three primary areas in which no effective judicial review would remain following the Amendment: decisions by a transition government, decisions in regard to appointments and dismissals, and individual decisions that involve a violation of protected rights (Transcript of meeting 121, pp. 11-13).

            Despite all of these remarks and proposals, the Amendment Bill remained virtually as is, and the main change introduced before its approval in a second and third reading even exacerbated the existing wording by clarifying that “decision” means “any decision, including in matters of appointments, or a decision to refrain from exercising authority”.

140.     As will be explained below, the extreme, extraordinary wording of the Amendment, and given the present constitutional reality, inflicted harm of unprecedented scope upon two of the core characteristics of our democratic system – the principle of separation of powers and the principle of the rule of law.

            D.3.     Infringement of the separation of powers

141.     The idea at the base of the principle of separation of powers is the division of power and the distribution of authority among the branches of government – “the legislature should exercise legislative power; the executive should exercise executive power; the judiciary should exercise judicial power” (HCJ 11163/03 Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel v. Prime Minister [100] 55 (hereinafter: Supreme Monitoring Committee)). However, this is but one element of the principle of separation of powers. It is now clear to all that the separation of powers in a democratic state also means mutual oversight among the branches such that each checks and balances the others (ibid.; and see: HCJ 5364/94 Wilner v. Chair of the Israel Labor Party [101] 783; and see: HCJ 306/81 Sharon v. Knesset House Committee [102] 141; Rubinstein & Medina, 127-128). As noted in the case law: “This delicate and complex formula of the decentralization of power and mutual supervision is what empowers the three branches of government and determines the relations among them. This is what creates and preserves the rule of law and democracy, and undermining this is likely to endanger the whole system of government” (Supreme Monitoring Committee, 55; emphasis added).

            It is important to emphasize that the primary purpose of the principle of separation of powers does not focus on the branches themselves or the propriety of the relationship among them. The separation of powers is intended to “prevent the concentration of power in one governmental authority in a manner liable to violate individual freedom” (Rubinstein, 512; on the historical sources of the principle of separation of powers, see: Distribution of Power, 24-13). It is, indeed, a principle that entirely rests upon the protecting of the individual from the government.

142.     Given the great power concentrated in the executive branch in general, and the Government in particular, in the Israeli system, judicial review constitutes an oversight mechanism whose importance in ensuring the protection of the rights of the individual against their violation by the government cannot be overstated. It has already been held in this regard that “the absence of judicial supervision will end in the violation of human liberty” (LCrimA 2060/97 Valinchik v. Tel Aviv District Psychiatrist [103] 713).

            In the present case, we should emphasize that “according to the approach of administrative law in recent generations, the ground of reasonableness acts as a main and essential instrument of judicial review of the administration, and it stands at the forefront of the protection of the individual and the public against arbitrary government” (Emunah, 486). As will be explained below, Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary leads to an even greater concentration of governmental power in the hands of the elected echelon and to situations in which the individual will be left without protection against severe harm by the Government or by one of its ministers because recourse to the Court has been blocked.

143.     It can be inferred from the Explanatory Notes of the Amendment Bill that it was based upon the concept that decisions by the elected echelon generally treat of setting policy principles that reflect the worldview upon which the members of the Government were elected, and therefore “balancing the values of the various considerations in regard to the administrative decision must be granted to the public’s elected representatives and not to the court” (p. 110 of the Amendment Bill). However, as was made clear in the course of the Committee’s debates, the decisions of the Government and its ministers do not merely comprise a theoretical balance of values. They directly influence the lives of specific people, and at times, involve their severe harm (see, inter alia, Transcript of meeting 105, pp. 116-117; Transcript of meeting 121, pp. 12-13, 15-16).

144.     Many of the powers that the law grants to government ministers concern individual matters that directly affect a particular person or entity. In this regard, we might note, as a very partial, non-comprehensive list, the following powers:

A.        The power of the Minister of the Interior to grant or invalidate a residence permit and to prevent the granting of an immigration visa (Citizenship Law, 5712-1952; Entry into Israel Law, 5712-1952; sec, 2(b) of the Law of Return).

B.        The power to grant or revoke licenses, concessions, and permits (see, e.g., sec. 41 of the Physicians Ordinance [New Version], 5737-1976; sec. 19 of the Veterinarian Doctors Law, 5751-1991; sec. 10A of the Natural Gas Sector Law, 5762-2002; sec. 4(b2) of the Electricity Sector Law, 5756-1996; various powers under the Communications (Telecommunications and Broadcasting) Law, 5742-1982; secs. 11(a) and 11b(a) of the Engineers and Architects Law, 5718-1958; sec. 3 of the Meat and Meat Products Law, 5754-1994; secs. 2-3 of the Explosives Law, 5714-1954; sec. 4A(a) of the Seeds Law, 5716-1956).

C.        Powers concerning the taking of land for public purposes, compensation for harmful plans, and granting an exemption from improvement assessments (sec. 3 of the Lands (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance, 1943; secs. 189(b), 190(1)(2), 197(b) and sec. 19(b) of the Third Schedule of the Building and Planning Law, 5725-1965 (hereinafter: the Building and Planning Law)).

D.        Powers concerning criminal proceedings (sec. 18 of the Extradition Law, 5714-1954; secs. 7-8 and 13 of the Serving a Prison Sentence in the State of Nationality Law, 5757-1996., 5757-1996. And see sec. 12 of Basic Law: The President and HCJFH 219/09 Minister of Justice v. Zohar [104] concerning the Minister of Justice’s countersignature on pardons).

E.         Powers concerning workers’ rights (secs. 9D1 and 12 of the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951; secs 1 and 9 of the Employment of Women Law, 5714-1954; sec. 28 of the Severance Pay Law, 5723-1963; sec. 2(c) of the Youth Labor Law, 5713-1953; sec 1E(c)(1) of the Foreign Workers Law, 5751-1991).

F.         Powers concerning matters of family, personal status, and inheritance (see, e.g.: sec. 28P of the Adoption of Children Law, 5741-1981; sec. 16 of the Names Law, 5716-1956; sec. 17(b) of the Inheritance Law, 5725-1965).

            In some cases, the said powers have been delegated by the minister to other bodies, but as we know, such a delegation can be revoked at any time (see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 187-188 and references there), while the power – under the enabling law – is in the hands of the minister.

145.     Not infrequently, the Court is called upon to protect the important rights and interests of individuals as a result of decisions by the elected echelon that were tainted by extreme unreasonableness and expressed a distorted balance of the various, relevant considerations. So it was, for example, when the Minister of Defense refused a request by bereft families to change the wording on a monument dedicated to their loved ones (HCJ 6069/00 Association for Perpetuating the Memory of the Victims of the Helicopter Disaster in She’ar Yishuv v. Minister of Defense [105]; when the Minister of the Interior refused to grant status to the daughter of an Israeli citizen who was raised and educated in Israel, regarding whom it was  decided to grant permanent status in the past, but who was never informed of that decision (Bautista); and also see: HCJ 3840/13 Anonymous v. Minister of the Interior [106]; and when decisions by ministers significantly harmed the economic interests of individuals (see, e.g.: HCJ 176/90 Machnes v. Minister of Labor and Welfare [107] 730; HCJ 1829/93 Nazareth Transportation and Tourism Co. v. Minister of Finance [108]; HCJ 5946/03 Keshet Prima v. Supervisor of Prices [109]). In one case in which it was decided to deprive a person of his being awarded the Israel Prize for non-professional reasons, it was even held that the minister’s decision was so unreasonable that it did not even meet the “narrow” reasonableness standard, as the decision was irrational (HCJ 8076/21 Selection Committee for the 1981 Israel Prize Computer Science Research v. Minister of Education [110] para. 52, per Justice Y. Wilner); and compare to the case of an unreasonable decision to refrain from appointing a person found suitable by the relevant professionals: HCJ 8134/11 Asher v. Minister of Finance [111] para. 20, per Deputy President Rivlin).

146.     Even broad decisions that can be viewed as decisions concerning policy principles may lead to very severe harm to individuals, specifically because of the importance of the areas for which the Government and its members are responsible. The clear example is Wasser, in which the Court intervened in a Government decision to only partially protect the educational institutions in the “Gaza perimeter”, holding that in view of the real, concrete threat, the balance struck “between the professional-security considerations and the budgetary considerations significantly departs from the margin of reasonableness” (ibid., 215). A recent example of this is Zilber, in which the Court held that the new policy of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of the Economy and Industry for changing the criteria for support for the subsidizing of daycare centers for the families of yeshiva students comprised a short transition clause that was unreasonable in the extreme (see and compare: HCJ 5290/97 Ezra – National Hareidi Youth Movement v. Minister of Religious Affairs [112] 430).

147.     We would emphasize that – contrary to the claims made in the course of enacting the Amendment and by some of the Respondents in these proceedings – the other administrative law standards for review do not provide an effective alternative to the reasonableness standard. Therefore, in many of the cases cited above and in additional cases, it would not have been possible to grant a remedy to the petitioners without the reasonableness standard, and they would have found themselves in a hopeless situation.

148.     One of the central arguments raised in the Committee’s debates, and that was raised by some of the Respondents in this regard, is that the proportionality standard in any case serves as a standard for judicial review of decisions that violate basic rights, and therefore the harm caused by the abolition of the reasonableness standard in regard to decisions by the elected echelon is not dramatic (see: the statement of MK Rothman in the Transcript of meeting 105, p. 77, and the Transcript of meeting 113 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 55 (July 3, 2023); para. 332 of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response; para. 245 of the Government Respondents’ Affidavit in Response).

            Over the years, our system developed and formed the proportionality standard primarily against the background of its express inclusion in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, and it is now viewed in the case law as an important standard for providing protection in cases of the violation of individual rights (see, among many: HCJ 2651/09 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of the Interior [113], para. 19, per Justice Danziger; HCJ 79/17 Ziada v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank [114], para. 73, per Deputy President (emer.) Joubran; and see: HCJ 11437/05 Kav LaOved v. Minister of the Interior [115] 190-193; Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 784-785). However, as the examples presented above demonstrate, sometimes an individual suffers significant harm as the result of a governmental decision even when it is not possible to identify a direct violation of a right (in this regard, also see the statement of Advocate Blay in the Transcript of meeting 109, pp. 41-42, and the Transcript of meeting 120 of the Constitution Committee of the 25th Knesset, 76 (July 7, 2023) (hereinafter: Transcript of meeting 120)). This is so, for example, when we are concerned with a flawed balance between budgetary considerations and public security considerations, or when the harmed interests are economic and social interests that are not vested rights, like subsidies, social services, licenses, appointments, prizes and matters of status. In such cases, the reasonableness standard may be the only effective legal tool for protecting the individual (see and compare other instances in which this standard served for intervention in the decisions of other authorities: Sela, in which a local council refrained from allocating land for the building of a mikveh and did not give proper weight to the harm to the religiously observant women in the community; HCJ 4988/19 Rosenzweig Moissa v. Public Utilities Electricity Authority [116] in which an order absolute was granted, finding that the list of consumers for whom the supply of electricity is vital and cannot be suspended for a debt was “limited in a manner that deviated from the margin of reasonableness”).

149.     This is also the case in regard to the standard of extraneous considerations. This, too, does not constitute an effective alternative to the reasonableness standard. A person claiming the existence of extraneous considerations in an authority’s decision must present an evidentiary foundation for his claim. That is a very significant burden given the fact that he is required to expose the improper motives of the authority or show circumstantial indicators of real weight that testify to such motives (see: HCJ 4500/07 Yachimovich v. Council of the Second Authority for Radio and Television [117] para. 12; HCJ 8756/07 “Mavoi Satum” Association v. Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges [118] para. 43; Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 669-672). Due to the substantial evidentiary problems in this regard, a significant part of petitions based upon the claim of extraneous considerations are dismissed for lack of a factual foundation (ibid., 670). In addition, the extraneous considerations standard does not address the issue of a flaw in the balance struck by the authority among valid considerations (see: AAA 343/09 Jerusalem Open House for Gay Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality [119]), which is also a reason why this standard does not serve as an alternative to examining the reasonableness of a decision.

150.     Another standard mentioned in the Committee’s debates and in the arguments presented by the parties to these proceedings is that of arbitrariness (see, e.g.: Transcript of meeting 126, pp. 50 and 57; para. 316(a) of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response). Even if I assume that we are concerned with a standard that is distinct from that of reasonableness and not one of the levels of reasonableness like “absurdity” (see various approaches in this regard in Zamir, Administrative Power, 3525-3537; Barak-Erez. Administrative Law, 724; and see: Transcript of meeting 126, p. 127) – arbitrariness, by its nature, concerns rare and extreme government conduct. Thus, the case law and the literature have referred to an arbitrary decision as one made “on the basis of just a feeling” or “disconnected from the facts of the case” and even “a type of corruption” (HCJ 986/05 Peled v. Tel-Aviv Yafo Municipality [120] para. 14; Zamir, Administrative Power, 3446-3447; and see: AAA 1930/22 Jerusalem Open House for Gay Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality [121] para. 39, per Justice Groskopf; LCrimA 1611/16 State of Israel v. Vardi [122] paras. 70-72, per Deputy President Melcer; HCJ 376/81 Lugasi v. Minister of Communications [123] 460). A distinct standard based on each of these definitions cannot serve as a real alternative to examining the unreasonableness of decisions, inasmuch as these definitions are directed at edge cases in which it would appear that no discretion was exercised prior to making the decision.

151.     In practice, reasonableness is often a substitute for the other standards of review, and preventing the possibility of its use severely harms the individual in this regard as well. On more than one occasion, the case law has noted the role of the reasonableness standard as a kind of “valve concept” that can serve as an important tool for identifying administrative decisions suffering such severe defects as extraneous considerations, when there is an evidentiary problem in proving them (Hanegbi, 2014, para. 2, per President Naor; Netanyahu, para. 5, per Justice Barak-Erez; and see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 726). In this regard, it was held that “in this residual form, the reasonableness doctrine yields great social benefit: it provides the courts with an effective, necessary tool for judicial review under uncertainty, and does not allow government authorities to hide their failures by exploiting the ambiguity of the factual foundation” (Scheinfeld, para. 35, per Justice Stein). In such circumstances, as Professor Itzhak Zamir noted well, “it would not be fair to deprive the petitioner the last resort of the reasonableness standard, which is, at times, the only grounds by which he may achieve justice through the courts and preserve the lawfulness of the administration” (Zamir, Administrative Power, 3607).

152.     As we see, in the existing legal situation, the other grounds for review cannot compensate for the broad harm to the individual if a series of decisions made by the elected echelon on a daily basis will be immune to review on the basis of reasonableness. In this regard, it was noted in Emunah that:

Restricting the ground of reasonableness may create a vacuum in judicial review that may not be filled by other grounds of review and may seriously curtail the willingness of the court to intervene in cases where the administrative authority did not consider all and only the relevant considerations in its decision or considered them but did not give them their proper relative weight, or also considered irrelevant considerations. It is easy to imagine the damage that such a process can be expected to cause to the concept of the legality of administrative action and the purpose of protecting the citizen in his relationship with the government, which lies at the heart of the definition of the grounds of judicial review of administrative action (ibid., 487).

153.     The Knesset argues that over the course of time it will be possible to contend with the consequences of the Amendment through the use of judicial tools by developing new standards or by changing the way that the existing standards for review are implemented. However, this speculative assumption does not provide a response to the distress of individuals already being harmed by unreasonable administrative decisions who cannot wait years for substantive changes that may or may not be made in administrative law.

            The possibility of replacing judicial review of unreasonable decisions with public or parliamentary oversight, a possibility raised by the Knesset and the Government Respondents (see: paras. 318-319 of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response; para. 265 of the Government Respondents’ Affidavit in Response) also provides no response to the serious harm to the individual that is caused by the Amendment. On the institutional level, the Knesset and its committees are not able – nor intended – to carry out continuous, effective oversight of the thousands of decisions made by the Government and the ministers every year, many of which are of an individual nature (this was pointed out by the legal advisor to the Committee on p. 11 of the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023; on the limited oversight capability of the Knesset, see: Chen Friedberg & Reuven Hazan, Legislative Oversight of the Executive Branch in Israel: Current Status and Proposed Reform (Policy Paper 77, Israel Democracy Institute, 2009) [Hebrew]). The resolution of conflicts between the citizen and the government in a democracy is carried out in court (see: HCJ 287/69 Meiron v. Minister of Labor [124] 362). Parliamentary oversight mechanisms focus upon “procedures of establishing general policy by the Government and [supervision] of them”, and not upon specific instances that come to the courts as a matter of course (Dotan, Judicial Review, 82-83). This is the case even without addressing the inherent problem that there is a coalition majority in the Knesset and its committees whose ability to serve as an effective check upon the Government’s activities is doubtful, to put it mildly (see and compare: ibid., 85).

154.     There is also no substance to the argument by the Government Respondents that the Amendment only establishes “a norm [that is] accepted in the overwhelming majority of western democratic states” in regard to the applicability of the reasonableness standard (para. 258 of their Affidavit in Response). First, as already noted, the consequences of the Amendment must be examined against the background of the specific constitutional context in which it was adopted. It is clear that in a system in which the Government controls the legislative branch, and judicial review is the only effective mechanism that serves as a check upon its actions, significantly limiting the reasonableness standard inflicts far more severe and significant harm to the separation of powers that the harm that might be caused as a result of a similar amendment in systems that are equipped with a range of mechanisms of checks and balances.

            Moreover, the argument itself is imprecise. The global trend over the last decades is one of expanding the application of the reasonableness standard and others like it for the review of administrative discretion, and not their reduction (for details, see the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023, p. 6; and see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 724). A salient example of this can be found in Great Britain where the narrow Wednesbury principle was first developed. Today, the British system applies a more expansive approach to the reasonableness standard (see: Cohn, “Comparative Aspects”, 782-790; Harry Woolf et al., De Smith’s Judicial Review, para. 11-099 (8th ed., 1018), and recent judgments have also explained that, as in the Israeli approach, the reasonableness standard also comprises a “balancing” aspect (see: ibid., para. 11-030; Kennedy v The Charity Commission [158] para. 54; Adam Perry, “Wednesbury Unreasonableness,” 82 Cambridge L.J. 483, 486 (2023)). Moreover, the British courts also examine the reasonableness of the decisions of ministers, while granting weight to their being elected officials (H.W.R. Wade & C.F. Forsyth, Administrative Law 318 (10th ed., 2009); Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [159]; and see: Zamir, Administrative Power, 3870-3871).

            In addition, over the last decade, the Supreme Courts of Australia and Canada comprehensively debated the reasonableness standard, in the course of which they grounded it as a central standard of review in administrative law. In Australia, the Supreme Court extended the criterion to the unreasonableness of decisions, while holding that the narrow test associated with Wednesbury should be abandoned and preference should be given to a more in-depth test (Minister for Immigration & Citizenship v Li [163]; the reasonableness test is even anchored in law in Australia: Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, s. 5(2)(g)). In Canada, the Supreme Court comprehensively arranged the grounds for administrative review and strengthened the place and role of reasonableness as opposed to a de-novo review of the administrative decision, which would be undertaken only in exceptional cases (Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov [164] 4 S.C.R. 653 (hereinafter: Vavilov); Paul Daly & Coleen Flood, Administrative Law in Context 351 (2021). The judgment made it clear that the reasonableness standard also applies to decisions made by ministers and to policy decisions (Vavilov, paras. 88-89). The literature has even noted that, in certain senses, judicial review of the decisions of ministers and other elected officials has become more strict since Vavilov (Paul Daly, “Vavilov and the Culture of Justification in Contemporary Administrative Law,” 100 Sup. Ct. Rev. 279, 303-304 (2021)).

            It should be further noted that although the reasonableness standard is not a primary ground in Continental law, in practice, even those legal systems carry out judicial review of administrative discretion on the basis of test that are materially similar, and they are often more strict in regard to the administrative authorities in comparison to those employed in the Common Law (Ron Shapira, “On the Reasonableness of Reasonableness,” The Israel Law & Liberty Forum Blog 1, 2 (Jan. 16, 2023) [Hebrew]; Itzhak Zamir, “Israeli Administrative Law in comparison to German Administrative Law,” 2 Mishpat Uminhal 109, 129-130 (1994) [Hebrew]; and see: John Bell & François Lichère, Contemporary French Administrative Law 191-195 (2002); Mahendra P. Singh, German Administrative Law in Common Law Perspective 165-166 (2001)).

155.     The comparative survey only serves to illustrate the material difficulties raised by the Amendment. In other legal systems, the trend is to expand the use of the reasonableness standard, inter alia, against the background of the growing power of the executive branch in the modern state and the need to oversee its discretion (see and compare: Yoav Dotan, Administrative Guidelines 510-511 (1996) [Hebrew]). As opposed to that, In Israel – where, in comparative terms, the Government concentrates unprecedented power in its hands – the constituent authority chose to bar the possibility for examining the reasonableness of the decisions of the Government, the Prime Minister and the ministers in a sweeping, extreme and exceptional manner.

156.     The immediate significance of the Amendment – which absolutely denies an individual any possibility of raising arguments in regard to the reasonableness of decisions by the Government, the Prime Minister and the ministers, and the possibility of obtaining relief on the basis of such arguments – is a mortal blow to the right of access to the courts “whose existence is a necessary, vital condition for the existence of all the other basic rights” (Arpal, 629).

            The Government Respondents argue that our matter does not involve any violation of the right of access to the courts, inasmuch as that right concerns the possibility of obtaining relief in accordance with the law and the law has changed in this matter (para. 266 of their Affidavit in Response). This argument cannot be accepted. While the Amendment abolished the reasonableness standard as a ground for judicial review of the elected echelon, it does not free the Government and its members from the duty of reasonableness. In accordance with that duty, they must exercise discretion properly, while giving appropriate weight to all the relevant considerations. This is the case because every administrative authority exercises its powers as a public trustee (see: Eisenberg, 258-259; HCJ 5657/09 Movement for Quality Government v. Prime Minister [125] para. 39 (hereinafter: Djerbi)). In the course of the debates in the Constitution Committee, the Committee Chair, MK Rothman, the initiator of the Amendment, explained that this duty continues to hold in regard to the Government and the ministers (Transcript of meeting 121, 24-35). A similar position was presented in the proceedings before us in the Knesset’s arguments (para. 301 of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response). Therefore, while the law applicable to the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers in this regard remains unchanged – the individual has been deprived of protection from governmental power, as he can no longer obtain relief for a violation of law, even if it is a severe violation of his important interests.

157.     In Arpal, it was noted that “barring the path to the court – whether directly or indirectly – and even only partially” harms “the democratic foundation of the state” (ibid., 629). This conclusion derives from the a priori purpose at the base of the principle of separation of powers – preventing the concentration of too much power in the hands of the regime and preventing the threat that would result to individuals in the state. The Amendment that is the subject of the petitions and the abolition of the reasonableness standard in all that relates to the elected echelon deprives the Court of a central oversight tool and grants significant, additional, and unlimited governance power to the Government, which already holds unprecedented power.

            Therefore, there is no alternative but to conclude that the Amendment strikes an extremely severe blow to the principle of separation of powers, which is one of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state.

            D.4.     The harm to the rule of law

158.     The basic meaning of the principle of the rule of law in a democratic state is that “no person or body is above the law” (HCJ 1843/93 Pinhasi v. Knesset [126] 682). This principle does not only apply to individuals in the state: “all government authorities, including the Government itself, are subject to the law. No authority is above the law” (Eisenberg, 274). Judicial review of administrative actions has long served as a most central tool in defending the rule of law, and ensuring that the government acts lawfully is a core role of the court in a democratic society (see: Ressler, 462; Dotan, Judicial Review, 70; Rubinstein & Medina, 174).

            The law means the written law and the case law, including administrative law as developed in the case law over the years (AAA 867/11Tel-Aviv Yaffo Municipality v. A.B.C. Management and Maintenance, Ltd. [127] para. 28, per Justice Vogelman). The reasonableness standard is among the principles of administrative law, and it has been stated in regard to its application to all the administrative authorities as follows:

Like every decision by an administrative body, the decisions of the Government, its ministers and the Prime Minister are subject to judicial review in accordance with the standards of administrative law. “The government’s discretion, like the discretion of any minister within the government or any other authority, is constrained and guided by legal rules, and the Court is charged with upholding those rules. Among other things, the Government must exercise its powers based on relevant considerations, not on extraneous considerations. These must fall within the margin of reasonableness and proportionately” […] Any authority may make a decision that is not reasonable or that is not compatible with administrative law. The Government is no exception […] (Hanegbi 2003, 840).

159.     An in-depth examination of the Amendment shows that its consequences in the area of the rule of law are most severe. As noted, the Amendment did not in any way affect the duty of reasonableness that applies to the Government, the Prime Minister and to each of the ministers, whose duty to act reasonably directly derives from their being public trustees (Pinhasi, 461). The Government, its ministers and every other administrative authority is thus subject to the duty “to weigh all of the relevant considerations, to refrain from considerations that are not relevant; […] to grant the appropriate weight to each of the relevant considerations in accordance with the circumstances, and to arrive at a balanced decision by means of a proper evaluation of the various factors that will fall within the margin of reasonableness” (Djerbi, para. 39).

            However, following the Amendment, the duty of reasonableness is left unenforceable in regard to the Government and its members, as opposed to the other administrative authorities. In other words, the Amendment comprehensively establishes that the Court no longer holds jurisdiction to address the reasonableness of any decision adopted by the Government or any of its members, and accordingly, no longer holds jurisdiction to grant relief in those instances in which the decision adopted is unreasonable. This is so even though had the same decision been adopted by any other body or functionary in the executive branch – that is not part of the Government – the exemption would not apply, and the decision would be subject to judicial review on the ground of reasonableness.

160.     The result of the legal situation created as a result of the Amendment is that, in regard to the elected echelon, there is “law” (the duty of reasonableness) but no “judge” who can examine the observance of the duty because the Amendment abolishes the jurisdiction of anyone holding judicial authority to hear arguments in regard to the reasonableness of decisions by the Government and its members or to grant relief on the basis of that ground. The result is that the elected echelon, that effectively holds the most governmental power and that has at its disposal broad powers that have the potential for inflicting severe harm to individuals and to the public interest, is exempt from judicial review in all that relates to the reasonableness of its decisions, and it has already been held that “in the absence of a judge, the law itself will vanish with him”  (Arpal, 629). This situation constitutes a mortal blow to the principle of the rule of law, at both the formal and substantive levels. As was noted in Eisenberg:

The exalted position of the Government as the State’s executive authority (s. 1 of the Basic Law: The Government) cannot give it powers that the law does not confer upon it […]. Indeed, this is the strength of a democracy that respects the rule of law. This is the rule of law in its formal sense, whereby all government authorities, including the Government itself, are subject to the law. No authority is above the law; no authority may act unreasonably. This is also the substantive rule of law, according to which a balance must be made between the values, principles, and interests of the democratic society, while empowering the government to exercise discretion that properly balances the proper considerations (ibid., 274 – emphasis added).

161.     The harm to the rule of law is particularly severe in view of the creation of “vacuums” in judicial review (or “normative black holes” in the words of the Petitioners and the Attorney General). This harm derives from the fact that the Court has been deprived of the possibility of effectively examining decisions made in entire areas in which the protection of extremely important public interests is based almost exclusively upon an examination of the reasonableness of the decisions of the Government and its ministers.

162.     Thus, the reasonableness standard is the main tool granted to the Court for ensuring integrity in the civil service. This is expressed primarily in all that concerns improper appointments to public offices. It is the reasonableness standard that enables judicial review in extreme situations in which, even thought the appointment was made with authority and in accordance with the formal requirements, there was a severe defect in the discretion of the appointing body. Indeed, “the history of the public administration in Israel is burdened with cases, not one and not two, in which it was possible to prevent patently improper appointments only in the context of reasonableness, since on the ‘formal’ side it received a ‘passing’ grade (Hanegbi 2014, para. 2, per Deputy President Rubinstein; and see: ibid., para 2, per President Naor; for an up-to-date survey on the matter, see: Bell Yosef & Elad Gil, “The Use of the Reasonableness Standard in the Oversight of Public Appointments,” Tachlit – Institute for Israeli Public Policy (July 2, 2023) [Hebrew]). The contribution of the reasonableness standard to ethical integrity in the civil service is significant particularly given the fact that the other ground that might be relevant in this regard – the ground of extraneous considerations, which can serve for examining improper political appointments – involves significant evidentiary problems, and in practice, this claim is rarely accepted in regard to an appointment (see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 658; Miriam Ben-Porat, “Political Appointments (Specific Problems),” Shamgar Volume, Part I, 91, 106-110 (2003); for a rare case of this type, see: HCJ 6458/96 Abu Krinat v. Minister of the Interior [128] 139-140).

163.     The importance of the reasonableness standard as it relates to decisions by the elected echelon is prominently expressed in appointments to public office of persons tainted by significant moral turpitude, regarding whom appropriate weight was not given to the principles of ethical integrity, good governance, and the public trust in governmental authorities. Thus, the appointment of a person who had been involved in extremely serious offenses to the post of Director General of a government agency was rescinded, inter alia, on the basis of reasonableness (Eisenberg; and see: Sarid). It has been held that the Prime Minister was required to dismiss ministers and deputy ministers against whom criminal charges were filed for corruption or who were convicted of  criminal acts a number of times (Deri; Pinhasi; Scheinfeld). The extension of the tenure of a senior office holder in the Ministry of Transportation was cancelled due to his conviction in disciplinary proceedings for offenses perpetrated in the course of his service (HCJ 7542/05 Portman v. Shitreet [129]). A decision by the Minister of Defense to promote an officer to the rank of general was canceled due to his admission of unbecoming conduct of a sexual nature and his conviction by a disciplinary tribunal (HCJ 1284/99 A v. Chief of General Staff [130]).

164.     In other situations, the reasonableness standard served as the legal basis for protecting against an inappropriate deviation from proper conduct in the public administration. Thus, for example, this Court invalidated an appointment made contrary to the recommendation of the appointments committee, noting that the impression was that the “dominant motive” for the appointment was “the close political connection” between the appointee and the responsible minister, as opposed to professional considerations of appropriateness to the office (Djerbi, para. 62, per Justice Procaccia). It has also been held that a situation in which a deputy minister wields the powers of the ministry in practice, while the Prime Minister is defined as the minister (“Deputy Minister with the status of a Minister”) is unreasonable in the extreme (HCJ 3132/15 Yesh Atid Party v. Prime Minister [130]). The case law has also noted that refraining from making appointments to vital positions while leaving the office unfilled over time causes severe harm to the public and may be deemed unreasonable (see: HCJ 268/13 Chai v. Exceptions Committee for Appointments to Senior Positions in the Prime Minister’s Office [132] para. 19; HCJ 1004/15 Movement for Governability and Democracy v. Minister of the Interior [133] paras. 15-16, per President Naor).

165.     The danger in denying the possibility of judicial intervention in extreme situations in which an appointment by the Government and its ministers is tainted by a serious defect is particularly great. This, in view of the nature of the appointments for which they are responsible. The Government is responsible for appointments to the most senior positions in the public service, among them, the Chief of the General Staff, the Director of the Israel Security Agency, the Police Commissioner, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, and the Commissioner of the Prison Service (sec. 3(c) of Basic Law: The Military; sec. 2(a) of the General Security Service Law, 5762-2002; sec. 8A of the Police Ordinance [New Version], 5731-1971 (hereinafter: Police Ordinance); sec. 6 of the Bank of Israel Law, 5770-2010; sec. 78 of the Prisons Ordinance [New Version], 5732-1971 (hereinafter: Prisons Ordinance)). In addition, sec. 23 of the Civil Service (Appointments) Law, 5719 – 1959 (hereinafter: Civil Service Law) allows the Government to decide which appointments require its approval, and this list currently includes, inter alia, the Director of the National Security Council, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorneys General, the State Attorney, the Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Director of National Economic Council, the Accountant General, the Budget Director, the Commissioner for Capital Markets, the Director of the Tax Authority, the Director of the Population and Immigration Authority, Israeli ambassadors throughout the world, and more (see: Second Appendix to the Civil Service Law). Along with that, there is a long list of senior appointments that fall under the authority of Government ministers (see, for example: sec. 18 of the Government Corporations Law, 5735-1975 (hereinafter: Government Corporations Law); sec. 8 of the Public Broadcasting Law, 5774-2014; sec. 3 of the Securities Law, 5728-1968; sec. 2 of the Planning and Building Law; sec. 7 of the Police Ordinance; sec. 79 of the Prison Service Law).

            Moreover, the Government and the ministers are often able to dismiss those senior officer holders, inter alia, on the basis of the general directive in sec. 14 of the Interpretation Law, 5741-1981, according to which: “Any empowerment to make an appointment implies empowerment to suspend the validity thereof or to revoke it, to dismiss the person appointed or to suspend him from office” (and see: art. 15 of the Order-in-Council; Zamir, “Administrative Authority,” 565, 656-657); HCJ 3884/16 A. v. Minister of Internal Security [134] para. 21). While there are, at present, appointments that require the recommendation of an advisory committee or a selection committee for which there are also established procedures for the termination of office, those requirement are primarily grounded in  Government decisions that can be revoked (see, inter alia: Decision 3839 of the 34th Government “The Advisory Council for Appointments to Senior Positions and the Revocation of Government Decisions” (May 27, 2018); Decision 516 of the 9th Government “Conditions for Appointment to Certain Offices” (Aug. 14, 1960); Decision 4892 of the 27th Government “Appointments Commission headed by the Civil Service Commissioner – Amendment of Government Decision no. 516 of Aug. 14, 1960” (March 7, 1999); Decision 2274 of the 28th Government “Report of the Public Committee for Examining Procedures for the Appointment of the Attorney General” (Aug. 20, 2000)). Even assuming that these decisions will remain in force, abolishing the reasonableness standard will block judicial review in situations in which appropriate weight is not given to the recommendations of the relevant bodies (as occurred, for example, in Djerbi).

166.     Thus, removing judicial oversight of the reasonableness of decisions by the Government and the ministers in regard to all the appointments under their authority will leave the public without any real protection in situations in which senior members of the civil service are appointed or dismissed solely for political reasons. As the Petitioners and the Attorney General emphasized, the consequences in this area are particularly severe in regard to those entrusted with enforcing the law – like the Attorney General, the State Attorney, and the Police Commissioner – where, in the absence of active judicial review, the question of their appointment and continued service becomes entirely dependent upon the graces of the elected echelon in a manner that might undermine their independence. This element of the independence of the law enforcement system is necessary to  fulfilling its role in the protection of the rule of law in the state, and it is also vital to the State of Israel’s ability to contend with legal challenges in the international arena (see: Amichai Cohen, “International Criminal Law,” International Law 473, 507 (Yael Ronen, ed., 4th ed., 2023)). This last point in regard to the international consequences of the Amendment was the focus of the Numa Petition and is also mentioned in para. 307 of the Attorney General’s Affidavit in Response).

            In the course of the Committee’s debates, the subject of appointments and dismissals in the civil service was presented again and again as a critical issue by participants in the debates and by the Committee’s legal advisors in particular. In this regard, possibilities for establishing alternatives to judicial review were also raised (see: Transcript of meeting 120, 91-92; Transcript of meeting 121, 11-12). However, such mechanisms were not adopted in the end, and instead, a clarification was added to the end of the final draft according to which “decision” means “any decision, including in matters of appointments […]”. In the absence of any response to clear harm to the tools for protecting ethical integrity and good governance of the administration caused by the abolition of the reasonableness standard in regard appointments and dismissals of the most senior functionaries of the state, it would appear that the Amendment creates a real danger that the civil service, which “is intended to provide for the needs of the public in all aspects of life” (HCJ 8815/05 Landstein v. Spiegler [135] para. 8), will be fundamentally changed, and not for the better.

167.     An additional “normative vacuum” created as a result of the Amendment concerns the examination of the discretion of transition governments. In accordance with the principle of the continuity of the Government, anchored in sec. 30 of Basic Law: The Government, a Government that no longer enjoys the Knesset’s confidence continues to serve as the executive authority of the state for as long as another Government has not won the confidence of the Knesset. This is intended to prevent a “governmental vacuum” and to ensure government continuity (HCJ 5167/00 Weiss v. Prime Minister [136] 465 (hereinafter: Weiss); HCJ 7510/19 Or-Cohen v. Prime Minister [137] paras. 1 and 10 of my opinion). The primary concern that derives from this governmental situation is that such a Government might adopt decisions intended to garner political advantage in the upcoming elections or to tie the hands of the next Government (ibid., para. 10 of my opinion; and see: Shetreet, 520). In this regard, the case law has made it clear that although the powers of a transition government are no different from those of a “regular” Government, in term of discretion “the margin of reasonableness of a transition government is more narrow than that of a Government that serves by virtue of the confidence of the Knesset” (Kohelet Forum, para. 6 of my opinion; and see: Weiss, 470; HCJ 9202/08 Livnat v. Prime Minister [138] para. 4). Therefore, it is the duty of the transitional government to maintain a balance between moderation and restraint – which derive from the very fact of its being a Government that does not enjoy the confidence of the Knesset – and the need to ensure stability, continuity, and the proper functioning of the government institutions (Kohelet Forum, para. 7 of my opinion). Against this background, when the Court examined the decisions of transition governments and found a defect in the balance among the relevant considerations, it declared them void (see: HCJ 9577/02 Mafdal v. Speaker of the Knesset [139]; HCJ 4065/09 Cohen v. Minister of the Interior [140]; Lavi).

168.     Preventing the possibility of examining the reasonableness of the decisions of transition governments may result in harm of broad scope to the public interest, as it would allow the Government and the ministers acting as a transition government to more easily exploit the powers and resources at their disposal during the elections period for the purpose of unnecessary appointments or in order to gain an unfair advantage in anticipation of the elections, for example, by means of what is referred to an “elections economy” (see and compare: Lavi, para. 1, per Justice Sohlberg; and see the statement of Advocate Blay in the Transcript of meeting 121, 11). According to the Knesset, it would be possible to contend with the “vacuum” created in the rules for a transition government by developing the extraneous considerations ground (see: para. 316(d) of the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response). However, in order to provide effective protection of the public interest in this context, it would be necessary to completely change the evidentiary requirements for proving the claim, in a manner that would change its character. Furthermore, contrary to the Knesset’s position, the principle of equality in elections anchored in sec. 4 of Basic Law: The Knesset cannot serve as a real alternative to examining the reasonableness of a decision. The Knesset refers, in this regard, to Bergman, but that and other similar matters did not treat of the day-to-day decisions made by a transition government, but rather with situations in which the equality in the conditions for the competing parties was clearly violated, for example, in regard to aspects of funding the elections (see: Derech Eretz; HCJ 141/82; HCJ 142/89 Laor Movement v. Speaker of the Knesset [141]; HCJ 2060/91 Cohen v. Shilansky [142] ). Therefore, in the existing legal situation, the Amendment leads, inter alia, to clear harm to the rule of law at a critical juncture prior to the elections, in a manner that might affect the rules of the democratic game themselves.

169.     In addition to the areas of elections and the rules for transition governments, there are other public interests that cannot be protected against serious violations by the elected echelon in the absence of the reasonableness standard. One example of this, which was presented in the amicus brief filed by the Adam Teva V’Din Association, is the environmental impact of decisions by the Government and its ministers.  Although these effects so not necessarily cause direct harm to a particular individual, they concern public health and quality of life (for example, in cases of environmental pollution) even for future generations (see: HCJ 4128/02 Adam Teva V’Din v. Prime Minister [143] 512-513). Decisions “to pave roads, build cities, develop industry and provide the means for protecting the public and its security” (ibid., 513) can lead to a head-on clash with protection of the environment. In this regard, the reasonableness standard has more than once made it possible for the Court to intervene when it found that appropriate weight was not assigned to considerations related to environmental protection in decisions adopted by the Government and its ministers (see, e.g.: HCJ 9409/05 Adam Teva V’Din v. National Planning and Building Committee [144]; HCJ 1756/10 Holon Municipality v. Minister of the Interior [145]). Without the reasonableness standard, the courts will have difficulty granting relief in cases where decisions by the elected echelon may cause irreversible harm to environmental values.

170.     From all the above, we see that in addition to the difficulty of the existence of law without a judge, abolishing judicial review on the basis of reasonableness causes clear, immediate harm in a range of areas in which the lawfulness of government activities is examined from the perspective of that standard. The starting point is that “access to the courts is the cornerstone of the rule of law” (Ressler, 462). Therefore, the case law has narrowly construed regular statutory provisions that placed restrictions upon the jurisdiction of the courts to examine certain administrative decisions, and has held, inter alia, that in all that regards the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice, such provisions must be examined in light of the provisions of sec. 15 of Basic Law: The Judiciary (see: National Insurance Institute, 451-452; Herut, 756). Abolishing judicial review of the reasonableness of decisions by the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers has now been established in the Basic Law itself, and expressly so. But one cannot ignore the far-reaching significance of the Amendment as described above, which derives from its sweeping language and its application to all the decisions of the elected echelon and all the courts, including this Court sitting as Hight Court of Justice. This is an unprecedented step that clearly goes beyond every provision that limited the jurisdiction of the Court in the past, and it facially contradicts the principle of the rule of law for all the reasons laid out above.

171.     In this regard, the Government Respondents referred to other legal systems, noting that the case law in Great Britain and the United States has recognized the possibility of revoking the jurisdiction of the courts through legislation (for a survey in this regard, upon which the Government Respondents relied, see: Dotan, Judicial Review, 233-236). In view of the significant differences, which I addressed above, between our system and other systems in all that regards the system of checks and balances on governmental power, there is an inherent problem in this comparison. Moreover, the Government Respondents did not present even one example of a statutory limitation in regard to the activities of the most senior elements of the executive branch that is of such exceptionally broad scope as those deriving from the amendment that is the subject of the petitions (on the exceptional nature of the limitation established in the Amendment from a comparative law perspective, also see: the Preparatory Document of June 23, 2023, p. 6). One of the examples cited by the Government Respondents in this regard is the recent British judgment in R v Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) [160], which addressed a law that removed the jurisdiction of the court to conduct judicial review of an administrative tribunal, including both the trial and appeals court (see: Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, c. 2, § 11A). That judgment treated of the removal of the possibility for a third examination of administrative decisions in specific areas, after two quasi-judicial instances had addressed them. As opposed to that, in our matter, the Amendment establishes that the reasonableness of all decisions of the Government, the Prime Minister, and the ministers shall not be subject to judicial review of any sort.

172.     From the data presented by the Knesset, we learn that over the last decade the High Court of Justice has handed down 44 judgments in which petitions were granted (in whole or in part) on the basis of the reasonableness standard, of them, 16 judgments concerned decisions by the Government or one of its ministers. This data shows that the scope of intervention on the basis of the reasonableness standard is not great (and see: Zamir, Administrative Power, 3604). This is primarily attributable to the consistent position of the case law that “the court does not examine whether it was possible to make a more correct, more proper, more efficient, or better decision. As long as the decision that was chosen falls within the margin of reasonableness, there is no ground for the intervention of the court” (Emunah, 511; and see: HCJ 3758/17 Histadrut v. Courts Administration [146] para. 35, per Justice Danziger; HCJ 4838/17 Unipharm, Ltd. v. Natural Gas Authority [147] para. 32). It has similarly been explained on numerous occasions that one must show extreme unreasonableness in order for the Court to be willing to intervene in the discretion of the authorized body (see, e.g.: HCJ 4374/15 Movement for Quality Government v. Prime Minister [148] para. 46, per Deputy President Rubinstein; HCJ 6637/16 Levenstein Levi v. State of Israel [149] para. 32, per Justice Vogelman). This is all the more so the approach where Government and ministerial decisions are concerned. This is so given the rule in regard to the broad margin of reasonableness in regard to decisions made by authorities “of high status in the governmental hierarchy” (HCJ 4999/03, para. 18 of my opinion). This rule accordingly leads to limiting the scope of judicial review in their regard.

173.     Nevertheless, although the number of a cases in which the Court ultimately intervened in administrative decisions on the basis of the reasonableness standard it not large, that is not a reason for underestimating the severity of the consequences of the Amendment. First, the data illustrates that despite the Court’s restraint in regard to governmental and ministerial decisions, those decisions constitute more than a third of the decisions voided by the Court on the basis of the reasonableness standard over the period surveyed. Second, one cannot evaluate the importance and the influence of the reasonableness standard only on the basis of the cases that came before the Court. As President Naor emphasized:

The importance of reasonableness is in the deterrence of the government authorities. An authority that knows that the Court may intervene in its actions if it acts extremely unreasonably, will examine the reasonableness of its decision before adopting it (Hanegbi, 2014, para. 2; and see: Barak-Erez, Administrative Law, 769).

            The Attorney General also noted this in her Affidavit in Response, in which she pointed out that judicial review was not required in regard to the overwhelming majority of governmental decisions, inter alia, because the legal advisors already emphasize the need to meet the duty of reasonableness under the circumstances in the decision-making process. However, the Attorney General was of the opinion that “from the moment that such decisions will no longer be subject to effective judicial review, and the person harmed by the decision will no longer have a judicial remedy, the Attorney General’s opinion in regard to that decision will naturally be of limited, if any, influence” (ibid., para. 283). Indeed, despite the fact that the duty to act reasonably still applies to the elected echelon, denying the possibility of judicial review of the reasonableness of Government and ministerial decisions bears direct, severe consequences for the stages of developing and reaching decisions inasmuch as “a government that knows in advance that it is not subject to judicial review might not give reign to the law and might cause its breach” (HCJ 217/80 Segal v. Minister of the Interior [150].

174.     Lastly, it should be emphasized that the future consequences of the Amendment may be far more severe, given that it does not comprise any restriction upon the transfer of powers currently held by other agencies of the executive to the Government and the ministers. Section 34 of Basic Law: The Government establishes: “A Minister, who is in charge of implementing a law, is entitled to assume any power, with the exception of powers of a judicial nature, which is conferred by that law upon a civil servant, unless another intention is implied in the law. The Minister is entitled to act as stated with regards to a particular matter, or a specific period”. In other words, nothing can prevent a minister from assuming the power to make the most harmful decisions, in terms of their reasonableness, in order to make them immune from judicial review. In its Affidavit in Response, the Knesset proposed that the Court examine whether there was an abuse of the authority to assume the power (ibid., para. 316(e)), but given that the assumption of power would be lawful, and in view of the difficulty in proving that the assumption of power was done for extraneous considerations, it would seem that the main ground that could be employed for examining the minister’s discretion would actually be that of reasonableness. In any case, as we learn from MK Rothman’s statement in the course of the Committee’s debates, the ability of a minister to assume powers is not a “bug” in the Amendment, but rather one of its features:

Advocate Blay: There is a fear that the system of incentives will be such that when there is a decision regarding which there is a concern about its reasonableness, the minister will then make that decision in order to grant it immunity.

MK Rothman: Excellent. No, not in order to grant it immunity. Excuse me, that is a statement that I do not accept. Not in order to grant it immunity. When there is a decision that the minister thinks must be adopted because it is reasonable, because it is a decision that he sees as appropriate and correct that should be accepted in this specific case, then he will do it (Transcript of meeting 125, p. 27).

            The Government Respondents also explain that in their view “if a minister assumed the power of another body […] then it is a decision that the minister adopted in the scope of his authority, and it would not be subject to judicial review on the ground of reasonableness” (para. 46 of their Supplemental Brief; and see para. 28 of the Knesset’s Supplemental Brief). They further argue that “if a minister established a policy in the scope of his authority, an individual decision made as a direct result of that policy is not subject to judicial review on the ground of reasonableness” (ibid.). It should also be noted that it is possible to amend the law in a manner that would expand the powers held by ministers (as an example in this regard, the Attorney General pointed to the Police Ordinance (Amendment no. 37) Law, 5783-2022, which recently expanded the powers of the Minister of National Security, regarding which there is a pending proceeding before this Court – HCJ 8987/22 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset). All the above serves to demonstrate the broad scope of the influence of the Amendment, even beyond the specific powers currently granted by law to the Government and the ministers.

175.     Judicial review of the decisions of governmental authorities, among them the Government and its ministers, is a “cornerstone of a democracy which upholds the rule of law” (Hanegbi 2003, 834-835). Examining the significance of the Amendment in depth shows that denying judicial review in regard to the reasonableness of Government and ministerial decisions leads to destructive, harmful consequences at the very heart of the rule of law. We are concerned with a fatal, multi-dimensional blow: in practice, the Amendment leads to placing the Government and its ministers “above the law”; it creates judicial review “vacuums” in regard to important public interests like good governance and the integrity of the civil service, as well as in regard to the conduct of a transition government during the elections period; and it opens the door to the transfer of broad powers to the ministers in order to shield decisions from judicial review.

E.         Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary constitutes a Deviation from Constituent Authority

176.     Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary is an extreme, exceptional amendment by any criterion. It has no parallel in our constitutional history and it strikes head-on at the heart of two of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state. The words of Justice Rivlin, written some two decades ago, are appropriate here:

The rule of law, the separation of powers, the checks and balances that accompany this separation, the power of judicial review, and the other mechanisms of democracy – form the central pillars of a democratic society. They constitute the essential conditions for the preservation of human rights. They form the nucleus of any democratic society that strives to promote human welfare.

In light of the above, it has been stated on more than one occasion that this Court is charged with overseeing the legality and reasonableness of the activities of the State […] The Court’s powers of judgment and judicial review of government authorities constitute “an integral part of a truly democratic society, and anyone undermining this is liable to topple one of the pillars of the state” […] (Hanegbi 2003, 835).

177.     Denying the reasonableness standard in regard to decisions by the elected echelon significantly increases the power concentrated in the hands of the Government and poses a real threat to the individual, whose path to the Court for the purpose of obtaining relief is barred in a variety of situations in which he may suffer serious harm to his important interests as a result of governmental actions. Along with this, the Amendment gives rise to a situation in which, although the duty of reasonableness continues to apply to all of the administrative authorities, the most powerful elements of the executive branch are effectively exempt from that duty in the absence of any possibility of enforcing it upon them. This situation in which “there is law but no judge” leaves entire areas of important decisions without effective judicial review, it prevents the protection of public interests like ethical conduct and good governance, it may lead to a fundamental change of the civil service in the state, to severe harm to the independence of the law enforcement system, and to the exploitation of governmental resources for political gain during elections.

178.     The reasonableness standard has been developed in the case law since the founding of the state and became grounded as “a central and critical tool for exercising judicial review of the administration” (Merchants Association, para. 37, per Justice Barak-Erez). In view of the severe consequences deriving from the comprehensive exemption from judicial review on the ground of reasonableness granted to the elected echelon, I am of the opinion that the Amendment in which that exemption was established stands in facial contradiction to the existing constitutional foundation.

            Although it only abolishes one ground among the grounds for administrative review in regard to the elected echelon, the specific amendment before us grants, by its extreme language, absolute immunity from judicial review of the reasonableness of all the decisions of the elected echelon, which holds the most governmental power. The Amendment does not permit an individual to turn to the Court to present arguments in regard to the reasonableness of those decisions, and it constitutes a sweeping removal of oversight and of necessary restrictions of the Government and its ministers, without adopting any other mechanisms to compensate for that. It is possible that such a denial of one ground for review in regard to the elected echelon in another legal system would lead to a more moderate infringement of the separation of powers and the rule of law. But an examination of the Amendment against the background of Israel’s constitutional reality shows that such a significant limiting of judicial review in regard to the elected echelon in that reality undermines the foundations of the already frail system of the checks and balances.

179.     That being so, I have reached the conclusion that Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary constitutes an edge case whose enactment constitutes a deviation from the Knesset’s constituent authority. In view of this conclusion, there is no reason to address the arguments raised by the Petitioners and the Attorney General in regard to the overall plan for the reform of the legal system, which is composed of other initiatives that have not yet been approved by the Knesset. The Amendment before us itself contradicts foundational principles grounding the democratic character of our system, given the magnitude of its harm to the principles of the rule of law and the separation of powers.

F.         The Remedy for the Knesset’s Deviation from Constituent Authority

180.     The Petitioners and the Attorney General argue that in view of the Knesset’s deviation from its constituent authority, the Amendment should be declared void.

            Is voiding the Amendment the remedy required by the situation before us? Would it not be possible to suffice with a more moderate constitutional remedy (compare: Arad-Pinkas, paras. 32-38, per Justice Vogelman)?

181.     The case law and the literature have recognized situations in which it was possible to suffice with the remedy of severance by physically or conceptually separating the valid part from the invalid part that must be voided, to the extent that it is possible given the purpose of the law and the legislative tapestry (Arad Pinkas, para. 37 of my opinion; Eitan, para. 81, Justice Vogelman; Aharon Barak, “On the Theory of Constitutional Remedies,” 20 Mishpat V’asakim 301, 350-353 (2017) [Hebrew]). The possibility of granting such relief was not raised by the parties, and I believe it was for good reason. Physical textual severance is not relevant to the matter in view of the Amendment’s general, comprehensive language. Conceptual severance – for example, by way of not applying the Amendment to certain decisions of the elected echelon – is also inappropriate here as the wording of the Amendment does not allow for a straightforward, clear distinction among the situations to which the Amendment would apply and those that would be removed from its compass. That being the case, applying conceptual severance would effectively require a complex, detailed process of rewriting the constitutional text de novo by the Court. It has already been held in this regard that the Court is not meant “to determine the details of the legislative arrangement that will replace the unconstitutional act of legislation. This is the responsibility of the Knesset” (HCJ 2605/05 Academic Center of Law and Business v. Minister of Finance [151] 639; and see: HCJ 1715/97 Israel Investment Managers Association v. Minister of Finance [152] 413-414). This is a fortiori the case where a Basic Law is concerned. It is not the role of the Court to enact a new amendment to the Basic Law to replace the extreme, exceptional amendment that the constituent authority chose to enact.

182.     Another possibility raised by some of the Petitioners is the remedy of postponed application, which was noted as an alternative remedy on the basis of the doctrine of abuse of constituent power. Given that the Knesset’s deviation from its constituent authority is to be found in the content of the arrangement itself and is not contingent upon the date of its entry into force, this remedy is insufficient to repair the Amendment’s severe harm to the nuclear characteristics of our system.

183.     In the absence of another remedy that might provide a response to the unprecedented harm to the nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state at a result of Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary, I am of the opinion that there is no recourse but to declare the Amendment void.

            G.        Additional Defects raised by the petitions

184.     In view of my conclusion according to which the Amendment should be declared void by reason of the Knesset’s deviation from the boundaries of its constituent authority, I can, as noted, suffice with but a few comments upon the arguments raised by the Petitioners and the Attorney General in regard to other defects in the Amendment.

            G.1.     The Claim that the Amendment constitutes an abuse of constituent power

185.     One of the arguments raised in the Petitions before us is that the Amendment does not satisfy the supplementary tests established in Shafir for identifying a constitutional norm – particularly the test of generality and that of compatibility to the constitutional fabric – and it should therefore be held that it was enacted through an abuse of the constituent power. The Attorney General is also of the opinion that the Amendment constitutes an abuse of constituent power and does not satisfy the supplementary tests established in this regard in Shafir.

186.     The Amendment before us does indeed raise serious questions in terms of satisfying the supplementary tests for identifying a constitutional norm. The primary difficulty concerns the test of compatibility with the constitutional fabric. This test is based upon the presumption that “as opposed to ‘regular’ legislation intended to address everyday matters, basic legislation is intended to address matters at the core of the constitutional regime of the State of Israel” (Shafir, para. 41 of my opinion).

187.     Basic Law: The Judiciary, to which sec. 15(d1) was added by Amendment no. 3, establishes a list of general constitutional principles in regard to the operation of the courts. The Explanatory Notes to the Basic Law bill already explained that it only establishes a general framework, and that concrete provisions as to the exercise of the authority of the Supreme Court and the other courts will be established in supplementary laws (Explanatory Notes to Basic Law: The Judiciary Bill, Bills 5738, 236; Shafir, para. 10, per Deputy President Hendel). Indeed, a few months after enacting Basic Law: The Judiciary, the current version of the Courts Law [Consolidated Version], 5744-1984, was enacted (hereinafter: Courts Law), which establishes a number of implementary provisions in regard to the jurisdiction and activities of the courts.

            This conception of the general nature of the arrangement established in Basic Law: The Judiciary is clearly reflected in its provisions. Thus, sec. 15 of the Basic Law arranges the general jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and expressly states that “other powers of the Supreme Court shall be prescribed by law” (sec. 15(e)). Among the general matters of jurisdiction arranged in the Basic Law, sec. 1(c) anchors the jurisdiction in principle of the Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice “to provide relief for the sake of justice”, and sec. 15(d) details the broad categories in which the High Court of Justice may grant orders – for example, to issue orders to “state authorities, to local authorities, to their officials, and to other bodies and persons holding public office under the law” (sec. 15(d)(2)). Section 15(d) does not treat of the details of the legal causes of action that might justify judicial intervention, and it also expressly establishes that nothing therein detracts from the general jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice as stated in sec. 15(c). In other words, even if a particular case does not fall within one of the categories listed in sec. 15(d), this Court sitting as High Court of Justice has the general jurisdiction to grant relief for the sake of justice in such cases where it sees a need (see: Barak-Erez, Procedural Administrative Law, 53). As for other judicial instances, the Basic Law establishes that the “establishment, powers, seat and jurisdiction areas of district courts, magistrates' courts, and other courts shall be in accordance with the law” (sec. 16).

188.     Against the background of the general provisions of Basic Law: The Judiciary, it is difficult to harmonize the Amendment – in term of its character and level of abstractness – with the Basic Law that it amends. In practice, sec. 15(d1), which was added by the Amendment, establishes a specific arrangement in regard to the abolition of a specific ground of judicial review in the field of administrative law. This section is inconsistent with the internal logic of the general arrangement established under sec. 15 of the Basic Law. Thus, while sec. 15 treats of the general jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Amendment concerns the narrowing of the jurisdiction of all the courts (“a holder of judicial authority under law”) in regard to judicial review.

189.     The exceptional nature of the Amendment – which abolishes a specific administrative standard – in the framework of Basic Law: The Judiciary is particularly remarkable given that the rules of administrative law, including the duty of reasonableness to which the Amendment refers, are not set out in statutory law, let alone in basic legislation. This problem concerning the exceptionality of the Amendment was addressed by the Committee’s legal advisor, Advocate Blay, in the course of the Committee’s debates on the bill (Transcript of meeting 105, p. 85). The Deputy Attorney General, Advocate Limon, also addressed the exceptionality of the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary:

Had the bill actually sought to treat of the complexity of the reasonableness standard, and there is such complexity, as I will explain further on – it would first address all of the definitions of the reasonableness duty in administrative law, and not do so by means of amending Basic Law: The Judiciary. But the bill does not refer in any way to the basic principle – the grounding of the reasonableness standard. Instead, the bill comprises only one element, with the most serious consequences – the absolute barring of judicial review of unreasonable decisions, based upon the identity of the decision maker, in regard to the most important decisions made by the highest level of government (Transcript of meeting 108, p. 10).

190.     An examination of the general constitutional fabric also makes it difficult to harmonize the Amendment with other arrangements in Israeli law. Thus, we were not presented with a similar statutory provision that treats of the abolition of a specific cause of action or ground for administrative review, as opposed to provisions that restrict or delimit judicial oversight, which are generally established in primary legislation (see, e.g.: sec. 16(c) of the Petroleum Law, 5712-1952; sec. 11(e) of the Victims of Hostile Action (Pensions) Law, 5770-1970; sec. 59 XXXI of the Government Companies Law, 5735-1975; sec. 5B of the Defense Service Law, 5746-1986).

191.     In my opinion, the complex of problems noted above raises a serious concern that the decision to include the Amendment under the title “Basic Law” was intended for no other reason that to immunize it from the judicial review that applies to “regular” legislation (see and compare: Porat, 914; Herut, 756; HCJ 2208/02 Salameh v. Minister of the Interior [153] 953; Barak-Erez, Procedural Administrative Law, 125).

192.     An additional problem raised in our matter concerns the generality test. In Shafir, the importance of the generality requirement was noted in regard to Basic Laws, whose character is meant to reflect broad societal consensus as opposed to the particular interests of some majority or another (see: para. 40 of my opinion; and see: Bendor, “Legal Status”, 164). It was further made clear in that matter that a personal norm may be directed at a specific person as well as an institutional “persona” like the Knesset or a particular Government (Shafir, para. 40 of my opinion; Academic Center, para. 6, per Justice Hendel). It has also been held that the immediate entry into force of a norm does not absolutely rule out its identification as a constitutional norm, but it may sometimes raise a problem as to its generality (Rotation Government, paras. 14-15 of my opinion, and para. 5 per Justice Baron; and see: Scheinfeld, para. 42 of my opinion, and paras. 48-49 per Justice Barak-Erez).

            In the matter before us, one cannot ignore the fact that the Amendment, which goes into immediate force, abolished judicial review on the basis of reasonableness only in regard to decisions by the Government and its ministers, while the other administrative authorities continue to be subject to it. Thus, the Amendment exclusively benefits the Government and its ministers. It grants them an “exemption” from judicial oversight in the circumstances to which it applies, and immediately strengthens their governmental power. This problem is sharpened given that the Government – which, as noted, is the sole beneficiary of the Amendment – is the one that, in practice, worked to promote the Amendment and approve it by means of the coalition majority that it enjoys in the Knesset. Under these circumstances, I am of the opinion that the unique characteristics of the arrangement, among them the nature of the arrangement concerning the removal of the oversight mechanisms only as they apply to the Government and the ministers and its immediate application to the 37th Government – which is the “animating spirit” behind the Amendment – can, indeed, raise a concern that it is intended to serve the narrow interests of a particular political majority in a manner that would allow it to buttress its governmental power. This, as opposed to a similar amendment that would be advanced behind a “veil of ignorance” without being able to know to which Government it grants the “exemption” from judicial review on the ground of reasonableness.

            However, and as noted above, I do not see any need to make a definitive ruling on the question of whether the problems noted above rise to the level of an abuse of constituent power in the present matter. This, in view of the conclusion I reached in regard to voiding the Amendment on other grounds.

            G.2.     Arguments concerning defects in the legislative process of the Amendment

193.     The Petitioners argue at length in regard to defects in the legislative process of the Amendment. In this regard, it is argued, inter alia, that the manner in which the debates were conducted in the Constitution Committee and the short period in which the Amendment was advanced hindered the possibility for members of the Knesset to participate substantially in its legislative process. They additionally complained of the Amendment’s being advanced as a Constitutional Committee bill under sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules which, they argue, was intended to circumvent the limitations that apply to private member’s and government bills.

194.     In view of the elevated status of Basic Laws in our system, the case law has emphasized that “the constituent authority must respect the norms that it creates wearing this hat, and ensure that changes in the rules of the game that define the constitution be carried out in a proper proceeding, with transparency and accountability to the public” (Academic Center, para. 5, per Justice Hendel). And in the same vein, it was noted in Scheinfeld that “it would be better that amendments to Basic Laws not be advanced hastily and on a fast track” (Scheinfeld, para. 45 of my opinion).

            The manner in which the enactment of the Amendment was managed is not problem free in this regard, to put it mildly. As we see from surveying the proceedings in the Knesset, the legislative process took only about a month, despite the dramatic consequences and the strong objections raised in its regard. The very accelerated legislative process was expressed, inter alia, in the use that was made of the objections procedure and of sec. 98 of the Knesset Rules in order to establish special debate procedures and to shorten the timetable for approving the Amendment. Reading the transcripts of the debates shows that the Committee’s debates were conducted in a harsh, adversarial manner, and in the final analysis, the various proposals raised in the course of the debates, both by members of the Committee and by the professionals who participated in the legislative process, received no expression whatsoever in the Amendment Bill presented for a second and third reading: the bill remained virtually unchanged in comparison to the parallel section that appeared in the draft of the Basic Law bill that MK Rothman submitted on January 17, 2023. In its Affidavit in Response, the Knesset also noted the problems that arose in the legislative process and noted that “it would have been possible to adopt a better process than the one implemented in practice” (ibid., para. 224). The Knesset’s attorney fittingly noted this in the hearing of the Petitions (p. 6 of the Transcript).

195.     Despite tall he problems noted, I am of the opinion that, as far as concerns the principle of participation – which establishes the right of the members of the Knesset to take part in the legislative process – the high threshold established for intervention in this regard, according to which one must show that the defect goes to the heart of the process and that  the “Knesset members were not afforded the possibility to scrutinize and consider the proposed bill, even if only in the most basic sense” (Quintinsky, para. 79, per Justice Sohlberg); see and compare: HCJ 3234/15 Yesh Atid Party v. Speaker of the Knesset [154] para. 12) was not crossed.

196.     The additional arguments raised by the Petitioners concerning the use of the provisions of sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules raise more complex questions. Section 74(b) of the Knesset Rules establishes three paths for submitting a bill to the Knesset: a private member’s bill submitted by a member of Knesset who is not a minister or a deputy minister; a government bill; a bill on behalf of a Knesset committee. The legislative procedure for a bill on behalf of a committee is exceptional, and somewhat lenient in comparison to the legislative procedure for bills in the other two legislative paths. This is the case because bills presented on behalf of a committee are exempt from the preliminary requirements that apply to a private member’s bill prior to the first-reading stage, among them, holding a preliminary reading in the plenum and the requirement that the bill be laid on the table 45 days prior to the preliminary reading (secs. 75(e) and 76 of the Knesset Rules). In addition, the procedure for preparing a bill under the committee path is not subject to the provisions that apply to a government bill, such as the Attorney General’s Directives that require preparatory administrative staff planning by the relevant ministry, preparation of a memorandum and its publication to the public, and approval of the bill by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation (Directives of the Attorney General 2.3.005 “Treatment of Government Bills” (March 5, 2018).

197.     Therefore, there would seem to be good reason for sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules limiting the use of this abridged path to certain committees – the House Committee, the Constitution Committee, and the State Control Committee – and to a defined list of subjects, and this on the condition that the subject of the bill be within the sphere of the committee’s competence:

80. (a) The House Committee, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and the State Control Committee are entitled to initiate bills in the spheres of their competence as elaborated in these Rules of Procedure, on the following topics, and prepare them for the first reading: Basic Laws, matters that are required due to an amendment of a Basic Law, and are proposed side by side with it, the Knesset, Members of the Knesset, the elections to the Knesset, political parties, party financing, and the State Comptroller.    

(b) Once the Committee has prepared a bill for the First Reading, the Secretary General of the Knesset shall provide for its publication in the Official Gazette – Knesset Bills, together with explanatory notes.

198.     The possibility of a Knesset committee submitting a bill – although it was actually put into practice in the first early years of the Knesset – was first arranged in a decision of the House Committee of Nov. 24, 1980 (Transcript of meeting 281 of the House Committee of the 9th Knesset, 2 (Nov. 24, 1980) (hereinafter: the House Committee’s Decision). In 2011, the Knesset Rules were amended to add sec. 80 that established an arrangement materially similar to the one established by the House Committee. One of the changes included in the section, as opposed to House Committee’s Decision, was to limit the possibility of submitting bills on behalf of a committee to three specific committees and to the spheres of their competence as elaborated in the Rules of Procedure. Examining the House Committee’s debates on the subject reveals that restricting the use of the path for bills on behalf of a Knesset committee derived, inter alia, from the concern that committees might employ this path in order to skip the preliminary stages and go directly to a first reading (Transcript of meeting 161 of the Knesset House Committee, the 18th Knesset, 55-56, 60 (March 1, 2011).

199.     It would appear that, over the years, relatively little use was made of the path for submitting bills on behalf of a committee. In regard to Basic Laws, the data published on the Knesset website shows that since the establishment of the state, 26 bills initiated in bills on behalf of a committee for Basic Laws and for amending Basic Laws were approved in a third reading. An examination of the subjects addressed by those bills shows that, as a rule, they treated of subjects related in some way to the Knesset, for example: work procedures of the Knesset and its members, elections, and the Budget Law (see, e.g.: Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 12) S.H. 5771 90, which concerned the candidacy of a Member of Knesset who had left his faction to stand for election in the following Knesset; and Basic Law: The Knesset (Amendment no. 24), S.H. 5751 186, which comprises various provisions in regard to the Speaker of the Knesset and the Deputy Speaker). This is the case but for three prominent exceptions: the first is Basic Law: The Government (Amendment no. 6) S.H. 5757 114 – which treats of the capacity of a person who holds an additional citizenship to serve as a minister; the second is Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment no. 2), S.H. 5762 598 – which established that the Ombudsman of Judges would be included in the list of people who could recommend the termination of the tenure of a judge to the Judicial Selection Committee; and the third is the Amendment that is the subject of the present petitions. However, in the first two matters, as with the overwhelming majority of Basic Law bills that were adopted and that treated of matters of the Knesset, the bills were approved by a broad consensus and without significant opposition, which is not the case in the matter before us.

200.     The method by which sec. 80 was employed over the years thus shows that Basic Law bills on behalf of the Constitution Committee were generally submitted when at least one of the following conditions was met: the first – the bill concerned matters of the Knesset (such as elections, party financing, the budget, etc.); the second – the bill was advanced with broad support.

            This method was also addressed by the legal advisors of the Committee and of the Knesset in regard to the broader category of all the bills on behalf of a committee (and not just Basic Law bills). Thus, already in the Preparatory Document submitted by the Committee’s legal advisors on January 16, 2023, which concerned the advancing of a Basic Law bill on the subject of government legal advisors, it was explained that bills on behalf of a committee constituted a relatively rare “legislative path” that “was reserved, in the overwhelming majority of cases, for subjects that were not controversial or to subjects tightly connected to the Knesset and its activities”. The Knesset Legal Advisor, Advocate Afik, also pointed out that:

The significance of a bill on behalf of a committee is, in effect, skipping over a process of preparation for the first reading, with all the significance that entails, and in effect, it makes the bill coming from the committee similar to a government bill.

[…]

When we look at the bills on behalf of a committee that were proposed here over the years, it can be said: A – that were not many, it is not a process that the Knesset usually employs, that the high road in the Knesset is usually a private member’s bill. Bills on behalf of a committee are really, as noted here, for times when there was a kind of consensus in the Knesset and they wanted to adopt it by means of a bill on behalf of a committee, which was appropriate to the subjects that appeared in the Knesset Rules in regard to that matter which the Knesset addresses and wants to find a solution for them (Transcript of meeting 7, p. 31)

201.     In Advocate Afik’s memorandum of January 25, 2023, she concluded that it was possible to advance the Basic Law: Strengthening the Separation of Powers Bill as a bill on behalf of the committee. That bill concerned changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, limiting the judicial review of Basic Laws and primary legislation, and abolishing the reasonableness standard. This was the case because, in her opinion, that bill concerned “constitutional arrangements that arrange the relationship of the branches, and specifically, the relationship of the Knesset and the judiciary”. A few months later, against the background of the start of the debate on the Amendment Bill that is the subject of the petitions, Advocate Afik again referred to her memorandum of January 25, 2023 in regard to the Basic Law: Strengthening the Separation of Powers Bill, and noted that “we now have on the Constitution Committee’s agenda the last element of that Basic Law bill – limiting the use of the reasonableness standard” (see: para. 4 of Advocate Afik’s letter in response to MK Kariv of July 2, 2023, which was appended as R/17 to the Knesset’s Affidavit in Response).

202.     In my opinion, Advocate Afik’s position in regard to the appropriateness of the Amendment Bill to the path of a bill on behalf of a committee raises a problem. As can be seen from the survey presented above, advancing the Amendment Bill that is the subject of the petitions as a bill on behalf of a committee constitutes a significant deviation from the Knesset’s practice as established over the years in regard to the accepted use of the path established in sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules. Thus, as opposed to the manner in which the section was employed by the Knesset over the years, the amendment before us was clearly not advanced with a broad consensus, and it also does not treat of matters of the Knesset but rather of the scope of judicial review over the actions of the Government.

            In examining the scope of the use of sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules, significant weight should be given to the practice by which bills for Basic Laws on behalf of committees that were approved concerned matters of the Knesset or were enacted with broad consensus (or both). In this regard, I noted in HCJ 706/19 Frej v. Speaker of the Knesset [151] that:

The work tradition of the Knesset as customary and accepted by it certainly carries weight. According to sec. 19 of Basic Law: The Knesset, it determines how the Knesset should act where work procedures have not been prescribed by law or in the Rules. A fortiori, weight should be given to the manner in which the Knesset acts when it acts over the course of years to implement a provision of the Rules in accordance with its accepted practice for interpreting it. It has already been held that when a possible interpretation of a legal provision is consistent with the factual situation created and by which it acts, that should be preferred to another possible interpretation that deviates from that situation (ibid., para. 9 – emphasis added); and see: Edelstein, para. 12 of my opinion).

203.     Ensuring a proper legislative procedure is of particular importance when we are concerned with enacting a Basic Law. As I noted above, the absence of a rigid mechanism for adopting and amending Basic Laws is conspicuous in our constitutional project, and there is currently no real difference between the procedure for adopting and amending a Basic Law and the procedure for enacting “regular” laws as arranged in the Knesset Rules (see: para. 75 above; Bar-On, para. 20, per President Beinisch; Academic Center, para. 36, per Deputy President Rubinstein). Therefore, and in the absence of Basic Law: Legislation, I am of the opinion that one must be particularly strict in observing the provisions of the Knesset Rules in the process of adopting Basic Laws, which is currently the primary – and actually the only – mechanism that arranges the procedure for adopting and amending the norms that sit at the apex of our system’s normative pyramid. One must, therefore, strictly insist that employing the path of a bill on behalf of a committee, established in sec. 80 of the Knesset Rules, be done only in the cases for which it was intended, in accordance with the work tradition that has been established by the Knesset in this regard. This is particularly so given the nature of the arrangement, which establishes an “abridged” path for advancing bills in comparison to private member’s and government bills, and it therefore raises an inherent concern that it might be abused in order to circumvent the procedural requirements found in the other paths.

 

Afterward

204.     After writing my opinion, I read the comprehensive opinions of the other members of the panel, and I would like to add but a few brief comments in regard to the opinions of my colleagues Justices Sohlberg and Mintz, who are of the opinion that there are no limits upon the Knesset’s constituent power and that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review Basic Laws.

205.     My colleague Justice Sohlberg dedicates a significant part of his opinion to a historical survey of the opinions of the Presidents and justices of this Court over the generations and seeks to derive from it that the consistent position of the case law since the establishment of the state is that the constituent power of the Knesset is unrestricted. I find this conclusion problematic, to put it mildly. First, some of the judgments to which my colleague refers were written before there was  a single Basic Law in the Statutes, and a few even preceded the “Harari Decision”. Second, the vast majority of quotes that my colleague cites do not in any way concern the Knesset’s power as a constituent authority. It is, therefore, unclear how he can rely upon those quotes that did not treat of the questions before us at present and that referred to an entirely different constitutional context.

            Third, even were I to accept the position of my colleague Justice Sohlberg that one can apply those quotes to the matter before us, if only by analogy, my colleague’s historical survey ends – and for good reason – at the beginning of the nineteen nineties. This, while completely ignoring the important developments and the significant strides in Israeli constitutional law over the course of the last three decades. The concept upon which my colleague Justice Sohlberg relies in regard to the unlimited sovereignty of the Knesset was not accepted in the Mizrahi Bank decision nor in the years that followed. Instead of that concept, the theory that was adopted over the years was that of the constituent authority, which recognizes that Basic Laws place restrictions upon the Knesset in enacting laws, while concomitantly not conceptually rejecting the existence of limits upon the constituent authority (see: Mizrahi Bank, 394; HCJ 4676/94 Mitral, Ltd. v. Knesset [156] 28; The Tal Law case, 717; Bar-On, 311-312; Academic Center, para. 35, per Deputy President (emer.) Rubinstein; para. 3, per Deputy President (emer.) Joubran; and para. 11, per Justice Mazuz). We also walked this same path just recently in an expanded panel in Hasson, where we held that the Knesset is not “all powerful” in adopting Basic Laws, and that it is not within its power to facially deny the nuclear characteristics of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

206.     In the opinion of my colleague Justice Sohlberg, I chose “to take the short path” in all that concerns the basic question of the source of the limitations upon the constituent power, and he further notes that it is unclear what those “constitutional data” may be from which we can learn of those limitations (para. 105 of his opinion). In that regard, I can only refer back to what is stated in paras. 64-67 above, and to paras. 19-31 of my opinion in Hasson, which also refer to that issue. In my view, the Declaration of Independence, the Basic laws, and the statutes enacted by the Knesset over the years, as well as the case law of this Court, clearly inform us that the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state cannot be questioned – not even by the constituent authority. On this basic issue, it would seem that there is a gaping abyss between most of the members of this panel and my colleagues Justices Sohlberg and Mintz. In their view, as Justice Sohlberg writes, “all of the constitutional data leads to the opposite conclusion, according to which ‘the habitat’ of the constituent authority – is unlimited” (para. 105 of his opinion). In other words, My colleagues Justices Sohlberg and Mintz are of the opinion that any piece of legislation entitled “Basic Law”, even if it dismantles the building blocks upon which the Israeli constitutional enterprise is built, and even if it defaces the “birth certificate” and the “identity card” of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, cannot be questioned. To that, I am afraid, I cannot agree.

207.     The idea that there is no explicit source of authority that empowers the Court to examine whether the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority runs as a common thread through the opinions of my colleagues Justices Sohlberg and Mintz (see para. 70 above). But for my colleagues, this starting point is also the end point. I take a different position, and as I explained in my opinion, the approach of my colleagues in this regard has also not found purchase in many legal systems around the world, in which the courts have long held that even in the absence of an express basis, they hold the power to examine the “constitutionality” of amendments to the constitution as part of their role in defending it (see: paras. 61 and 69 above). In Israel, as we know, the task of establishing a constitution has not yet been completed. Therefore, we refrained from expressing a decisive view on this question. However, despite the complexity of the issue, it is no longer possible not to address it, and even the Government Respondents in these petitions asked that we decide this issue on the merits. Given that there are limits upon the Knesset’s constituent power, given that the existing constitutional reality in Israel makes it possible to fundamentally change our Jewish and democratic character with great ease, and given the role of the Court in our legal system – I am of the opinion that in those edge cases in which the Knesset exceeded the boundaries of its constituent power, the Court holds jurisdiction to decide that the norm is not constitutionally valid.

208.     My colleague Justice Sohlberg notes that even were he to accept the view that this Court holds jurisdiction to review Basic Laws, intervening in them requires a “consensus” among the justices (paras. 127-129 of his opinion). I assume that by those words, my colleague seeks to outline the approach for the constituent authority to establish the lege ferenda in accordance with his approach. But as long as no other decision rule has been established in a statute or Basic Law, we have only the rule that when there is a difference of opinion among the justices, the decision will be in accordance with the opinion of the majority of the panel (sec. 80(a) of the Courts Law). And note – just as this Court is not meant to stand in the shoes of the constituent authority and establish what special majority is needed for adopting a Basic Law, it is not meant to “enact” special decision rules for itself. As we have noted on more than one occasion, in order to arrange these matters, it is necessary to enact Basic Law: Legislation, which, sadly, is still missing from our constitution-in-formation. That Basic Law is meant to address these issues and other important issues, while striking a balance among all the relevant, inextricably interrelated aspects.

209.     I would also like to briefly address my colleague Justice Sohlberg’s statements in regard to the path of proposing a Basic Law on behalf of a committee under sec. 80(a) of the Knesset Rules. My colleague is of the opinion that in carrying out an empirical examination of Basic Law bills on behalf of a committee, we should also consider those bills that were ultimately not adopted as Basic Laws. I do not think so. My colleague did not present even one example of a Basic Law bill on behalf of a committee that was not related to matters of the Knesset and that was not advanced by broad consensus and that nevertheless reached the “finish line”. Judging by the results, this fact shows that when one of these conditions was not met, the debate on those bills ended without their finding their way to the lawbooks. As opposed to my colleague’s position, I do not think that this is a “coincidence” but rather a practice that became established in the Knesset’s work, which derives from the deviation of a Basic Law bill on behalf of a committee from the caution adopted by the Knesset in the past in making use of this path. This conclusion is supported by express statements of the Knesset Legal Advisor and the legal advisor to the Constitution Committee, who also pointed to such a practice (see para. 200 above). Therefore, even after reading my colleague’s comments, I remain in my opinion that in examining the way that sec. 80(a) of the Knesset Rules has been used, we cannot ignore how the Knesset itself has acted over the years, and the practice that has become entrenched in its work in this regard.

210.     My colleague Justice Mintz notes that “the very limiting of the scope of judicial review by this Court in regard to the administrative reasonableness standard […] is not a ‘crossing of the line’ by the legislature or the constituent” (para. 83 of his opinion). I can only agree. However, as I noted above, the Amendment does not only comprise some restriction or other upon the scope of judicial intervention in certain situations. In practice, due to its extreme, sweeping language, it effectively constitutes an abolishing of the reasonableness duty that applies to the Government and its ministers that has unprecedented, disastrous consequences for the individual and for the entire Israeli public.

            Lastly. I will admit that I cannot quite fathom what my colleague Justice Sohlberg intended by the proposal that he raised in para. 250, at the conclusion of his opinion. According to that proposal, alongside the declaration of the voiding of Amendment no. 3 by majority opinion, we should collectively add and declare that “we will no longer use the reasonableness standard in regard to decisions by the Government and its ministers” except in accordance with “that tried-and-true test that has served us well since the very beginning and until the decision in the matter of Dapei Zahav […]”.  Personally, I am of the opinion that now that Amendment no. 3 has been declared void by the majority, the Court should continue to walk its well-trod path, continuing to develop the case-law reasonableness standard from case to case and matter to matter “in the good manner of the Common Law” (para. 180 of the opinion of Justice Sohlberg); and see in the same matter: the response to the parliamentary question quoted in para. 178 of his opinion).

 

Before Concluding

211.     About a month after the hearing in these petitions, a merciless terrorist attack befell us, and since then the State of Israel finds itself is in a hard and determined war against terrorist organizations that seek our destruction. We pray for the welfare of the soldiers and the members of the defense forces who risk their lives for the security of the state, and for the speedy return of those kidnapped to their homes.

            But even at this difficult hour, the Court must fulfil its role and decide the issues brought before it. This is all the more so when the issues concern the nuclear characteristics of the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. To this is added the fact that the publication of our judgment at the present time is required by sec. 15(a) of the Courts Law, given the date of the retirement of Justice (emer.) Baron and the date of my retirement from the bench.

 

Conclusion

212.     Deciding upon these petitions required us, en banc, to address the sources and building blocks of the Israeli constitutional project:

Since the Declaration of Independence and up to the present day we have chosen the constitutional path. We sought to endow ourselves with a constitution that would limit the power of the majority in order to fulfill the fundamental values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state […] Once this choice is made, the judges are required to uphold it (Mizrahi Bank, 398).

            Upholding the choice to take the constitutional path means, in my opinion, an uncompromising defense against an extremely severe violation of any of the two pillars upon which the State was founded as a Jewish and democratic state.

213.     The principle of majority rule is of the “soul of democracy” (Mizrahi Bank, 546). However, it does not constitute justification for enacting a constitutional norm that would so comprehensively prevent oversight and review of the decisions of the elected echelon. “Democracy is not only majority rule and is not solely a proper process for establishing the public will by means of representatives in the legislative body. Democracy is much more than that. Democracy is also the rights of each and every person, whether a part of the majority or a part of the minority. Democracy is also the separation of powers, the rule of law (formal and substantive) and the independence of the judiciary” (The Tal Law case, 719). Given the fragile, deficient system of checks and balances in Israel, the absolute elimination of judicial review of the reasonableness of decisions of the Government and its ministers renders a substantial part of the role of the Court in protecting the individual and the public interest devoid of content:

Judicial review in a democratic state, according to the doctrine of separation of powers and the doctrine of checks and balances that developed from it, was not intended to strengthen governance but the opposite: to restrain the power of the government. To the extent that the law requires, in order to protect human rights and fundamental values from abuse of power, and to ensure good, proper, and fair governance. This function is placed upon the court and the court cannot properly fulfil this function without the reasonableness standard (Zamir, Administrative Power, 3614; and see: Scheinfeld, para. 4, per Justice Baron).

214.     For the reasons elaborated above, Amendment no.3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary cannot, in my opinion, be reconciled with the principle of separation of powers and the principle of the rule of law, which are two of the most important characteristics of our democratic system. Such a blow to the very heart of our founding narrative cannot stand.

            Therefore, I recommend that we hold that in enacting Amendment no. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary, the Knesset exceeded its constituent power, and that we therefore declare the Amendment void. I would further recommend that under the circumstances of the matter and given the fundamental issues concerned, there be no order for costs.

 

                                                                                                            The President (emerita)

 

Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 5658/23
Date Decided: 
Monday, January 1, 2024
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset concerned challenges to Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary (the “reasonableness amendment”). In view of the controversy surrounding the amendment and the fundamental constitutional question it raised in regard to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review Basic Laws, the Court took the unprecedented step of sitting en banc. A translation of the official abstract issued by the Court appears here.

 

On January 1, 2024, a majority of the Court (12 of 15 justices) held that the Court held the authority to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws and to intervene in exceptional, extreme cases in which the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority.

 

A majority of the Court (8 of 15 justices) further held that Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary represented an extreme deviation from the Knesset’s constituent authority that left no alternative but to declare the amendment void.

 

A translation of President Hayut's majority opinion is accessible here.

 

 

Voting Justices: 
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Full text of the opinion: 

 

 

 

Abstract

HCJ 5658/23 Movement for Quality Government v. Knesset

Date of judgment: 20 Tevet 5784 (Jan. 1, 2024)

Before: President E. Hayut, Deputy President U. Vogelman, Justices I. Amit, N. Sohlberg, D. Barak-Erez, A. Baron (emer.), D. Mintz, Y. Elron, Y. Wilner, O. Grosskopf, A. Stein, G. Canfy-Steinitz, K. Kabub, Y. Kasher, and R. Ronen.

A majority of the Supreme Court (12 of 15 justices) held that the Court held jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws and to intervene in exceptional, extreme cases in which the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority.

A majority of the Court (8 of 15 justices) further held that Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary, which comprehensively eliminated judicial review of the reasonableness of decisions of the government, the prime minister, and government ministers, should be declared void. This, in view of the serious, unprecedented harm to the core character of the State of Israel as a democratic state.

In view of the importance of the issues raised by the petitions against Amendment No. 3, the Court held an en banc hearing on Sept. 9, 2023. The events of October. 7, 2023, unrecognizably transformed Israeli reality, and the country has since been at war with murderous terrorist organizations. But inasmuch as Amendment No. 3 remains in force, and given the final date upon which President (emer.) Hayut and Justice (emer.) Baron could render judgment in accordance with the Courts Law [Consolidated Version], 5744-1984, the decision on the petitions was handed down.

The Court majority (per President Justice E. Hayut, Deputy President U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice D. Barak-Erez, Justice (emer.) A. Baron, Justice Y. Wilner, Justice O. Groskopf, Justice A. Stein, Justice G. Canfy-Steinitz, Justice K. Kabub, Justice Y. Kasher, and Justice R. Ronen concurring) held that in exceptional, extreme cases, the Supreme Court – sitting as High Court of Justice – holds the authority to void a Basic Law that constitutes a deviation from the constituent authority of the Knesset. In this regard, the Court already held in HCJ 5555/18 Hasson v. Knesset (2021) (the “Nation State” case) that the Knesset, as a constituent authority, is not “all powerful”, and that it does not hold the authority – even by means of a Basic Law – to deny or facially contradict the core character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Given these limitations, and in order that it be possible to enforce them, a majority of the Court was of the opinion that the Supreme Court’s authority to conduct judicial review over Basic Laws must be recognized. Some of the justices based this conclusion upon Israel’s unusual constitutional structure, which is, inter alia, characterized by a lack of any designated, separate process for adopting constitutional norms; the problematic practice of enacting and amending Basic Laws that testifies to a contempt for the Basic Laws and to their being turned into pawns of the political majority; and upon the role of the Court in protecting the constitutional enterprise. In this regard, some of the justices emphasized Israel’s Declaration of Independence as a basis for the judicial review of Basic Laws, while others grounded that authority in Basic Law: The Judiciary, which grants the High Court of Justice authority to grant relief for the sake of justice and to issue orders to all state authorities.

A majority of the Court (per President  E. Hayut, Deputy President U. Vogelman, Justice I. Amit, Justice D. Barak-Erez, Justice (emer.) A. Baron, Justice O. Groskopf, Justice K. Kabub, and Justice R. Ronen concurring) held that the amendment that was the subject of the petitions – Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary – was an extreme case in which the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority and therefore, there was no alternative but to declare the amendment void. The Court emphasized that the exceptional, sweeping language of the amendment prevented all courts from adjudicating and hearing arguments upon the reasonableness of decisions of the government, the prime minister and government ministers in regard to every decision, including a decision to refrain from exercising authority. The majority was further of the opinion that interpretation of the amendment left no room for doubt that it applies to capricious decisions and to decisions that are unreasonable in the extreme. The result is an unprecedented infringement of two of the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state – the separation of powers and the rule of law. In this regard, it was noted that the amendment significantly increases the substantial power already concentrated in the hands of the government and its ministers, while blocking the possibility for an individual to obtain relief in a wide range of situations in which grave harm may be inflicted to his important interests as a result of governmental actions. It was further emphasized that the amendment leads to a situation in which the most significant elements of the executive are effectively exempted them from their duty to act reasonably, it leaves whole areas without effective judicial review, it prevents the protection of such public interests as ethical conduct and administrative regularity, and may lead to a fundamental change of the state’s civil service, severe harm to the independence of the law enforcement authorities, and exploitation of government resources for political gain in the electoral process.

Justice Y. Wilner was of the opinion that the amendment could be upheld by means of narrow construction and therefore, the Court should not consider voiding it. Justices Stein and Canfy-Steinitz were of the opinion that it is possible and would be appropriate to construe the amendment narrowly, and that there is, therefore, no need to intervene inasmuch as it a far cry from those instances in which it might be said that the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority. Accordingly, Justices Wilner, Stein and Canfy-Steinitz were of the opinion that the amendment should be construed such that it would prevent judicial review only on the basis of reasonableness as it has developed since the Court’s decision in HCJ 389/80 Dapei Zahav v. Broadcasting Authority (1980), which focuses upon examining the balance of the various considerations for the governmental decision (“reasonableness balancing”). In accordance with their approach, the amendment, as so construed, would still allow for intervention in the case of capricious decisions in which the Court could have intervened even prior to Dapei Zahav. Justice Kasher refrained from deciding upon the question whether the amendment could be narrowly construed, holding that despite the amendment’s infringement of the separation of powers and the rule of law, it did not rise to the level that would justify the High Court’s intervention in a Basic Law.

Justices Sohlberg and Mintz dissented from the majority view in all that concerned the Court’s jurisdiction in principle to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws, as well as in regard to its authority to decide upon the question itself, noting that there is no legal source that would permit such review. According to their approach, even were one to ignore the problem of the Court’s jurisdiction, the amendment stood far from the narrow limits established by the majority, and they noted that even were it proper to adopt a narrow exception that would allow intervention in Basic Laws in extreme cases of infringement of the basic rights of the individual, the arguments in regard to Amendment No. 3 were not ripe for decision in that the amendment had yet to be interpreted and its boundaries had yet to be set. Therefore, it could not be assumed that its consequences would be as severe as suggested.

 

Following are summaries of the opinions of each of the justices (in the order of their appearance in the judgment):

President (emer.) E. Hayut:

In her opinion, President (emer.) Hayut reiterated the Court’s holding in HCJ 5555/18 Hasson v. Knesset (2021), according to which the Knesset’s power as a constituent authority is not unlimited, and that it is not authorized to enact a Basic Law that denies or directly contradicts the core character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. According to the President (emer.), this conclusion derives from the “elements of the constitution” developed since the earliest days of the state – the Declaration of Independence, the Basic Laws, the laws enacted by the Knesset, and the case law of the Supreme Court. The President (emer.) further held that given the unique character of Israel’s constitutional regime – the enacting of a constitution “chapter by chapter”, the absence of a rigid process for its enactment and amendment, and the political majority’s control over the exercise of constituent authority – the limitations upon the Knesset’s power cannot be left unenforced and exempt from judicial review through which the Court can intervene in those extreme, exceptional cases in which the Knesset deviates from the bounds of its constituent authority in enacting a Basic Law.

According to the President (emer.), Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary is an extreme case in which the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority. In this regard, it should be emphasized that given the existing Israeli situation, judicial review is the only effective check upon the substantial power concentrated in the government and its ministers. Therefore, the amendment that is the subject of the petitions – which comprehensively denies the Court’s authority to conduct judicial review of the reasonableness of all decisions of the government, the prime minister, and government ministers, and even blocks any possibility of addressing such questions – strikes an extremely severe blow to the principle of the separation of powers and the principle of the rule of law. This extreme harm to two of the quintessential characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state (the significance of which the President (emer.) addressed at length in her opinion) can significantly affect the individual and the public in general in an unprecedented way. Therefore, the President (emer.) held that there is no alternative to holding that in enacting Amendment No. 3, the Knesset deviated from its constituent authority and the amendment must be declared void.

Justice Y. Wilner: Justice Y. Wilner concurred with the opinion that the Court holds jurisdiction to review Basic Laws. In her opinion, this is also the case by virtue of sec. 15(c) of Basic Law: The Judiciary, which authorizes the Court to “grant relief for the sake of justice”. She further held that in view of the ambiguity of the term “reasonableness” adopted by the constituent authority in the framework of the amendment, a question arises as to its meaning. Justice Wilner resolved this question by means of an affirming construction according to which the repeal of reasonableness refers only to “reasonableness balancing”, i.e., the sense it was given in Dapei Zahav. In her opinion, this conclusion is required by the firmly established rules of the Court according to which a construction that affirms the law is to be preferred to one that may lead to its voidance. In her opinion, such an affirming construction is linguistically possible, it is grounded in the subjective purpose, and it best realizes the objective purpose. Given the said construction, the amendment does not strike a mortal blow to the democratic identity of the State if Israel. This is so, inter alia, in view of the fact that the amendment does not detract from the duty of the government and its ministers to act lawfully and does not prevent effective judicial review in accordance with the other grounds for such review. And note that while cases may arise in which it will not be possible to grant relief as in the past, nevertheless, while that may be regrettable, we will be concerned with decisions made with authority, following a proper administrative process, in good faith, in the absence of irrelevant considerations, that are proportionate, not arbitrary, non-discriminatory, and not fundamentally unfounded. Justice Wilner further noted that the approaches that, over the years, called for restoring reasonableness to its original meaning were never deemed anti-democratic. She further explained that in examining the constitutionality of the amendment, the Court must take account only of the existing legal situation, and not give heed to arguments concerning future legislative bills. Therefore, Justice Wilner held that the petitions should be dismissed while interpreting the amendment in accordance with an affirming construction.

 

Justice Y. Elron:

Justice Elron was of the opinion that the petitions should be dismissed. He reiterated his principled view that the mandate granted to the High Court of Justice to examine the justification for decisions by the members of the Knesset is limited, and that in the absence of an express norm that limits the authority of the Knesset to enact Basic Laws or that establishes the manner for the exercise of that authority, the continued development of doctrines that grant the Court authority to set the limits for adopting the constitution constitutes a role reversal. Justice Elron further noted his position in regard to the possible existence of a narrow exception in the case of exceptional, extreme cases of harm to fundamental individual rights as a last resort. As for the “cause of reasonableness”, Justice Elron emphasized that if the limitation imposed by Amendment No, 3 meets the test for intervention in a Basic Law, the door that is opened for the Court’s intervention is not narrow at all. In addition to his position in principle, Justice Elron was of the opinion that the petitions could also be dismissed on the grounds that the arguments against Amendment No. 3 were not ripe. He explained that where the Court is of the opinion that it would be proper to consider intervening in the content of a Basic Law, this should be carried out only after examining the law’s application and the definition of its scope as interpreted by the Court. In the instant case, the courts might establish that the import of the amendment is the abolition of the Dapei Zahav rule, and nothing more. If that be the case, then the magnitude of the amendment’s harm to the various democratic principles is far from justifying voiding a provision of a Basic Law. In conclusion, he wrote: “I am firm in my conviction that this is not the time to shake the constitutional foundations of our state. It would be better that we defer the matter to the appropriate time, if and when a decision will be required on the basis of the facts of the case. I fear that at the present time, the harm that will be caused by undermining the foundations of Israeli constitutional law due to the voiding of Amendment No. 3 may be many times greater than the harm in leaving it in place.”

 

Jusitce A. Stein:

Justice A. Stein held that the enactment of laws and of Basic Laws by the Knesset is subject to the boundaries delineated in the Declaration of Independence. This is the case inasmuch as the Proclamation [of the Provisional Council of State] and the Law and Administration Ordinance – which were enacted and promulgated upon the establishment of the state – expressly established that the legislative authority of the Provisional Council of State, which transferred that authority to the Knessets that would succeed it, is grounded in the Declaration of Independence. In addition, Justice Stein held that the amendment to the Basic Law that is the subject of the petitions does not contradict the principles of the Declaration of Independence, inasmuch as it only repeals the Supreme Court’s authority to void government decisions on the basis of unreasonableness as an independent and exclusive cause, while preserving its authority to void government decisions that are found to be facially capricious due to irrelevant considerations, arbitrariness, lack of good faith, and other causes for invalidation. In the opinion of Justice Stein, this narrowing of judicial review returns administrative law to its status prior to the Dapei Zahav case – which recognized unreasonableness of a governmental decision as an independent cause for invalidation – as was expressly stated in the explanatory notes of the amendment’s bill. For this reason, Justice Stein held that the amendment that is the subject of the proceedings does not uproot judicial review and therefore does not breach the requirement of basic justice in the Declaration of Independence. This led Justice Stein to the conclusion that the amendment under review is constitutional.

 

Justice I. Amit:

In his opinion, Justice Amit addressed the Israeli legal system’s lack of checks and balances for restraining the government, which grants it unusual power. This situation leads to the conclusion that what is needed is additional mechanisms for strengthening the democratic regime, whereas the amendment that is the subject of the proceedings moves in the opposite direction. It further empowers the executive branch and harms the fundamental principles of the legal system.

Justice Amit addressed the sweeping language of the law, which appeared to apply to reasonableness in all its forms in the case law, without distinguishing among different types of decisions. He explained that the reasonableness doctrine treats of the day-to-day life of the citizen, and its main power and effect are not in the post-facto examination of an administrative decision in court, but rather ab initio, at the stage of arriving at and framing the decision. In the absence of the reasonableness cause, the duty of reasonableness will wither and die, which may leave the public with no defense, and reshape the civil service. The other tools offered by administrative law cannot fill the gap that would result, and the possibility for examining a decision by means of parliamentary oversight or public pressure cannot provide a real alternative to judicial review.

The amendment to the Basic Law inflicts harm upon the democratic core of the state: the right to access to the courts, the principle of the separation of powers and the principle of distribution of power upon which that rests, and upon fundamental constitutional rights. The amendment also undermines several aspects of the rule of law – placing the government and its ministers above the law; facilitating improper appointments and dismissals, including of the “gatekeepers”; immunity in regard to refraining to exercise administrative power and ignoring professional considerations; a lack of supervision over an interim government; and a fear of elections tampering.

 

Justice G. Canfy-Steinitz:

Justice G. Canfy-Steinitz agreed that the Supreme Court has the authority to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws, but in her view, an examination of the amendment in accordance with its proper interpretation leads to the conclusion that it does not meet the very narrow criteria that would justify voiding a Basic Law.

The issue of the judicial review of Basic Laws raises complex questions that would be better resolved in the public arena. When the Court is required to address this question, Justice Canfy-Steinitz is of the view that the Basic Laws provide a textual foundation for a limitation that the Knesset assumed upon itself, subjecting its constituent power to preserving the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. This limitation is grounded in the existing Basic Laws, including sec. 17A(a)(1) of Basic Law: The Knesset, the purpose of which is to protect the core constitutional identity of the state and prevent a change of the system “from within”. The Court’s authority to review Basic Laws derives from the said limitation in cases where the Knesset deviates from its constitutional limits – but this is as narrow as “the eye of a needle” and should be exercised only in the most rare cases of mortal harm to the core identity of the state.

The amendment was adopted against the background of years of debate on the scope of reasonableness. While the broad, sweeping language of the amendment raises problems, it is a far cry from threatening to undermine the foundations of Israeli democracy. On the interpretive level, the amendment should be narrowly construed, such that it would prevent judicial review on the basis of reasonableness “balancing” but not on the basis of the “narrow” cause of reasonableness. Under this construction, the practical ramifications of the amendment are very limited, inasmuch as recourse to reasonableness balancing can be replaced by other grounds for review in administrative law. The few decisions that cannot be reviewed under the amendment are decisions that by their nature and by the normative position of the legislature – which must be respected – cannot be examined in terms of reasonableness balancing. This would not strike a mortal blow to the rule of law and the principle of the separation of powers.

 

Justice R. Ronen:

Justice Ronen concurred in the opinion of President (emer.) Hayut. She held that the power of the Knesset, as a constituent authority, is limited, such that it cannot enact Basic Laws that significantly infringe the two core characteristics of the State of Israel – its being a Jewish and democratic state. She further held that the Supreme Court holds jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of Basic Laws.

Justice Ronen also held that the possibility of a narrow construction of the amendment must be rejected inasmuch as it has no basis in the language of the amendment, clearly contradicts the subjective purpose of the amendment, and provides the Court no clear operative instruction as to how to examine government and ministerial decisions in the future. This is the case, inter alia, in view of an examination of the legal situation before and after the Dapei Zahav case, and rejecting the assumption according to which an instruction to return to the “pre-Dapei Zahav” situation is significant. It was therefore held that the amendment, properly construed, denies the Court the possibility of examining any claim whatsoever that touches upon reasonableness.

Justice Ronen addressed the standard of review applicable to the amendment and held that since the amendment undermines the judiciary’s ability to review the executive, while materially changing the existing system of balances among the branches, it raises a suspicion concerning Knesset’s inherent conflict of interests. This fear is intensified by the fact that the amendment was adopted without the consent of any of the members of the opposition and its immediate entry into force. That being the case, she held that a somewhat more rigorous standard of review should be applied to the question of whether the harm to democratic characteristics constitutes a deviation from constituent authority.

In view of the interpretation of the amendment and the denial of judicial review in regard to all aspects of reasonableness, Justice Ronen’s conclusion was that the amendment inflicts significant harm to the core values of the democratic system. In this regard, inter alia, the subject of appointments and dismissals of gatekeepers was emphasized. Therefore, in view of the standard of review noted above, Justice Ronen held that the Knesset deviated from its authority in adopting the amendment, and it should be declared void.

 

Justice Y. Kasher:

Justice Kasher concurred with the opinion of the President (emer.) according to which the constituent authority of the Knesset is limited in that it is subject to the definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In addition, the Hight Court of Justice holds the authority to decide that the Knesset has deviated from its constituent authority and order the voiding of a Basic Law. The test for a deviation from the Knesset’s constituent authority was established in the Hasson case – a narrow test expressed in the question whether the amendment denies the core democratic identity of the state or inflicts mortal harm upon the minimal core characteristics of its identity as a Jewish and democratic state.

In the opinion of Justice Kasher, the amendment under review weakens judicial review of the government and its ministers and thereby harms the separation of powers and the rule of law. However, not every shift in the balance point between the judiciary and the executive by means of narrowing judicial review of the executive constitutes a denial of the core democratic identity of the state. In his opinion, the amendment will lead to a certain weakening of judicial review over the executive. However, it is not expected to lead to a situation in which the said review will be ineffective, and thus there is no justification for voiding the amendment.

Justice Kasher concluded in stating that the question that he was called upon to decide is not to what extent he agrees with it and whether, in his view, it were better had it not been enacted, but rather whether the amendment that is the subject of the petitions rises to the level of the extreme circumstances – a mortal blow to the minimal core characteristics of the State of Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state – that alone would justify the Court’s exercise of its very far-reaching authority to declare an amendment to a Basic Law void. Justice Kasher stated that in his opinion, the answer was no, and thus his conclusion.

 

Deputy President U. Vogelman:

The Deputy President held that the constituent authority cannot undermine the Jewish and democratic character of the state, and that the characteristics of the Israeli constitutional enterprise and the actual use of the constituent authority lead to the conclusion that the Court is the institution that holds the authority to decide whether the Knesset has deviated from its constituent authority. The Deputy President held that Israel’s unique situation, in which the control of executive, legislative and constituent powers are all effectively held by the government, as well as the shortcomings of the system for establishing constitutional provisions, have bearing on the threshold for the Court’s intervention.

 As for Amendment No. 3, the Deputy President held that barring any possibility of the Court addressing a claim of unreasonableness in regard to the ministerial level constitutes a mortal blow to the principle of the rule of law and the principle of the separation of powers. This harm is expressed in three spheres: first, for the individual who is harmed by an unreasonable decision and whose access to the Court is barred by the amendment; second, at the ministerial level, regarding  which the amendment removes a significant limitation and erodes the already shaky system of checks and balances of the Israeli legal system; third, regarding the legal system as a whole, by intentionally creating a system in which “there is law but no judge”.

The amendment’s harm in these three spheres is particularly severe because it is comprehensive and absolute: it prevents every court from addressing the cause of reasonableness in regard to decisions at the ministerial level; it extends to every decision at that level; it lacks mechanisms for oversight or other balances; the other causes of action in administrative law cannot provide an effective alternative.

The Deputy President added that a narrow construction of the amendment is not possible in this case. This is so, inter alia, because the suggested interpretive theories have no foothold in the language of the amendment and do not provide a coherent alternative. In any case, he held that even under such interpretation, the severe harm to the rule of law and the separation of powers would remain.

 

Justice D. Mintz:

Justice D. Mintz emphasized that every agency and every judicial instance can act only within the boundaries of the authority granted to it by law. The Court must take care to act strictly within the bounds of its authority, with the same strictness that it applies when the question of authority arises in regard to other authorities. In this regard, jurisdiction to review laws does not rest upon strong foundations, and there is certainly no source of authority that would permit the Court to address the validity of a Basic Law or void it. The development of doctrines that examine the content and substance of Basic Laws ex nihilo undermines fundamental principles of democracy, among them the separation of powers, the legality principle, and the rule of law. Voiding a Basic Law on the basis of a vague doctrine and an undefined formula comprises a heavy price from a democratic perspective, particularly when it involves an issue in regard to which the Court itself has an “institutional conflict of interests”.

From this perspective, there is no need to address the amendment on the merits. In any case, the discussion of its construction is premature inasmuch as its boundaries have yet to be shaped and put into practice. In regard to the position of the majority, Justice Mintz emphasized that a constitutional provision should be interpreted from a “broad perspective” and not “technically”, in a manner that reflects the “fundamental concepts” that it is intended to realize as a constitutional document; it is difficult to establish that the language of the amendment is “sweeping”, unbounded, and leaves “no room for doubt” as to its scope; and there is no flaw in the very fact that it concerns a general concept that requires interpretation. In addition, the amendment does not entirely preclude judicial review of government and ministerial decisions, does not grant them absolute, comprehensive discretion, and does not grant immunity to their decisions. The State of Israel is a strong democracy, and it remains so even after the amendment. The fact that there is a narrow majority among the opinions of the judges for the conclusion that we are concerned with a mortal blow to the principles of democracy also speaks for itself.

 

Justice K. Kabub:

Justice Kabub noted that recognition of the limitations upon the legislature in a democratic state does not necessarily come at the expense of the people’s sovereignty. Someone can protect them if their representatives in the legislature undermine the democratic regime. He explained that the best illustration of such restrictions is the fact that the people did not authorize the Knesset to do whatever it pleases. Thus, the Knesset is not authorized to extend its term beyond four years in the absence of special circumstances, even if all one-hundred-and-twenty members vote in favor of such a law in three readings and call it a Basic Law. Thus, he held that in view of the structure of the Israeli regime, a result according to which there would be no judicial review of Basic Laws constituted through a deviation from authority is unacceptable. However, such review must be undertaken with special care and only in an extreme case.

After surveying the development of reasonableness in Israeli law, Justice Kabub concluded that at root stands the view that the legislature cannot grant the administration authority to make arbitrary and capricious decisions. Over time, the reasonableness doctrine expanded, and the interest-balancing test was devised in the Dapei Zahav case, which has come under criticism primarily because of its ambiguous boundaries. Nevertheless, the proper construction of Amendment No. 3 shows that the Knesset did not merely annul the interest-balancing test, but also comprehensively eliminated judicial review of the reasonableness of the decisions at the ministerial level.

Justice Kabub emphasized that exempting the ministerial level from accountability when it deviates from its authority means that the nation would be governed by people, contrary to the purest description of sovereignty as governance by laws. Therefore, there is no alternative to judicial intervention. However, he explained that attention should be paid to the criticism of the interest-balancing test that has been expressed over the years, which went as far as the Knesset and led to amending a Basic Law, and it would be appropriate to give that expression in the case law.

 

Justice (emer.) A. Baron:

Justice Anat Baron noted that 75 years after that historic moment of the Declaration of Independence, Israeli democracy is under a threat from within – as illustrated by the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary. The amendment was intended to bring about a fundamental regime change. It frees the government and its ministers from the bonds of judicial review on the grounds of reasonableness and grants the executive the power to rule without effective checks and balances. The import of the amendment is the granting of a comprehensive exemption to the government and its ministers from the duty to act reasonably in their decisions, in a manner that grants the government unprecedented power and the status of a “super” executive-legislative-constituent authority. This strikes a mortal blow to the principle of the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the democratic character of the state.

Justice Baron explained that there is no appropriate alternative to the reasonableness doctrine for maintaining good governance and for protecting individual rights. At the same time, the amendment opens the door to political cronyism in the public administration and undermines the independence of those who hold professional appointments, particularly the “gatekeepers”, inasmuch as their appointment and dismissal would be subject to the grace of the ministers and the government. In Justice Baron’s opinion, the Supreme Court is granted the authority to establish that a constitutional norm is void in extreme cases in which the Knesset deviates from its constituent authority. In the instant case, adopting an affirming construction of the amendment is not possible as it would constitute drafting a new Basic Law, which is neither within the authority nor the role of the Supreme Court. There are those who seek to understate the dimensions of the matter, and make it appear as if the amendment is an inconsequential triviality of minor or marginal importance. But this is an acute moment in which one cannot stand aside, and the amendment must be declared void. In the words of the poet: “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

 

Justice O. Grosskopf:

Justice Ofer Grosskopf concurred in the opinion of President (emer.) Hayut that the petitions should be granted, and that the amendment should be voided. In his opinion, the Supreme Court, sitting as High Court of Justice, holds jurisdiction to review whether the Knesset has acted in accordance with the limitations under which it operates as a constituent authority by virtue of Basic Law: The Judiciary and by virtue of substantive justifications deriving from the unique character of the Israeli constitutional enterprise. Those limitations are three: Regularity (the requirement that it enact or amend a Basic Law by the required legal procedure); Good faith (the prohibition upon exploiting the constituent authority for foreign purposes); Authority (the limitations upon the power of the sitting Knesset to deviate from the constitutional enterprise designed by its predecessors).

In the area of authority, which is the focus of the proceedings, given the nature of a sitting Knesset to shape the “constitution in the making” (continuation of the constitutional project, and not its creation ab initio), and in view of the primary purpose of the constitution (limiting the power of a transitory majority in the Knesset in its role as constituent authority), the sitting Knesset is subject (in the absence of Basic Law: Legislation) to two restrictions: First, the sitting Knesset is not authorized to undermine the fundamental principles already laid down in the “constitution in the making”, foremost among them the identity of the state as Jewish and democratic (the “constitutional givens”) in manner that would bring down the constitutional structure created by its predecessors; second, the authority of the sitting Knesset to introduce changes that constitute a significant deviation from the “constitutional givens” is contingent upon broad consensus. A transitory majority that the constitution is intended to limit is insufficient.

As for Amendment No. 3 to Basic Law: The Judiciary, Justice Grosskopf accepted the interpretive approach according to which it prevents any judicial review of the reasonableness of a governmental decision. Given that, the amendment constitutes a severe infringement of the “constitution in the making” as designed by the previous Knessets, primarily because it places the government above the law. As a result, the amendment bears severe negative consequences, and above and beyond that, it inflicts mortal harm to the principle of the rule of law, inasmuch as it comprehensively exempts those at the head of the executive branch from judicial review on the basis of reasonableness. Therefore, the amendment should be voided under the first limitation (undermining the “constitution in the making”), and alternatively, under the second limitation (significantly deviating from the “constitutional givens” without broad consensus).

 

Justice D. Barak-Erez:

Justice Barak-Erez was of the opinion that constituent authority is limited in accordance with the fundamental definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. She explained that this limitation is grounded in the Declaration of Independence (which is not a constitution but establishes the limits of the constituent authority). Accordingly, the Court’s jurisdiction to conduct judicial review in cases of deviation from the constituent authority derives from this limitation and cannot be contingent upon the wording of the Basic Laws themselves.

Justice Barak-Erez reiterated her position that the Court will intervene in the content of a Basic Law only in extreme cases of overstepping the bounds, which is the situation in the present case. The amendment to the Basic Law strikes a mortal blow to the foundations of democracy by granting the government broad immunity from effective oversight. In practice,  it leads to harm on three levels: barring the path to judicial relief in regard to decisions that harm individual interests; a lack of effective oversight of interim governments to the point of potentially influencing the transfer of power (for example, by advancing a “popular” policy on the eve of elections); as well as inflicting grave harm to oversight of the regime by those holding office as “gatekeepers” and independent regulators as a result of significantly weakening judicial review over their appointment and dismissal (a subject for which adequate safeguards have not been established in the law). Justice Barak-Erez added that the suggestion of returning to the reasonableness approach of “the good old days” ignores the broad legal and constitutional context and the balances among the branches of government in which judicial review was rooted in the past, in the sense of the adage: “No man ever steps in the same river twice”.

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

Justice Sohlberg was of the opinion that it would be better to deny the petitions in limine by reason of a lack of jurisdiction.

According to his approach, a holding that there is some limit upon the authority of the constituent authority de facto annuls the fundamental democratic principle of the sovereignty of the people through its elected representatives. Justice Sohlberg added that this is not his view alone. The first seven Presidents of the Court, the eighth President, Aharon Barak at the outset of his judicial tenure, and a significant part of the justices who served on the Court for decades all stated, as it were: “Keep your hands off the state’s Basic Laws.

Justice Sohlberg noted that the Court majority points to various sources of authority, while there is no single source that is acceptable to them all. He was of the opinion that even according to the majority’s approach, one cannot derive from those sources that it is possible to void Basic Laws where the justices themselves are not in agreement, let alone on the basis of one vote.

Justice Sohlberg further noted that the majority opinion represents the opinion of the judiciary. As opposed to that, the constituent authority is of the opinion that not only does the Court lack the authority to void Basic Laws, but also that it lacks jurisdiction to decide the preliminary question: Is it the Court that holds the power to decide whether it has the authority to invalidate Basic Laws? Such a “conflict” between the branches of government is not played out in the legal arena, and it cannot be resolved by legal means.

As for the reasonableness doctrine, Justice Sohlberg was of the opinion that even were we to ignore the question of jurisdiction, then even according to the President (emer.), there is only one question: Does the Basic Law deny “the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state?”.  Since that is the question, the answer is near at hand: the Basic Law is a very, very far cry from falling within the compass of that narrow restriction, and more so. In any case, even if there were authority, there would be no grounds for voiding the law.

 

 

Arad Pinkas v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements under the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) Law, 5756-1996

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 781/15
Date Decided: 
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

This petition seeks to increase access to the surrogacy process in Israel, which is in major part regulated in the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) Law, 5756-1996 (hereinafter: Agreements Law), such that it will also apply to single-sex couples and to single people, either with or without a genetic link to the newborn. On July 17, 2017, the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5777-2017, passed its first reading in the Knesset. Under this Bill, the circle of women eligible for the surrogacy process in Israel would be extended to include single women who are suffering from a medical problem due to which the process is necessary, on condition that the genetic link between the prospective mother and the newborn is preserved. According to Respondent 1, in view of the introduction of the Bill, the petition does not establish cause for judicial intervention. According to the Petitioners, there is no justification for waiting for an additional, lengthy period to allow for the progress of the legislative process. They emphasize that the Bill does not provide a solution for the Petitioners – single-sex couples and single men (Petitioners 1-4). Petitioner 5-6 are single women who, due to medical problems, are not able to carry a pregnancy nor to donate their own ova for fertilization and implantation in the womb of a surrogate. These Petitioners object to the requirement for a genetic link in the surrogacy process.

 

The High Court of Justice (per Deputy President S. Joubran, Justices H. Melcer, President M. Naor, Deputy President (emer.) E. Rubinstein and Justice E. Hayut concurring) ruled:

 

The petition with respect to the requirement for a genetic link is denied. As for expanding the scope of the circle of those eligible for surrogacy to single men and to male couples, this issue must remain without a final decision at present, due to pending legislation and in light of the principle of mutual respect between the branches of government.

 

The position of the High Court is that the passage of the Bill in a first reading and its being sent for preparation for its second and third reading has created a new situation that justifies granting the legislature a certain grace period to complete the legislative process with respect to extending access to surrogacy in Israel to family units that are not presently included, prior to deciding on the merits of the entire petition. This position stems from the judicial restraint that is required in sensitive matters such as this, and because implementation of such a decision at this time would raise difficulties.

 

In this context, the High Court of Justice is of the opinion that there is nothing wrong in the actual advancement of legislative initiatives as a response to or in connection with proceedings being conducted in the Court – as long as the motives are relevant and proper. The Court also believes, inter alia, that it must act with caution in postponing its decision on a pending petition due to a legislative initiative. There may be circumstances in which it is not appropriate to adopt this course, whether because the postponement is likely to cause serious harm to the petitioners or to allow a wrong that requires immediate correction to remain unaddressed, or whether because the chances of the legislative initiative actually changing the normative framework are slim. The position of the High Court is that the guiding considerations in this matter are similar to those on the basis of which ripeness is examined in constitutional law. A decision on the matter of this cause should be made by balancing the benefits of adjudicating the matter before the Court in another forum (in this case – the legislature), against the anticipated harm to the petitioners due to allowing the existing normative situation to remain unchanged.

 

In the circumstances of the case, the High Court is of the opinion that the Respondents should notify the Court of the progress of the legislation within six months. If the legislative process in the Knesset is not completed within a reasonable time, the subject will be revisited by the Court, which will deliberate and decide on it as it sees fit.

 

At the same time, the  Court is of the opinion that it is already possible to decide on the part of the petition that concerns the argument of Petitioners 5-6 (hereinafter: the Petitioners) that surrogacy should be permitted without the existence of a genetic link between the prospective parent or prospective parents and the newborn. In this context the Court ruled that the requirement of the Israeli Law for a genetic link in the surrogacy process is not discriminatory, but is based on relevant, practical considerations. The main reason for this position is the recognition (in Israel and in the Western world) of the importance of a genetic link between parents and children in general, and the importance of this link in the surrogacy process in particular.

 

As opposed to this, there is merit to the Petitioners’ argument that the requirement for a genetic link breaches their right to become parents. The Court’s position is that the scope of the right to become a parent extends to all the various medical techniques that assist reproduction, including the possibility of becoming a parent by way of surrogacy.

 

However, the Court held that this violation complies with the conditions of the limitations clause in sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. Therefore, a partial judgment was handed down rejecting the arguments with respect to striking down the requirement for a genetic link in the surrogacy process.

 

Nevertheless, the opinion of the Court is that the present regulation of surrogacy gives rise to fundamental difficulties that are not insignificant, and the various opinions presented considerations that the legislature should take into account in preparing the Bill for its second and third readings. The Court also explained that a decision on the issue of the requirement for a genetic link does not, of course, prevent the legislature from considering this matter, like any other matter, in the framework of the pending legislative process.

 

Inter alia, Deputy President Joubran  was of the opinion that a legislative arrangement that grants a constitutional right to one group, but excludes another group due to its identity, its preferences, its orientation or way of life, is an arrangement that appears to be discriminatory, which is hard to accept. Such unfounded preference turns its back on the value of human dignity, which is guaranteed under the Basic Laws of the State of Israel, and the principle of equality that derives from it. In addition, the distinction between heterosexual parenthood and single-sex parenthood lacks any basis in academic research that has investigated the well-being of the child. Deputy President Joubran also found it difficult to identify any relevant reason for the distinction between single women and single men with respect to realization of the right to become a parent. Those who will be deciding the fate of this weighty matter should consider this point.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Full text of the opinion: 

 

HCJ 781-15

 

 

 

 

 

Petitioners:

 

  1. Etai Arad Pinkas
  2. Yoav Arad Pinkas
  3. Anon.
  4. Anon.
  5. Anon.
  6. Anon.
  7. The Association of Israeli Gay Fathers
  8. Tammuz International Surrogacy Agency Ltd.

 

 

 

v.

 

Respondents:

1.  Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements under the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) Law, 5756-1996 

 

2. The Knesset

 

 

       
 

 

 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

Before: President M. Naor, Deputy President (emeritus) E. Rubinstein, Deputy President S. Joubran, Justice E. Hayut, Justice H. Melcer.

 

Petition for an Order Nisi

(Aug. 3, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israeli Supreme Court cases cited:

 [1]      HCJ 8665/14 Desta v. Knesset, (Aug. 11, 2015) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/desta-v-knesset

[2]       HCJ 2390/96 Karsik v. State of Israel, Israel Lands Administration, (Feb. 9, 2009) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/karsik-v-state-israel

[3]       CFH 5161/03 E.S.T. Projects and Human Resources Management Ltd. v. State of Israel (Sept. 1, 2005).

[4]       HCJ 466/07 Galon v. Attorney General, (Jan. 11, 2012) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/gal-v-attorney-general-summary

[5]       HCJ 5771/12 Moshe v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements under the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) Law, 5756-1996, (Sept. 18, 2014) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/moshe-v-board-approval-embryo-carrying-agreements-under-embryo-carrying-agreements-law

[6]       HCJ 3166/14 Gutman v. Attorney General, (March 12, 2015).

[7]       HCJ 2311/11 Sabah v. Knesset, (Sept. 17, 2014).

[8]       HCJ 1213/10 Nir v. Knesset Speaker, (Feb. 23, 2012).

[9]       HCJ 2458/01 New Family v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements, IsrSC 57(1) 419 [2002].

[10]     HCJ 6665/12 E-Cig Ltd. v. Director General of the Ministry of Health, (Dec. 3, 2014).

[11]     LFA 1118/14 Anon. v. Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, (April 1, 2015).

[12]     HCJ 4406/16 Association of Banks in Israel v. Knesset, (Sept. 29, 2016).

[13]     HCJ 3734/11 Davidian v. Knesset (Aug. 15, 2012).

[14]     HCJ 4885/03 Israel Poultry Farmers Association v. Government, IsrSC 59(2) 14 [2004] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/israel-poultry-farmers-association-v-government-israel

[15]     LCA 3145/99 Bank Leumi Ltd. v. Hazan, IsrSC 57(5) 385 [2003].

[16]     HCJ 6298/07 Ressler v. Israel Knesset, IsrSC 65(3) 1 [2012] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/ressler-v-knesset

[17]     HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights v. Minister of Interior, IsrSC 61(2) 202 [2006] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-minister-interior

[18]     HCJFH 10007/09 Gluten v. National Labor Court, IsrSC 66(1) 518 [2013].

[19]     HCJ 1078/10 Arad Pinkas v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements (June 28, 2010).

[20]     HCJ 9134/12 Gavish v. Knesset, (April 21, 2016) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/gavish-v-knesset

[21]     HCJ 10662/04 Hassan v. National Insurance Institute,  (Feb. 28, 2012) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/hassan-v-national-insurance-institute

[22]     HCJ 6427/02 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset, IsrSC 61(1) 619 [2006].

[23]     LFA 7141/15 A. v. B., (Dec. 22, 2016).

[24]     CFH 1892/11 Attorney General v. Anon., IsrSC 64(3) 356 [2011].

[25]     LFA 5082/05 Attorney General v. Anon., (Oct. 26, 2005).

[26]     CA 50/55 Hershkovitz v. Greenberger, IsrSC 9 791 [1955]. https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/hershkovitz-v-greenberger

[27]     HCJ 11437/05 Kav LaOved v. Ministry of the Interior, IsrSC 634(3) 122 [2011].

[28]     HCJ 2245/06 Dobrin v. Israel Prisons Service, (June 13, 2016) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/dobrin-v-israel-prison-service

[29]     CFH 2401/95 Nahmani v. Nahmani, IsrSC 50(4) 661[1996] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/nahmani-v-nahmani-0

[30]     HCJ 4077/12 A. v. Ministry of Health, (Feb. 5, 2013) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/doe-v-ministry-health

[31]     A. & B., Prospective Adoptive Parents of a Minor v. Biological Parents, IsrSC 60(1) 124 [2005].

[32]     HCJ 3752/10 Amnon Rubinstein v. Knesset, (Sept. 17, 2014).

[33]     HCJ 5304/15 Israel Medical Association v. Knesset, (Sept. 11, 2016) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/israel-medical-association-v-knesset

[34]     HCJ 5239/11 Avneri v. Knesset, (April 15, 2015) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/avneri-v-knesset

[35]     LAA 4021/09 Tel Aviv Municipal Tax Administration v. Michel Marsiah Co., (Dec. 20, 2010).

[36]     LCA 8233/08 Kovashi v. Adv. Eyal Schwartz, IsrSC 64(2) 207 [2010].

[37]     CA 3213/97 Nakar v. Local Planning and Development Council Herzliya, IsrSC 53(4) 625 [1999].

[38]     HCJ 6728/06 “Ometz”— Citizens for Good Governance and Social and Legal Justice v. Prime Minister, (Nov. 30, 2006).

[39]     HCJ 1756/10 Holon Municipality v. Minister of the Interior, (Jan. 2, 2013).

[40]     CA 2449/08 Tuashi v. Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd., (Nov. 16, 2010).

[41]     HCJ 2671/98 Israel Women’s Network v. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, (Aug. 11, 1998) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/israel-womens-network-v-minister-labor-social-affairs

[42]     HCJ 1030/99 MK Oron v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 56(3) 640 [2002].

[43]     CA 4239/15 Dor Alon Energy Israel 1998 Ltd. v. State of Israel, Tax Authority, (March 29, 2017).

[44]     HCJ 4128/02 Adam Teva veDin – Israel Union for Environmental Defense v. Prime Minister, IsrSC 58(3) 503 [2004].

[45]     CA 420/83 Ashur v. Migdal Insurance Co. Ltd., IsrSC 44(2) 627 [1990].

[46]     HCJ 5087/94 Zabaro v. Minister of Health, (July 17, 1995).

[47]     CFH 2121/12 Anon. v. Dayan Urbach, IsrSC 67(1) 667 [2014] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/anonymous-v-orbach

[48]     CA 9183/09 Football Association Premier League Ltd. v. Anon., (May 13, 2012).

[49]     HCJ 1892/14 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of Public Security, (June 13, 2017).

[50]     AAA 4105/09 Haifa Municipality v. Sephardic Jewish Community Association, Haifa, (Feb. 2. 2012).

[51]     HCJ 7245/10 Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights v. Ministry of Social Affairs, (June 4, 2013) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/adalah-%E2%80%93-legal-center-arab-minority-rights-israel-v-ministry-social-affairs

[52]     HCJ 6698/95 Ka’adan v. Israel Land Administration, IsrSC 54(1) 258 [2000] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/ka%E2%80%99adan-v-israel-land-administration

[53]     HCJ 142/89 Laor Movement v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 44(3) 529 [1990].

[54]     HCJ 2605/05 Academic Center for Law and Business, Human Rights Division v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 63(2) 545 [2009] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/academic-center-law-and-business-v-minister-finance

[55]     HCJ 566/11 Mamet Megged v. Minister of the Interior, (Jan. 28, 2014).

[56]     HCJ 4769/95 Menahem v. Minister of Transport, IsrSC 57(1) 235 [2002].

[57]     HCJ 98/69 Bergman v. Minister of Finance,  IsrSC 23(1) 693 [1969] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/bergman-v-minister-finance

[58]     AAA 343/09 Jerusalem Open House for Gay Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality, IsrSC 64(2) 1 [2010] https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/jerusalem-open-house-gay-pride-v-jerusalem-municipality

[59]     HCJ 2078/96 Vitz v. Minister of Health, (Feb. 11, 1997).

[60]     LAA 919/15 A. v. B., (July 19, 2017).

[61]     LCA 8821/09 Prozansky v. Layla Tov Production Co. Ltd., (Nov. 16, 2011) https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/prozansky-v-layla-tov-productions-ltd

[62]     FH 25/80 Katashvili v. State of Israel, IsrSC 35(2) 457 [1981].

[63]     HJC 6665/12 A. Sig Ltd. v. Director General of the Ministry of Health, (3.12.2014).

[64]     HCJ 8893/16 Cabel v. Minister of Communication, (8.1.2017).

[65]     HCJ 5436/07 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. National Authority for Religious Services, (May 5, 2010 and Nov. 11, 2010).

[66]     HCJ 8300/02 Nasser v. Government of Israel, (22.5.2012).

[67]     HCJ 625/10 A. v. Committee for the Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements, (26.7.2011).

[68]     HCJ 3217/16 Israel Religious Action Center – The Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel v. Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, (Sept. 17, 2017).

[69]     CA 488/77 A. v. Attorney General, IsrSC 32(3) 421 [1978].

[70]     HCJ 3872/93 Mitral Ltd. v. Prime Minister and Minister of Religion, IsrSC 47(5) 485 [1993].

 

 

PARTIAL JUDGMENT AND DECISION

Deputy President S. Joubran:

1.         The petition before us seeks to extend access to the Israeli surrogacy arrangement  primarily regulated by the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) Law, 5756-1996 (hereinafter: Agreements Law), such that it would also apply to same-sex couples and to single individuals, with or without a genetic link to the child.

2.         The petition was filed at the beginning of 2015, and two hearings were held before an expanded bench of this Court, and supplemental pleadings were submitted, such that the petition was ripe for decision. However, on July 17, 2017, Respondent 1 submitted a notice providing updated details concerning the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5777-2017 (hereinafter: the Bill). This Bill was introduced in the Knesset on  July 5, 2017, and passed its first reading on July 17, 2017. In its updating notice, Respondent 1 explained that the Bill deals, inter alia, with extending access to Israeli surrogacy agreements, and asked that we rule that, in light of the introduction of the Bill, the petition does not show cause for judicial intervention. In their response of July 21, 2017, the Petitioners contended that the petition should be addressed immediately, in accordance with the current legislative situation, and that in view of the ongoing plight of the Petitioners – some 21 years after enactment of the Law – there is no justification for delaying for an additional, lengthy period for legislative developments. They also emphasize that the Bill relates to the access of genetically-related single women to surrogacy agreements, but does not provide a response for the petitioners in this petition.

3.         As will be explained below, in view of the fact that the Bill recently passed its first reading, on the assumption that the legislative process will proceed at a suitable pace, and in light of the judicial restraint required in sensitive matters such as the matter at hand, we are satisfied that the legislature should be granted a certain amount of time in which to complete that legislative process prior to our deciding on the merits of the petition as a whole. However, since the principled arguments of the parties concerning the points of contention have already been heard, it is already possible, in our opinion, to decide on parts of the petition, and it particular, on the arguments of Petitioners 5-6 (hereinafter: the Petitioners) that it should be permissible to enter into a surrogacy agreement in the absence of any genetic link between the prospective parent or prospective parents and the newborn.  In my opinion, even though the Petitioners’ argument that the requirement for a genetic link violates the right to parenthood has merit, this violation meets the conditions of the limitations clause in sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and as such, the arguments on this matter must be dismissed.

My opinion will be presented in two parts: the first part will address the decision to postpone deciding on the petition in the matter of extending access to surrogacy to family units that are not presently included; the second part will present a partial judgment that dismisses the arguments for striking down the requirement of a genetic link in surrogacy procedures, as will be explained below.

Postponement of the Decision on the Petition

4.         As I mentioned above, recently – on July 5, 2017 – a Government bill to amend the Agreements Law was introduced in the Knesset. This proposal passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on July 17, 2017, and at the time of writing this opinion, it is before the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, awaiting preparation for the second and third readings. This proposal – should it be enacted as presently formulated – is expected to bring about a significant change in the current surrogacy arrangements, including allowing, for the first time, single women who have a genetic link to the child to enter into surrogacy agreements. As opposed to this, the formulation of the proposal provides no succor for what is sought by the Petitioners, since it does not extend the Law to same-sex couples and to single men. It should be noted that the said proposal is partially based on the Memorandum for Embryo Carrying Agreements (Agreement Approval & Status of the Newborn Child) (Amendment – Definition of Prospective Parents and Conditions for Approval of the Agreement) Law, 2777-2016 (hereinafter: Memorandum of the Law), which was published on Oct. 30, 2016, and which similarly proposed expanding the definition of “prospective parents” in sec. 1 of the Agreements Law to include a single woman. Against the background of this development, I believe, as I wrote, that the legislature should be permitted to exhaust the legislative process before this Court decides on the full petition. Below I will briefly discuss my reasons for this.

5.         To begin, I will note that for this Court to accord status to a legislative initiative, and in particular, to postpone a hearing in proceedings that are affected by that initiative, is not a common phenomenon (for an in-depth analysis of the issue in modern legal literature, see Bell Yosef, A Mixed Blessing: The Normative Status of Legislative Initiatives 40 Tel Aviv L. Rev. 253 (2017) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Yosef). For a review of the judgments in which a legislative initiative has affected the course of the hearings in a petition before this Court sitting as the High Court of Justice, see ibid., at 262-66). In my view, this is not a bad thing, for it demonstrates a proper, healthy expression of the constitutional dialogue between the branches of government, in which each respects the sphere of activity of the other (see: HCJ 8665/14 Desta v. Knesset [1], para. 1, per Justice E. Hayut, paras. 1-7 per Justice H. Melcer (hereinafter: Desta); HCJ 2390/96 Karsik v. State of Israel, Israel Lands Administration [2], para. 6; CFH 5161/03 E.S.T. Projects and Human Resources Management Ltd. v. State of Israel [3] para. 13; Aharon Barak, The Judge in a Democratic Society, 376-89 (2004) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Barak, Judge in a Democratic Society); David Zecharia, The Pure Sound of the Piccolo: The Supreme Court, Dialogue and the Fight Against Terrorism, 241-43 (2012) (Heb.); Yosef, at 292-308; Barry Friedman, Dialogue and Judicial Review, 91 Mich. L. Rev. 577 (1993); Peter W. Hogg & Allison A. Bushell, The Charter Dialogue between Courts and Legislatures (or perhaps The Charter of Rights isn't such a Bad Thing after all), 35 Osgoode Hall L. J. 75 (1997)). The words of Justice (emer.) E.E. Levy in HCJ 466/07 Galon v. Attorney General [4] (hereinafter: Galon case) are apt here:

[The] concept of constitutional dialogue [reflects] an understanding that protection of the values embodied in the constitution is an endeavor that is common to the three branches of government. This understanding does not undermine the democratic fundamental principles of the separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, it is concerned with furthering the dialogue between the branches of government and the mutual sensitivity between them … This understanding provides a foundation for the approach whereby it is best that engagement with constitutional questions should be the outcome of an honest, constant and continuous dialogue between the branches. This will likely be beneficial for the conduct of government in general. It may well be good for human rights. It is able to dispel antagonism, which is frequently connected to the notion of a right and protection of this right. It has the ability to aid in the development of additional constitutional rights. It allows basic rights to share the spotlight with other values, the promotion of which is important to the public (para. 42 of his opinion).

6.         In the circumstances of the present petition, since the legislature has expressed its intention to introduce changes into the Agreements Law and to consider the scope of the definition of “prospective parents”, a decision concerning the constitutionality of the formulation of the existing Law is liable to constitute undue interference in the sphere of activity reserved for it as the “senior partner” in legislation (Barak, The Judge in a Democracy, 380). The “right of way” that ought to be given to the legislature when we are dealing with a constitutional defect was discussed by my colleague, Justice E. Rubinstein in HCJ 5771/12 Moshe v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements [5] (hereinafter: Moshe case), the backdrop to which was an earlier proposal to amend the Agreements Law. He wrote:

… the existence of current legislative proceedings to expand the existing circle of eligibility in the Embryo Carrying Law naturally and sensibly calls for judicial restraint by this Court, so that it will not snap at the heels of the legislature …. Of course, if ultimately there is no legislative process, constitutional judicial intervention must not be ruled out …. However, the appropriate port of call for such changes is first and foremost the legislature, and the existence of advanced legislative processes warrants such judicial restraint (para. 46 of his opinion; and see para. 17 of Justice Hayut’s opinion).

7.         Moreover, in my opinion, making a decision on this petition on the matter of expanding access to surrogacy at this time raises practical difficulties. This is because the normative framework on which this Court will base its decision is liable to change within a short time,  which would render our determinations, and any relief that may be given, purely theoretical. Moreover, a decision on the petition after the legislative process has been completed will ensure that the resources of this Court will be devoted to an issue that has practical application (cf: Yosef,  284-86).

8.         The Court must certainly exercise caution in postponing its decision on a pending petition due to a legislative initiative. There may be circumstances in which it is inappropriate to adopt such a course, whether because the postponement is liable to severely harm the petitioners or to allow a wrong requiring immediate remedy to persist, or whether because the chances of the legislative initiative maturing into a change in the normative framework are slim. In a certain sense, the major consideration in this matter appears to me to be similar to the criteria for examining a claim of ripeness in constitutional law. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, a decision on this argument ought to be made by balancing the benefits of addressing the matter confronting this Court in another forum (in our case – the legislature) against the anticipated harm to the petitioners by allowing the existing normative situation to persist (cf. HCJ 3166/14 Gutman v. Attorney General [6], para. 5 of my opinion; HCJ 2311/11 Sabah v. Knesset [7], para. 7 of my opinion (hereinafter: Sabah case); HCJ 1213/10 Nir v. Knesset Speaker [8], para. 18 of my opinion (hereinafter: Nir case)). Therefore, I will now examine the different aspects of the legislative initiative before us, while addressing the primary criteria that have been proposed in the academic literature on this matter (see: Yosef , 301-18) and explaining why, in my view, the benefits outweigh the harm.

9.         I will first look at the legislative process concerning the matter before us. It is evident that this is not some trifling initiative that has been abandoned over the course of time. The Bill was introduced by the Government, and passed its first reading in the plenum with a majority of 12 to 1, with members of both the coalition and the opposition voting for it, even though the latter expressed reservations about the lack of a response to same-sex couples in the proposal (see: Minutes of Session no. 254 of the 20th Knesset, 205-217 (July 17,.2017)). In the said circumstances, in my view, we  should consider the official status of the initiative and the possibility that it will indeed develop into a legislative amendment (cf: Yosef, 313-315). Moreover, the Bill has recently moved forward, and currently appears on the legislative agenda, thus increasing the concern about undermining a legislative process in its initial stages (cf: Yosef, 309-10).

10.       In their response to the updating notice of Respondent 1, the Petitioners note the concurrence between the progress in the legislative process and the course of the hearing on this petition. Indeed, it is evident that the legislative memorandum was published between the two dates for oral hearings on this petition, and that the Bill was submitted to the Knesset after the conclusion of the hearings and after the parties had submitted all their pleadings,  while this Court was deliberating the matter. According to the Petitioners: “It is difficult not to feel some discomfort in view of this conduct.” I am myself surprised that it was not possible to advance a legislative process like the one before us over the course of years, particularly in view of the explicit determination of Justice M. Cheshin in 2002 in HCJ 2458/01 New Family v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements [9] (hereinafter: New Family case), according to which the distinction made by the Agreements Law between women who are in a relationship and single women is discriminatory (ibid., paras. 40-42). However, whatever mistakes were made in the past, my position looking forward is that there is nothing illegitimate in advancing a legislative initiative in response to or in connection with proceedings that are under way in this Court – as long as the motives are relevant and worthy. In this context, Prof. Barak’s words are apt:

In my view, legislation in the course of a pending judicial process does not harm the Court and the mutual respect to which the branches of government are committed. If the legislature concludes that a law is not constitutional, it is not required to wait for the Court to rule on the matter. This is also the case when the legislature concludes that the existing legislation is inappropriate, and should be changed. In such situations, there is no disrespect of the Court when the legislature seeks to have its say first, without waiting for a judicial decision and without harming the party whose matter is before the court. As opposed to this, the judiciary would be severely undermined if the Knesset were to make a decision intended to influence the discretion of the judges in a matter pending before the Court (Barak, Judge in a Democratic Society, 389; see also: Yosef, at 299).

However, the situation in the present petition is more complex, inasmuch as the legal defect that the legislature is correcting is more limited in scope than Petitioners’ objection, and therefore, even if the legislative process is completed, it will not necessarily obviate a decision on the petition. In these circumstances, Prof. Barak’s comment at the end of the above passage is doubly relevant, and indeed, one must avoid a scenario of repeated requests for postponements to allow for completion of the legislation, with the anticipated legislative amendment becoming a means at the service of the Respondent. For this reason, I would propose to my colleagues that we allocate a reasonable period of time after which the State will be required to provide an update concerning the legislative process. Obviously, a rate of progress that does not comport with the importance of the process, taking into account its complexity, will attest to a lesser degree of commitment to its advancement than that attributed to it at this stage, and will also lessen the justification for allowing extra time for its completion, despite the fundamental difficulties raised by this petition (cf: HCJ 6665/12 E-Cig Ltd. v. Director General of the Ministry of Health [10], para. 27).

11.       I will now proceed to examine the nature of the matter under discussion, and its ramifications for the appropriate attitude to the legislative initiative and the benefit that may  derive from its completion. In particular, I will discuss the substantial complexity on two levels: the professional level and the level of values.

12.       On the professional level, it is patently clear that the Agreements Law reflects a complex legislative arrangement based on a system of balances and monitoring mechanisms. This system constitutes the product of lengthy, meticulous legislative processes based on the recommendations of the public commission headed by Judge (emer.) Shaul Aloni, which studied the subject of in vitro fertilization, including the matter of surrogacy, and published its recommendations in 1994. Some two decades later, another public commission – the Mor Yosef Committee –  studied the subject of fertility and reproduction in Israel, including the issue of surrogacy and those who are eligible to avail themselves of it. On the basis of what has been said above, it is evident that the heart of the dispute in the present petition involves questions of expertise a fact that attests to its considerable complexity from the professional perspective.

13.       At the level of values, the range of medical reproductive techniques gives rise to various social, moral, ethical, religious and legal problems concerning the status of those who contribute gametes to the reproductive process, and of the surrogate mother, as well as broad social implications that may arise from the use of these means (see, in depth: Benzion Schereschewsky  & Michael Corinaldi, Family Law, vol. 2, 979-1006 (2016) (Heb.); Pinhas Shifman, Family Law in Israel vol. 2, 101-35 (1989) (Heb.); Janet L. Dolgin & Lois L. Shepherd, Bioethics and the Law 94-321 (3rd ed., 2013) (hereinafter: Dolgin & Shepherd). Private surrogacy agreements in themselves are a subject of legal, academic, social and public discussion revolving around the physical, psychological and familial difficulties of the surrogate mothers (Nuphar Lipkin and Etti Semama, From Worthy Act to an Off-the-Shelf Product: Creeping Normativization of Surrogacy in Israel, 15 Mishpat u-Mimshal 435, 480-85 (2013) (Heb.); Margaret Jane Radin, Market Inalienability, 100 Harv. L. Rev. 1849, 1928-32 (1987); Stephen Wilkinson, The Exploitation Argument against Commercial Surrogacy, 17 Bioethics 169 (2003); June Carbon & Judy Lynee Madeira, The Role of Agency: Compensated Surrogacy and the Institutionalization of Assisted Reproduction Practices, 90 Wash. L. Rev. Online 1, 13-19 (2015)), and on the compatibility of such agreements with public policy (see and cf.: LFA 1118/14 Anon. v. Ministry of Welfare and Social Services [11] para. 3 per Justice H. Melcer (April 1, 2015) (hereinafter: Anon. case); New Family case, para. 39 per Justice M. Cheshin; Dorit Shapira and Yosef Shapira, A Decade to the Embryo Carrying (Agreement Authorization & Status of the Newborn Child) Law, 5756-1996: The Reality and the Ideal, 36 Medicine and Law 19, 29-32 (2007) (Heb.); Ruth Zafran, The Family in the Genetic Era – Definition of Parenthood in Circumstances of Artificial Reproduction in a Test Case, 2 Din u-Devarim 223 (2006) (Heb.); Hila Keren, Contract Laws from a Feminist Perspective 273-75 (2004) (Heb.); Report of the Public Professional Committee for the Examination of the Subject of In Vitro Fertilization 48-49 (1994) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Aloni Commission); Deborah S. Mazer, Born Breach: The Challenge of Remedies in Surrogacy Contracts, 28 Yale J.L. & Feminism 211, 222-28, 231-38 (2016); the position of the Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee, United States, which allowed the enforcement of surrogacy agreements subject to various restrictions: In re Baby, 447 S.W.3d 807, 827-30, 832-33 (2014); the prohibition on the enforcement of surrogacy agreements except for allowing enforcement of the amount of compensation for the surrogate mother in New South Wales, Australia – Surrogacy Act 2010, §6; and section 541 of the Civil Code that prohibits the enforcement of surrogacy agreements: Droit de la famille -151172, 2015 QCCS 2308 (canlii, 5.20.2015), § 111).

14.       As we therefore see, the complexity presented by the Petitioners’ requested expansion is not inconsiderable in view of the range of professional and principled considerations it raises.  Justice M. Cheshin commented on this in the New Family case, stating:

… surrogacy is a new phenomenon, and the unknown exceeds the known in its ramifications for human life – in terms of health, emotion, society, religion and law. The process of surrogacy involves difficult human issues … with the passage of time and the amassing of knowledge and experience, it will be appropriate to revisit the subject (at 457-62).

Indeed, a great deal of time has passed since the advent of Israeli regulation of surrogacy and the judgment in the New Family case. Over the years, scientific knowledge on the subject has increased and essential experience has been accumulated by the professional bodies tasked with its realization. While the passage of time has indeed lessened the complexity discussed above, it cannot entirely eliminate it.

15.       In my opinion, this complexity reinforces the inappropriateness of deciding this petition at this time (cf: Yosef, 318). As we have often noted, developing policy, particularly policy in regard to sensitive issues at the heart of the public agenda and matters of professional expertise, is not the job of this Court, which lacks the resources of professional knowledge available to the legislature. This is evident, for example, in the restrained approach adopted by this Court in regard to legislation concerning socio-economic policy, which similarly involves professional considerations that are beyond the Court’s area of expertise (see, e.g.: HCJ 4406/16 Association of Banks in Israel v. Knesset [12], para. 39, per my colleague President M. Naor (hereinafter: Association of Banks case); HCJ 3734/11 Davidian v. Knesset [13], para. 39, per my colleague President M. Naor (15.8.2012); HCJ 4885/03 Israel Poultry Farmers Association v. Government [14], 60; CLA 3145/99 Bank Leumi Ltd. v. Hazan [15], 406-09), as well as in the willingness of this Court to defer deciding upon petitions that concern matters of broad public concern, such as the deferment of the military service of full-time yeshiva students (see: HCJ 6298/07 Ressler v. Israel Knesset [16], paras. 3-4, per President D. Beinisch, and the constitutionality of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel (Temporary Provisions) Law, 5763-2003 (see: HCJ 7052/03 Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights v. Minister of Interior [17], para. 16, per President A. Barak (hereinafter: Adalah case)).

This does not, of course, detract from the authority of this Court to examine the constitutionality of legislation that is brought before it, and cure possible constitutional defects. This is not one of those cases in which the complexity of the issue justifies our total refusal to address it on the merits (cf: HCJFH 10007/09 Gluten v. National Labor Court [18], per President A. Grunis (hereinafter: Gluten case); for a discussion see: Yosef, 286-88). However, due to the separation of powers and the institutional differences that I discussed, I believe that it is better if the legislature first address surrogacy arrangements, and amend the law in light of its understanding and considerations. This adjournment will also allow the Petitioners, and their representatives in the legislative branch, to participate in the parliamentary and public conversation on amending the law, and try to influence its outcome. Through this process it may be possible to resolve, or at least moderate, the problems in the existing legal situation – which I will address at the end of my opinion – and yield a result in which I believe all the parties can profit. However, if these problems remain and the Petitioners insist on their arguments, we will decide upon the constitutionality of the new arrangement.

16.       As opposed to the weighty considerations that I enumerated stands the harm to the Petitioners. It should be stated from the outset that this petition is not a sporadic legal performance. Rather, it lies at the heart of a long, persistent, struggle for equality and for recognition on the part of the LGBT community in a range of areas of life, and in particular in all that concerns the right to become a parent (for a discussion of the various aspects of this issue see, e.g.: Ayelet Blecher-Prigat and Ruth Zafran, "Children are Joy": Same-Sex Parenthood and Artificial Reproductive Technologies, LGBTQ Rights in Israel: Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation and the Law (Einav Morgenstern, Yaniv Lushinski & Alon Harel eds., 2016) 395 (Heb.) (hereinafter: Blecher-Prigat & Zafran); Zvi H. Triger and Mili Mass, The Child in her Family: A Necessary Turn Towards LGBT Adoption in Israel, LGBTQ Rights in Israel: Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation and the Law (Einav Morgenstern, Yaniv Lushinski & Alon Harel eds., 2016) 437  (Heb.) (hereinafter: Triger & Mass)). There is therefore no denying that postponing the decision on the petition is very significant for the Petitioners, as well as for many others of the Israeli public, whether they are members of the community itself or other citizens who identify with their pain. This is due to the strong desire of men and women of the gay community to become parents, and the serious injury to their dignity as a result of the distinction drawn by the Law between them and heterosexual couples – a distinction of dubious relevance, as I will explain below. Moreover, the purpose of the postponement – giving the legislature time to complete the process of amending the Agreements Law – is not accompanied by good news for the Petitioners, for even in its proposed formulation, the Law will not provide relief for the distress of single-sex couples and of single men.

It is not superfluous to say that the disagreement around the accessibility of surrogacy to single-sex couples, as well as for single parents, is not new to us, and over the years it has brought various petitioners – including Petitioners 1-2 in the present case – to come knocking on the doors of this Court with a request for help.  Below I will briefly discuss the main milestones in this chronology in order to illustrate the many years of bitter experience suffered by the Petitioners and the community to which they belong with the subject before us, and the difficulty inherent in sending them away empty-handed – at least in the interim period until the legislative process is completed.

Already in the early years of this century, in the New Family case, this Court addressed the distinction drawn by the Law between single women and women in heterosexual relationships. Although the Court recognized the constitutional difficulties this distinction raises, it refrained from intervening in the Law in view of the need to acquire further experience from its implementation. About a decade later, Petitioners 1-2 in the present case petitioned this Court against the decision of Respondent 1 to deny them a surrogacy procedure because they did not, in its view, fall within the definition of “prospective parents” under the Agreements Law. That petition was dismissed with the consent of the parties, in view of the anticipated establishment of the Mor Yosef Committee (see: HCJ 1078/10 Arad Pinkas v. Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying Agreements [19]). The Moshe case, heard in this Court several years later, also raised questions involving the limited access to surrogacy, but the Court preferred to refrain from judicial intervention in the provisions of the Agreements Law due to the legislative proceedings that were underway at that time (see: ibid., para. 17 per Justice E. Hayut). Those proceedings, it is only fair to say, did not result in a legislative act.

17.       To summarize: we face a difficult choice, as it is said, “Woe unto me from my Creator [yotzri] and woe unto me from my inclination [yitzri]” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 61a). On the one hand, there is considerable value in allowing the legislature time to complete the legislative process that it began,  which is now at an advanced stage and enjoys wide support in the Knesset. Allowing this time will allow for public debate of the sensitive issue in an institutional framework appropriate to its complexity, and will express an appropriate democratic constitutional approach in which the branches show a willingness to listen to one another and respect the sphere of authority of the other. On the other hand, postponing adjudication of the petition will extend the violation of the Petitioners’ rights,  the exalted constitutional status of which is not in doubt. This violation has affected them, and the community to which they belong, since the passage of the Agreements Law in 1996, and it constitutes only one of the many aspects in which Israeli law has not yet adapted itself to the reality of pluralistic life today.

18.       After having given serious thought to the matter, and not without hesitation, I have concluded that the time is not ripe for deciding on the matter of Petitioners 1-4, in light of the pending legislative proceedings in the Knesset, inter alia, on the question of the definition of “prospective parents” in the Agreements Law. I am certain that the legislature will be aware of the serious, on-going harm to the Petitioners, and will act with due dispatch to complete the legislative process. For this reason, I would recommend that we postpone hearing the petition for a six-month period, and that we order the Respondents to submit updated notice of the progress of the legislation no later than Feb. 4, 2018.

I will now proceed to the second part of the opinion – an examination of the constitutionality of the requirement of a genetic link in the surrogacy process.

The Requirement for a Genetic Link in the Surrogacy Process

19.       Medical procedures aimed at assisting fertilization for the purpose of pregnancy and birth have existed since the end of the eighteenth century, but recourse to these procedures became common only in the middle of the twentieth century, both in the wake of technological developments and in the wake of social changes (see: Ruth Zafran, Secrets and Lies: The Right of AID Offspring to Seek Out their Biological Fathers 35 Mishpatim 519, 527 (5765-2005) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Zafran, Secrets and Lies); Dolgin & Shepherd, at 321-28). To simplify the discussion, we can talk about four different links in the reproductive process that can be improved or replaced through medical procedures: the sperm, the egg, the fertilization process, and carrying the pregnancy by the woman (who is called a “surrogate”). Correspondingly, there are different medical procedures that can improve the quality of the sperm of the prospective father or allow for the use of a sperm donation in order to fertilize the egg. There are medical procedures that allow for ova to be extracted from the woman and fertilized outside of her body in order to overcome medical problems in fertilization; there are medical procedures that make it possible to donate a fertilized ovum and implant it in the womb of a woman who has not succeeded in becoming pregnant; and there are medical procedures for implanting a fertilized ovum into the womb of a woman who will serve as a surrogate. In other words, from a medical point of view, there are solutions that provide a response to various challenges in the reproductive process and allow for a child to be brought into the world without a genetic link to the prospective parent (Gaia Bernstein, The Socio-Legal Acceptance of New Technologies: A Close Look at Artificial Insemination, 77 Wash. L. Rev. 1035 (2002); Noa Ben-Asher, The Curing Law: On the Evolution of Baby-Making Markets, 30 Cardozo L. Rev. 1885 (2009) (hereinafter: Ben-Asher, The Curing Law); on more innovative reproductive possibilities and the possibility of legal adoption, see: Erez Aloni, Cloning and the LGBTI Family: Cautious Optimism, 35 N.Y.U Rev. L. Soc. Change 1, 14-17, 18-36 (2011); and see Recommendations of the Public Committee for the Examination of the Legislative Regulation of the Subject of Fertility and Reproduction in Israel (hereinafter: Mor Yosef Committee). This possibility is not purely theoretical, as transpires from the case of Anon. that was heard recently by this Court. That case concerned a transaction entered into by a single woman who obtained an egg donation and a sperm donation, implanted the fertilized egg in a surrogate, and sought to be recognized as the single parent of the child, even though she had no genetic link to the child. The point is – and as decided there – such a request does not comport with the provisions of the Law. Section 2(4) of the Agreements Law conditions entering into a surrogacy agreement on the sperm being that of the prospective father; and secs 6(b), 11 and 13 of the Ova Donation Law, 5770-2010 (hereinafter: Ova Donation Law) allow women to receive egg donations for the purpose of a surrogacy process only in accordance with the provisions of the Agreements Law. For this reason, it was not possible to recognize the process of parenthood initiated by the petitioner in that case as a legal surrogacy procedure. However, whereas the Anon. case dealt with the possibility of retroactive recognition of the process described, and in doing so raised constitutional questions, in the present case the Petitioners have grabbed the bull by the horns, and they ask that we look into the very constitutionality of the arrangement. I will discuss this below in the context of the requirement for a genetic link, and in that context only.

The Arguments of the Parties

20.       Petitioners 5-6 are single women who seek to realize their right to become parents with the help of the surrogacy process. Due to medical problems, however, not only are they not able to carry an embryo in their wombs, but they also cannot provide their own eggs. Their request, therefore, is to enter into a surrogacy agreement without there being any genetic link between themselves and the child. On Oct. 31, 2013, Petitioner 5 asked the Approvals Committee that had been established pursuant to the Agreements Law to approve her entering into a surrogacy agreement. Her request was dismissed in limine on Nov. 24, 2013, since according to the Committee, the Petitioner did not fall within the definition of “prospective parents” as provided in the Law. The Committee was also of the opinion that because one of the requirements of the Law is the existence of a genetic connection between the prospective parents and the child-to-be, the Law does not allow for use of a sperm donation as well as an ovum donation for the purpose of the procedure.

On Oct. 31, 2014, counsel for the Petitioners submitted a letter on their behalf and on behalf of the other petitioners in the petition to the (then) Minister of Health, to the person responsible for the Agreements Law in the Ministry of Health, to the Attorney General, to the Legal Adviser of the Knesset and to the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Health, in which she requested approval for them to submit their requests to enter into an agreement, and for these requests to be considered on their merits. In her response dated Jan. 4, 2015, the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Health explained that it was not possible to respond positively to the Petitioners, and that the way to change the situation was by means of a legislative amendment. In view of this, the Petitioners submitted the present petition.

21.       The Petitioners contend that denying the possibility of their bringing a child into the world with the assistance of a surrogate constitutes a violation of their right to equality and their right to become parents – a violation that does not meet the criteria of the limitations clause. According to them, in the matter of surrogacy, there is no room to distinguish between a woman who is not capable of carrying a pregnancy to term but who is able to provide her own eggs for the fertilization process, and a woman who cannot  carry a pregnancy to term and is medically unable to use her own eggs for the fertilization. Their position is that in both cases, the right to parenthood is violated, and the state must repair this violation without distinction. The Petitioners point out that Israeli law recognizes parenthood in the absence of a genetic connection in several contexts: the Ova Donation Law allows a single woman to receive a donation of an ovum in order to become pregnant (where she is the one who carries the pregnancy); the Agreements Law allows a woman to be recognized as the mother when the child is born through surrogacy and there is a genetic link only to her partner, the prospective father; and the adoption procedures in the Child Adoption Law, 5741-1981, by their nature establish parenthood without a genetic connection. The Petitioners also think that the judgment in the Anon. case determined the issue of recognition of private surrogacy that is not in accordance with the Agreements Law, and that it therefore says nothing about the possibility of undergoing a controlled process of surrogacy without a genetic link, and in particular, it does not rule out this possibility.

As opposed to this, the Respondents insist that a parental connection in the absence of a genetic link is a complex matter that should addressed by legislation. According to them, this is all the more so in regard to surrogacy, which makes it possible to create a child with  no physiological link to the prospective parents. As a natural outcome, they argue, doing away with the requirement for a genetic link between the prospective parents and the child will turn the surrogacy process into a process resembling adoption. Here, the respondents refer to the position of the Mor Yosef Committee, which stressed the importance of the genetic link in fertilization procedures.

Deliberation and Decision

22.       As we know, the constitutional examination comprises three main stages: examination of the existence of a violation of a constitutional right, examination of the constitutionality of the violation in light of the limitations clause, and examination of the appropriate constitutional remedy. If there is no violation, or if the violation is constitutional, there is no need to move to the next stage of the examination (see: HCJ 9134/12 Gavish v. Knesset [20], para. 25 per President M. Naor; HCJ 10662/04 Hassan v. National Insurance Institute [21], para. 24, per President D. Beinisch, and the opinion of Justice U. Vogelman; HCJ 6427/02 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset [22], paras. 20-21, per President A. Barak (hereinafter: Movement for Quality Government case). I shall discuss these stages in the above order.

23.       First, does the existing surrogacy arrangement violate the constitutional rights of Petitioners 5-6? As I shall immediately explain, in my view there is no violation of their right to equality. In my opinion, for the purpose of the process of surrogacy, there is a relevant distinction between prospective parents who are capable of having a genetic link to the child, and prospective parents who are unable to do so. As opposed to this, I am of the opinion that there is indeed a violation of the right of the Petitioners to parenthood.

The Alleged Violation of the Right to Equality

24.       The starting point is that there is a difference between people who are able to donate gametes (sperm or ovum) for the sake of creating an embryo, and those who are not able to donate gametes for the purpose of creating an embryo. This difference is a medical-biological difference that stems from the bodily capabilities of each person (on the developments in genetic research and their possible effect on the issue, see: Jennifer S. Hendricks. Genetic Essentialism in Family Law, 26 Health Matrix: The Journal of Law-Medicine, 109, 122 (2016); Jennifer S. Hendricks, Not of Woman Born: A Scientific Fantasy, 62 Cas. W. Res. L. Rev. 399 (2011); Rajesh C. Rao, Alternatives to Embryonic Stem Cells and Cloning: A Brief Scientific Overview, 9 Yale J. Health Pol'y L. & Ethics 603 (2009); Dolgin & Shepherd, 370-75). In the present matter, the question arises whether in the framework of the regulation of surrogacy agreements, there is a relevant distinction between a person who is able to provide gametes that will be used for the purpose of giving birth and will ensure that the child bears her genes, and another person who is unable to do so. The Petitioners argue that the condition whereby the prospective parent must supply his/her own genetic material in order for a surrogacy agreement to be approved, (i.e., a requirement for a genetic link) constitutes unlawful discrimination. I am of a different opinion. In my view, this is a distinction that is relevant and not discriminatory. The main reasons for this position are the recognition of the importance of the genetic link between parents and children in general, and the importance of this link in surrogacy in particular, as I will explain below.

25.       The genetic link between parents and their children is of considerable importance, and it has deep historical roots in most known human cultures. The words of Dr. Yehezkel Margalit on this link are apt here:

There is no material doubt that this is the most ancient model, which in almost every culture acquired historical and mythological exclusivity in determining legal parenthood – both fatherhood and motherhood. It should be stressed that even the critics of this model do not deny the very deep importance and significance of the genetic element (Yehezkel Margalit, Determining Legal Parenthood by Agreement as a Possible Solution to the Challenges of the New Era, 6 Din u-Devarim 553, 566-67 (2012) (Heb.).

The importance of the genetic link to the relationship between parents and children is a common thread in Israeli law. The legislature has referred to this link in several legislative acts: (see: secs. 3(a) and 9 of the Children’s Foster Care Law, 5776-2016; secs. 3(c) and 10(2) of the Succession Law, 5725-1965; sec. 6 of the Population Registry Law, 5725-1965; sec. 14 of the Legal Capacity and Guardianship Law, 5722-1962; secs. 1(a) and 3(a) of the Family Law Amendment (Maintenance) Law, 5719-1959; sec. 3(a) of the Women’s Equal Rights Law, 5711-1951; and arts. 5 and 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (concluded on Nov. 20, 1989, ratified on Aug. 4, 1991)); and this Court has mentioned several times the importance of the “voice of the blood” that symbolizes the genetic link between the child and parent (see, e.g.,: LFA 7141/15 A. v. B. [23], paras. 5-6 per Justice H. Melcer, and the references there (hereinafter: A. v. B. case); CFH 1892/11 Attorney General v. Anon. [24], per Justice E. Arbel (hereinafter: CFH 1892/11); LFA 5082/05 Attorney General v. Anon. [25], para. 5, per Justice A. Procaccia (hereinafter: LFA 5082/05); New Family case, para. 31, per Justice M. Cheshin; CA 50/55 Hershkovitz v. Greenberger [26], paras. 14-16, per Deputy President S.Z. Cheshin). I had the opportunity of relating to the matter in one of the cases, saying:

We must not forget the nature of the connection between a parent and his child. The connection of blood. The connection of life. The connection of nature … When we sever it, whether absolutely or relatively, we must act with great caution, taking into account the constitutional right of the parent, but on the other hand the constitutional rights of the child, the public interest, and sometimes the interest and even the right of the adoptive family, as may be appropriate (CFH 1892/11, para. 6 of my opinion).

26.       The elevated status of the genetic link has consequences for surrogacy, as emerged in the A. v. B. case. There, Justice Hendel noted three relevant links regarding surrogacy:  the genetic link, which is the connection between the prospective parent who contributed his or her genetic reproductive material and the child; the physiological link, which is the connection between the pregnant mother and the child; and the link to the link, which is the connection that a particular person has to the person with the genetic link to the child. It was explained there that the genetic link constitutes the basis for conferring the status of parenthood in the framework of the surrogacy process, and that it is a sine qua non for recognition of the link to the link. Justice Hendel explained that there is, indeed, also a physiological link – but its status in surrogacy is marginal, since this process, by its nature, separates the physiological mother (the surrogate) from the child (see, e.g., secs. 12-13 of the Agreements Law). Hence, in all that concerns the definition of parenthood in surrogacy, the genetic link is of great importance in the present legal situation.

The importance of the genetic link in surrogacy finds expression in several additional sources: the report of the Mor Yosef Committee, which found that surrogacy (as well as egg donation under the Ova Donation Law) is to be approved only on condition that one of the prospective parents has a genetic link to the child (see the Report, at 39-40, 62, 64); and see the Aloni Commission Report, 22-23, 48); in the language of sec. 2(4) of the Agreements Law; in the legislative history of the Agreements Law (see the minutes of session no. 430 of the 13th Knesset, per the chairman of the Labor and Welfare Committee, Yossi Katz, and the Minister of Health Dr. Efraim Sneh (March 7, 1996) (hereinafter: minutes of session 430)); in the position of the State as presented to this Court (see secs. 47-49 of the Response of Respondent 1 to the amended petition); and in the bills to amend the Agreements Law that have been introduced in the Knesset in recent years (see: sec. 2(4) of the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment) (Amendment of the Definition of Prospective Parents and Conditions for Approval of Agreement) Bill, 5777-2017; sec. 3(2) of the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment – Extension of Eligibility for Surrogacy Processes and Extension of Protection of the Surrogate Mother) Bill, 5776-2016; Explanatory Notes to the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5774-2014, and sec. 6(6) of this Bill; Explanatory Notes to the Bill, 1152, and sec. 2 of that Bill).

The importance of the genetic link in surrogacy has also been recognized in comparative law (see, in general: Michael Boucai, Is Assisted Procreation an LGBT Right?, 2016 Wis. L. Rev. 1066, 1082-93 and the references there; this is the position in South Africa (see: sec. 294 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005; AB and Another v. Minister of Social Development [2016] ZACC 43, §§ 276-278 (hereinafter: AB case); in the UK – Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, art. 54(1)(b); in the Province of Alberta,  Canada (see: Family Law Act, Statutes of Alberta, 2003 Chapter F-4.5, § 5.1(d) (2016); in the State of South Australia (see: Family Relationship Acts 1975 – Sect 10HA § 2a(h)(2)); in the States of Virginia, Nevada and Maine in the United States (see: Alex Finkelstein et al., Surrogacy Law and Policy in the U.S – A National Conversation Informed by Global Lawmaking, Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic 10, 55, 81-82 (2016); Nev. Rev. Stat. § 126.670, and in the European Court of Human Rights (see: Mennesson v. France (app. no. 65192/11, ECHR 2014); Paradiso & Campenelli v. Italy (app. No. 25358/12), §§ 195, 211). At the same time, it must be noted that some legal systems comprise arrangements that recognize surrogacy even without a genetic link. This is the case in the Canadian Province of British Columbia and in the Northwest Territories (see: Family Law Act [SBC 2011], C 25, §§ 20, 29; Children’s Law Act, S.N.W.T. 1997 §8.1(3)), in the State of California in the United States (see, e.g., Cal. Fam. Code §7960; and in further detail in the updating notice of the Petitioners), and in the States of Tasmania and Victoria in Australia (see: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 No. 76 of 2008, §§ 3, 39-45 (Victoria); Surrogacy Act 2012 (No. 34 of 2012), §3 (Tasmania)).

27.       The consistent requirement of Israeli law and of most Western states for the existence of a genetic link between the prospective parents and the child in the surrogacy process has its logic. It is true that there are other significant connections between parents and children – emotional and psychological connections that build up over time. However, I believe that for the purpose of approving the surrogacy process, there is a relevant difference between the existence of those connections alone, which are present in every connection between parents and children, and the existence of a genetic link in addition to those connections. This is due, inter alia, to the special nature and the complexity of surrogacy for all those involved in it, and to the potential it harbors for causing harm unless it is properly regulated (see and cf: para. 42 below; AB case, paras. 177-85, 283-87, 293-94; on concern for “commercialization” of the production of children as a result of under-regulation of the surrogacy process, see: Elizabeth S. Anderson, Is Women's Labor a Commodity? 19 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 71, 75-80 (1990); Richard J. Arneson, Commodification and Commercial Surrogacy, 21 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 132, 150-51 (1992)). Now, the absence of a genetic link does not, per se, prevent recourse to assisted medical reproductive techniques that are not surrogacy. Even in the absence of such a link, a particular woman may seek the assistance of some reproductive technique, as long as she is able to have another, additional link to the child – for example, a physiological link (being pregnant with the child) or a link to a link (when there is a genetic link to the spouse who is the prospective parent). However, as I shall explain below, in the absence of the possibility of an additional link to the child in the surrogacy process, the importance of the genetic link rises to the point of exclusivity.

28.       Moreover, surrogacy is a sensitive process that brings together new medical techniques and the ancient societal need for survival – whose importance cannot be exaggerated – by the birth of children. This meeting requires extreme caution. Although surrogacy is becoming ever more common with the passage of time, it still raises various moral, ethical, religious and legal difficulties. However, these difficulties are somewhat tempered by the combination of this new reproductive technique with the recognized, central element of reproduction, i.e., the genetic link. What are the implications of this? Given the importance of reproduction for the existence and continuation of society, given the novel nature of the process of surrogacy and its possible effects on traditional reproduction, and given that the element of the genetic link is an established social element at the very heart of society, I believe that a distinction on the basis of a genetic link is relevant in the regulation of an assisted reproductive technique such as surrogacy. I would emphasize that this is not an expression of a position on the relationship between reproductive techniques and social conceptions in general – especially in regard to harm to groups that have been viewed as “suspect” – which requires a more careful study. What I have said is confined to the question of the relevance, solely in the context of surrogacy, of the distinction between prospective parents who have a genetic link to the child and prospective parents who are not able to establish such a link. Israeli law does not view those who are unable to establish a genetic link to the child on the basis of producing gametes as a “suspect group”,  and without laying down hard and fast rules, I am also not convinced that this is a case of “disability” as reflected in the anti-discrimination laws (see, and cf: AB case, paras. 298-302; Ben-Asher, The Curing Law 1912-1916; Seema Mohapatra, Assisted Reproduction Inequality and Marriage Equality, 92 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 87, 91-93, 100-02 (2017)). It is therefore evident that when we are dealing with assisted medical reproductive techniques like surrogacy, a distinction on the basis of the existence of a genetic link constitutes, as stated, a relevant distinction.

29.       It emerges from the above that both Israeli law and most Western states that permit surrogacy regard the genetic link between prospective parents and the child as an essential condition for this process – despite the harm it entails to those people whose personal circumstances prevent them from providing the reproductive material that will allow for a genetic link. It seems to me that on the basis of this common conception and the values underlying it, the requirement of Israeli law for a genetic link in the surrogacy process is not discriminatory, but rather it is based on material, relevant reasons. Therefore, I find that it does not violate the constitutional right of the Petitioners to equality, and I will proceed to examine the alleged violation of the other right – the right to become a parent.

The Alleged Violation of the Right to Become a Parent

30.       The right to parenthood has been recognized in Israel as a constitutional right that derives from human dignity (see, e.g.: HCJ 11437/05 Kav LaOved v. Ministry of the Interior [27], paras. 29-32 and 38-40 per Justice A. Procaccia, para. 4 of my opinion, and para. 6 per Justice E. Rubinstein; HCJ 2245/06 Dobrin v. Israel Prisons Service [28], para. 12 per Justice A. Procaccia (hereinafter: Dobrin case); CFH 2401/95 Nahmani v. Nahmani [29], 675-78, 719, 785 (hereinafter: Nahmani case)). There are two separate aspects to the right to parenthood: one is the right to realize parenthood, on which I have elaborated on other occasions and which does not lie at the heart of this petition (see: Adalah case, paras. 1-14 of my opinion); the other is the right to become a parent (see: Anon. v. Anon. case, paras. 5-8 per Justice H. Melcer and the references there, paras. 11-13 per Justice I. Amit; HCJ 4077/12 A. v. Ministry of Health [30] para. 29 per Justice E. Rubinstein (hereinafter: A. v. Ministry of Health); Moshe case, paras. 6-7 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel; CFH 1892/11, paras. 4 and 6 of my opinion; LFA 377/05 A. & B. v. Biological Parents [31], paras. 7-9 per Justice A. Procaccia (hereinafter: Biological Parents case)). The right to become a parent realizes the right to family life, the right of autonomy of the individual, and the right to privacy (see: Moshe case, para. 26 per Justice E. Hayut; Biological Parents case, para. 7 per Justice A. Procaccia; A. v. Ministry of Health case, para. 32 per Justice E. Rubinstein, and para. 6 per Justice D. Barak-Erez; Nahmani case, para. 7 per Justice D. Dorner, para. 2 per President A. Barak; and see also: Aloni Commission, at 10-11; Daphne Barak-Erez, Symmetry and Neutrality: Reflections on the Nahmani Case, 20 Tel Aviv U. L. Rev. 197, 199-200 (1996) (Heb.)). Recently, a position has been expressed whereby the right to become a parent also stems from the right to liberty, as stated in sec. 5 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (A.. v. B.. case, paras. 5-8 per Justice H. Melcer and the references there, paras. 11-13 per Justice I. Amit).

31.       The Petitioners’ argue that the requirement for a genetic link as provided in the Agreements Law affects their possibility of bringing a child into the world with the help of medical reproductive techniques, and particularly, the technique of surrogacy. I believe that this argument is correct. In my view, the scope of the right to become a parent extends to all the various medical techniques that assist reproduction. As such, this right also includes the possibility of becoming a parent by means of surrogacy. This position emerges both from the rulings of this Court (see: New Family case, paras. 31-32 per Justice M. Cheshin; A. v. Ministry of Health case, para. 27 per Justice E. Rubinstein, para. 6 per Justice D. Barak-Erez; Moshe case, para. 28 per Justice E. Hayut, paras. 6-7 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel; Dobrin case, para. 15 per Justice A. Procaccia; and see reservations as to this decision in the Anon. case, para. 23 per Justice N. Hendel, and the references there); as well as from comparative law (see: European Court of Human Rights: S.H. v. Austria, App. No. 57813/00, §§ 81-82, ECHR 2011(hereinafter: S.H. case); Dickson v. United Kingdom, App. No. 44362/04 §§ 65-66, ECHR 2007; in the Constitutional Court of South Africa: AB case, paras 94, 110, 118, 121; in the Greek Constitution: European Parliament – Directorate General for Internal Policies, A Comparative Study on the Regime of Surrogacy in EU Member States, 277-78 (2013), and esp. note 513; and a combination of arts. 12(1) and 15(1)(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (signed Dec. 16, 1966, ratified Oct. 3, 1991), and on this matter see S.H. case, para. 9 of the minority opinion); also from academic research on the subject (see: Aharon Barak, Human Dignity: The Constitutional Right and its Daughter Rights, vol. 2, 675-76 (2014) (Heb.); Aharon Barak, The Light at the End of the Tunnel and the LGBT Community in Israel, Vol. III, Selected Essays: Constitutional Inquiries 399, 402 (2017) (Heb.); Meir Shamgar, Issues on the Subject of Reproduction and Birth, 39 HaPraklit 21, 28 (1996) (Heb.); and from the approach of the public committees that examined matters of medical reproductive techniques (see: Aloni Committee, 13; Mor Yosef  Committee, 25).

32.       From all of the above it emerges that the Petitioners have a constitutional right to become parents with the assistance of medical reproductive techniques. This right is a relative one: it is limited by sub-constitutional arrangements, and particularly by the Agreements Law and the Ova Donation Law (see: Moshe case, para. 2 per President M. Naor, para. 12 of my opinion, and paras. 25-26 per Justice E. Hayut; and see: Anon. case, para. 3 per President M, Naor; and see other limitations on aspects of the right to become a parent: A. v. Ministry of Health case, para. 51 per Justice E. Rubinstein, para. 11 per Justice D. Barak-Erez; and see AB case, paras. 237, 314-15). Below I will discuss whether this violation complies with the criteria of the limitations clause.

Limitations Clause

33.       As we know, the limitations clause in sec. 8 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty comprises four conditions: the violation must be by law or by express authorization in a law; the law must befit the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; the law must be for a proper purpose; and finally, the violation of the right must be proportionate (see: Desta case, para. 24 per President M. Naor; Sabah case, paras. 66-70 of my opinion; HCJ 3752/10 Rubinstein v. Knesset [32] paras. 66-67 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel). I will now address the violations of the constitutional right of the Petitioners to become parents in light of these criteria.

34.       In the present matter, it is indisputable that the first condition is fulfilled, inasmuch as the violation of the protected right was effected by virtue of the Agreements Law. In my view, the Law complies with the second condition. The Agreements Law regulates and realizes both the right to become a parent with the assistance of medical reproductive techniques and protection of women who are pregnant in the framework of surrogacy (see, e.g., secs. 4(a)(2), 4(a)(3), (4(a)(4) of the Agreements Law) – and thus the Law promotes human rights. In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that this condition has not yet been sufficiently developed in the case law, it seems to me that the Agreements Law befits the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (see: HCJ 5304/15 Israel Medical Association v. Knesset [33], paras. 103-106 per Deputy President E. Rubinstein (hereinafter: Israel Medical Association case); HCJ 5239/11 Avneri v. Knesset [34], paras. 28-30 per Justice H. Melcer; Galon case, paras. 13-18, 27-31 per Justice (emer.) E.E. Levy, paras. 2, 8 of my opinion).

35.       The third condition examines whether the offending Law serves a proper purpose. I will first consider the purpose of the Agreements Law itself.  Justice M. Cheshin discussed the purpose of this Law in the New Family case, and ruled that its purpose was “to establish a comprehensive arrangement on the subject of surrogacy, and that there will be no surrogacy other than by virtue thereof […] to solve the problems of spouses, men and women, who are childless, and these problems alone (paras. 15, 18 of his opinion; and see the Moshe case, para. 44 per Justice E. Rubinstein). In my view, the purpose of the Agreements Law is broader than that determined by the late Deputy President M. Cheshin. My position is based on the subjective purpose of the Law, but mainly on its objective purpose. I shall explain.

36.       The subjective purpose of the Agreements Law may be inferred from two main sources. The first source is the language of the Law. Both the name of the Agreements Law and the broad areas regulated by the language of the Law – including approval of a surrogacy agreement (Chapter 2 of the Law), regulation of the status of the newborn, the surrogate mother and the prospective parents upon the birth of the child, which includes the link of the child to the prospective parents and severance of the link to the surrogate mother (secs.  4(a)(2), 4(a)(3), 4(a)(4) of the Law, and the criminal prohibition against surrogacy contrary to the provisions of the Law (sec. 19 of the Law) – attest to the legislative intention to permit surrogacy agreements, to regulate their conditions, to regulate the status of the child and its link to the prospective parents, and to assure the well-being of the surrogate mother. The second source is the legislative history. The explanatory notes to the Agreements Law reveal that “the proposed Law is intended to permit surrogacy agreements with certain limitations and in a controlled manner” (Explanatory Notes to the Agreements Bill, H.H. 259, 259) (hereinafter: Explanatory Notes to the Agreements Bill). Similarly, the Knesset members who voted on the Law in the second and third readings noted the regulatory purpose of the Law and its aspiration to realize constitutional rights. Thus, the Minister of Health, MK Dr. Ephraim Sneh, noted: “I, as initiator of this Law, insisted first of all that there be legislation, since there were those who wanted to allow some sort of free market in the State”. Thus, MK Yael Dayan, a member of the Labor and Welfare Committee of the Knesset, who worked on the Law, noted: “What is determinant with respect […] is the existence of a fundamental right, the right to be a parent […] in every case in which the right to motherhood is denied due to a physical handicap, due to the inability to become pregnant. This is a moral issue – a basic right of the first order” (minutes of meeting 430). What we see from the above is that the subjective purpose of the Law is to regulate surrogacy agreements in Israel, including the status of the prospective parents and their link to the newborn, and to realize the right to become a parent while preserving the dignity and the health of the surrogate. In addition, Justice M. Cheshin found that the intention of the legislature was also to restrict access to surrogacy so that only heterosexual couples would be eligible to avail themselves of this technique (see: New Family case, paras. 17-18 of his opinion).

37.       In order to determine the objective purpose of the Agreements Law, we will look at the interpretive presumptions. In the present matter, two of these presumptions are particularly relevant: the presumption that the law aspires to protect and realize human rights, and the presumption concerning legislative harmony. Regarding the first, the Agreements Law permits and regulates the realization of the right to become a parent with the assistance of medical reproductive techniques, and in particular, the technique of surrogacy. Similarly, the Agreements Law includes protection of the dignity and well-being of the surrogate mother – and in this way it realizes her constitutional rights in the framework of this process.

The second presumption concerning legislative harmony says that a piece of legislation should be interpreted in accordance with the legislative tapestry into which it is woven (LAA 4021/09 Tel Aviv Municipal Tax Administration v. Michel Marsiah Co. [35], para. 32 per Justice E. Rubinstein; LCA 8233/08 Kovashi v. Adv. Eyal Schwartz [36], para. 37 per Justice E. Arbel ; CA 3213/97 Nakar v. Local Planning and Development Council Herzliya [37], 633-34. In this context I noted in one of the cases:

It is a well-known principle of our legal system that when the Court seeks to interpret any statute, it must examine legal arrangements that are materially related to the subject under discussion (in pari materia). Giving the identical interpretation to subjects in related areas realizes the principle of normative harmony (HCJ 6728/06 “Ometz”— Citizens for Good Governance and Social and Legal Justice v. Prime Minister [38], para. 6 of my opinion).

This rule of interpretation tells us that different laws that pertain to the same matter or that have a similar or identical purpose (in pari materia) must be treated as one system of law with a comprehensive purpose, composed of different parts that complement each other: this is the legislative template. This legislative template has one main purpose, and every law that composes this template plays a different role in realizing the purpose of this template (see: HCJ 1756/10 Holon Municipality v. Minister of the Interior [39], para. 33 per Justice D. Barak-Erez (hereinafter: Holon Municipality case); CA 2449/08 Tuashi v. Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd. [40], paras. 22-26 of my opinion; HCJ 2671/98 Israel Women’s Network v. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs [41], para. 42 per Justice M. Cheshin; Aharon Barak, Interpretation in Law: Statutory Interpretation 341-45 (5753-1993) (hereinafter: Barak, Statutory Interpretation) (Heb.)). This Court has recognized several legislative templates: thus, for example, the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951, the Minimum Wage Law, 5747-1987, the Male and Female Workers Equal Pay Law, 5756-1996, the Employment of Workers by Manpower Contractors Law, 5756-1996, and the Foreign Workers Law, 5751-1991, all belong to one legislative template (see: Gluten case, paras. 11-12 of my opinion). It is similarly possible to identify a legislative template in the area of electronic media and radio broadcasts (see: HCJ 1030/99 MK Oron v. Speaker of the Knesset [42], paras. 16-22 per Justice T. Orr (hereinafter: Oron case); as well as in the area of environmental protection and prevention of pollution, see: CA 4239/15  Dor Alon Energy Israel 1998 Ltd. v. Tax Authority [43], paras. 17-19 per Justice N. Sohlberg; Holon Municipality case, paras. 30-31; HCJ 4128/02 Adam Teva veDin – Israel Union for Environmental Defense v. Prime Minister [44] paras. 14-15 per President A. Barak; and relating to road accident compensation, see: CA 420/83 Ashur v. Migdal Insurance Co. Ltd. [45], para. 22 per Justice A. Barak (27.5.1990); Aharon Barak, Interpretation of the Civil Codex “Israel Style”, Gad Tedeschi Memorial Volume – Essays in Civil Law 115, 147-48 (5756-1996) (Heb.)).

38.       Similarly, I believe that the various statutes that regulate assistance through medical reproductive techniques must be viewed as part of a legislative template. In the framework of this template one may mention the Ova Donation Law; the Agreements Law; the Public Health (In Vitro Fertilization) Regulations, 5747-1987 (hereinafter: IVF Regulations); and Public Health (Sperm Bank) Regulations, 5739-1979, Declaration of Control of Products and Services (Sperm Bank and Artificial Insemination), 5739-1979, and Circular of the Director General of the Ministry of Health, 2.1.14, “Rules Concerning the Administration of a Sperm Bank and Guidelines for Performing Artificial Insemination” (June 29, 1979) (hereinafter: Ministry of Health Rules). I base my position on several grounds: first, these laws share the common purpose of regulating the use of various medical reproductive techniques, they determine the relationship among these techniques, they permit certain techniques and prohibit others, and they include several guiding principles such as ensuring the well-being of women involved in the process and ensuring a link between the prospective parents and the child in these processes (see, e.g., in relation to the link: sec. 11 of the  IVF Regulations, which was struck down in HCJ 5087/94 Zabaro v. Minister of Health [46]; sec. 23 of the Ministry of Health Rules; secs. 10 and 12 of the Agreements Law; sec. 42(a) of the Ova Donation Law; and see also reference to the link in the various arrangements for recourse to assisted reproductive techniques in the recommendations of the public committees on which these laws were based – Aloni Commission, 22-23, 48; Mor Yosef Committee, 76-77). Second, from the fact that the provisions of these laws complement each other and refer to each other (see, e.g., reference to a “recognized department” under the IVF Regulations in sec. 2 of the Ova Donation Law and in sec. 1 of the Agreements Law; reference to the IVF Regulations in the Explanatory Notes to the Ova Donation Law, 292, and in the Explanatory Notes to the Agreements Bill, 259; and reference to the Agreements Law in secs. 4(b), 12(b) and 11 in the Ova Donation Law); and third, from their close material relationship (see: Blecher-Prigat & Zafran, 403-20; reference to the various arrangements as one whole in the report of the Mor Yosef Committee, 8-9; Dolgin and Shepherd, 328-34, at para. 19 above). We find, therefore, that a legislative template exists in regard to the regulation of assistance through medical reproductive techniques, and also that the Agreements Law is part of this legislative template. The primary purpose of this legislative template is to regulate assistance through medical reproductive techniques in order to realize the right to become a parent, while ensuring the health of those involved in the process, and regulating the link between the newborns and the parents. Adapting the purpose of the legislative template to the said Law shows that the objective purpose of the Agreements Law is to regulate the process of surrogacy in Israel in order to realize the right to become a parent, while preserving the dignity and the well-being of the surrogate mothers, and to regulate the status of the newborn and its link to the prospective parents. As we have said, this purpose also comports with the presumption concerning realization of human rights.

39.            Thus, the lion’s share of the subjective purpose is consistent with the objective purpose, but the other part – which is concerned with restricting availability exclusively to heterosexual couples – does not comport with the objective purpose. In examining the general purpose of the Law, I believe that the subjective purpose that comports with the objective purpose is to be preferred over one that contradicts it, for several reasons. First, in examining the general purpose of the Agreements Law on the basis of its two purposes, the effect of the time that has elapsed since the Law was enacted should be taken into account. As noted by Justice M. Cheshin in the Biological Parents case: “Everything flows. We never dip twice into the same river, and the law, as a system of norms that seeks to integrate into life and navigate the path of human beings, must consider time as a factor of prime importance. Time is the fourth dimension, both in our lives, and in the law” (para. 17; and see: CFH 2121/12 Anon. v. Dayan Urbach [47], para. 48 per President A. Grunis; CA 9183/09 Football Association Premier League Ltd. v. Anon. [48], para. 6 per Justice H. Melcer; New Family case, para. 53 per Justice M Cheshin; Barak, Statutory Interpretation, 242-44, 246-47, 264-71). In truth, we are not dealing with an archaic law, but with a law that was enacted in 1996. However, we may also not ignore the significant social changes that Israeli society has undergone since the nineties, including changes in the traditional family unit (see: Anon. v. Anon., para. 20 per Justice H. Melcer, para. 14 per Justice I. Amit; Pinhas Shifman, On the New Family: Opening Lines for Discussion, 28 Tel Aviv U. L. Rev. 643, 648-9, 667-70 (2005) (Heb.)) and changes in the approach of society to assisted reproductive techniques (see: recommendations of the Mor Yosef Committee to allow surrogacy for single women as well, and altruistic surrogacy for single men – Mor Yosef Committee, 15, 63; the changes in the Ministry of Health Rules over the years; Haim Abraham, Parenthood, Surrogacy and the State, 9 Hukim 171, 175-95 (2017) (Heb.)); Tali Marcus, It Takes (Only) Two to Tango? On the Possibility of Recognizing More than Two Parents for One Child, 44 Mishpatim 45, 416-19 (2014) (Heb.)). Secondly, given that we are concerned with statutory provisions that involve human rights, greater weight should be attributed to the objective purpose (see: HCJ 1892/14 Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of Public Security [49], para. 115 and the references there; AAA 4105/09 Haifa Municipality v. Sephardic Jewish Community Association, Haifa [50], para. 24 per Justice M. Naor (2.2.2012); Aharon Barak, Purposive Interpretation in Law 255, 421-27 (2003) (Heb.)). And third, in light of the interpretive principle that a non-discriminatory purpose should be preferred over a discriminatory purpose (see: HCJ 7245/10 Adalah –  Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights v. Ministry of Social Affairs [51], paras. 6-7 per Justice E. Hayut; HCJ 6698/95 Ka’adan v. Israel Land Administration [52], para. 13 per President A. Barak; HCJ 142/89 Laor Movement v. Speaker of the Knesset [53], para. 9 per Deputy President A. Barak). My approach is that the said societal changes, taken together with the rules for prioritizing the objective purpose when dealing with human rights, and preferring a non-discriminatory purpose, indicate that the objective purpose, which largely comports with the subjective purpose, should be preferred. Therefore, we should  hold that the condition allowing only heterosexual couples to enter into surrogacy agreements is not part of the purpose of the Law. Thus, the purpose of the Agreements Law is to regulate the surrogacy process in Israel, while ensuring the dignity and well-being of the surrogate mother and regulating the status of the prospective parents and their link to the child.

40.       Is this purpose a proper one? In my opinion, the answer to this question is affirmative. Indeed, the Agreements Law does somewhat violate the constitutional right to become a parent. However, the rule is that a law that violates a constitutional right may serve a proper purpose if that purpose “is intended to realize social purposes that are consistent with the values of the state as a whole, and that display sensitivity to the place of human rights in the overall social system” (Adalah case, para. 62 per President A. Barak; Israel Medical Association case, para. 107 per Deputy President E. Rubinstein Quality Government case, paras. 52-53 per President A. Barak; HCJ 2605/05 Academic Center for Law and Business, Human Rights Division v. Minister of Finance [54], para. 45 per President D. Beinisch). My position is that the social goals that underpin the Agreements Law – regulation of recourse to surrogacy as a medical reproductive technique, preservation of the health of  those involved in the process, regulation of the status of the newborn children and their relationship to the prospective parents, and realization of the right to become parents – are important social goals that justify a certain violation of human rights. These goals make it possible to realize the right to become a parent, and they protect women from exploitation. In addition, they ensure that each child that comes into the world as a result of these assisted reproductive techniques will have a link to a particular parent, thus also preventing abuse of the said techniques (such as creating children for commercial purposes) and promoting the well-being of the children. Therefore, in my view, the Agreements Law reflects a proper purpose, and as such it complies with the third condition of the limitations clause (see: HCJ 566/11 Mamet Megged v. Minister of the Interior [55], para. 17 of my opinion (hereinafter: Mamet Megged case)). Having found that the Agreements Law meets the first three conditions of the limitations clause, I will now focus the discussion on the condition of proportionality, with its three sub-criteria.

41.       First, the rational connection criterion. Does the requirement for a genetic link bear a rational connection to the purpose that the Law seeks to realize? I believe that the answer to this is yes. As will be recalled, the purpose of the Agreements Law is to regulate the process of surrogacy in Israel, while ensuring the dignity and well-being of the surrogate mother and regulating the status of the prospective parents and their link to the child. The Law’s requirement of a genetic link is rationally connected both to the regulatory purpose of the Law, and to the realization of the link between the prospective parent and the prospective child.

With respect to the regulatory purpose, the legislature saw fit to restrict access to surrogacy to a person who is capable of having a genetic link to the child. As noted above, this exclusivity of access says that only a person who is able to supply his or her own genetic material in order to create the embryo that is implanted in the surrogate can enter into a surrogacy agreement. This, therefore, is a regulatory constraint adopted by the Law that is connected to the regulatory purpose of the Law in that it permits entering into an agreement only on the said condition. As explained above, this condition is relevant to approval of the surrogacy process, and it therefore also complies with the case-law criteria with respect to a link that is not “arbitrary, unreasonable or unfair” (see: Quality Government case, para. 58 per President A. Barak; HCJ 4769/95 Menahem v. Minister of Transport [56], para. 23 per Justice D. Beinisch). Moreover, a clear line can also be drawn between this requirement and the legislative purpose relating to the existence of a link between the parents and the child, for as we have said, the mechanism set by the Agreements Law for the purpose of a link between the prospective parents and the child is based on the genetic link between them (see above, para. 27; AB case, paras. 283-87, 293-94). As such, I find that the requirement for a genetic link has a rational connection with the realization of the purpose of the Law.

42.       Second is the criterion of the least harmful means. The question here is whether there exists a means that similarly serves the purpose of the law, but which entails a lesser violation of the constitutional rights. In my view, the existing arrangement meets this sub-criterion as well. In examining the requirement for a genetic link as provided in sec. 2(4) of the Law, of particular relevance is the legislative purpose with respect to ensuring the existence of a link between the prospective parents and the child. The means chosen to realize this purpose is the requirement that the newborn be genetically related to one of the prospective parents. Therefore, at this stage we must ask whether a means exists that realizes the purpose of ensuring the connection between the parents and the child to the same degree, but at the same time is less harmful to the right to become a parent (see: Nir case, paras. 47-49 of my opinion; Aharon Barak, Proportionality in Law 395, 411 (2010) (Heb.)). In my opinion, the answer is negative. I will explain.

One could, indeed, argue that the purpose of ensuring the link between the prospective parents and the child could be realized through their emotional connection at the stages of initiation, approval and implementation of the surrogacy process, without any genetic connection (see the dissenting opinion in the AB case, paras. 177-85). It is true that the emotional parental link cannot simply be dismissed, and we need not address the nature of this link in the present framework (see, inter alia, recognition of this approach in this Court: Anon. case, para. 3 per Justice D. Barak-Erez, para. 2 per Justice H. Melcer; A. v. Minister of Health case, para. 29, 43-45 per Justice E. Rubinstein; Mamet Megged case, para. 14 of my opinion; LAA 5082/05 Attorney General v. Anon., paras. 22, 36 per President A. Barak; in the Supreme Court of the United States: Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 259-264 (1983); Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 87-89 (2000); and in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights: Paradiso & Campenelli v. Italy (app. No. 25358/12), §§ 140, 148-149; and see: Dolgin & Shepherd, at 329-31)). It is clear to me that the Law assumed that every prospective parent would establish the said emotional and psychological connection with the prospective child – a link that has existed between parents and children from time immemorial. However, in order to allow a person to bring a child into the world with the assistance of medical reproductive techniques, it was determined that an additional link is required beyond that emotional connection that exists in any case. Thus, for example, in the artificial insemination process, a genetic and physiological link with the prospective mother is required; and similarly, in the process of IVF a physiological – or absent that, a genetic – link is required. We see, therefore, that the condition of the existence of an additional link between prospective parents and a child born with the assistance of medical reproductive techniques is not met without some additional connection between at least one of the prospective parents and the child, besides the emotional connection.

What additional link is required in the surrogacy process? In view of the fact that the surrogacy process by its nature severs the connection between the surrogate mother and the child, the existence of a physiological link is not a relevant alternative here. Hence, the only means that serves the purpose of legislation requiring a link between the parents and the child is that of a genetic link between the prospective parents and the child as a condition for approving a surrogacy agreement. As such, I find that there is no means that realizes the purpose to the same extent and causes a lesser violation of the constitutional right under discussion. Therefore, the Law is in compliance with the second sub-condition.

43.       Third is the criterion of proportionality stricto sensu. In the framework of this sub-criterion, we must decide whether the benefit derived from adding the requirement for a genetic link for the approval of the surrogacy process is greater than the damage caused by this requirement as a result of the violation of the constitutional right of Petitioners 5-6 to become parents. My view is that the benefit outweighs the harm, and that the Agreements Law also complies with this condition. I will explain.

Let us begin with the benefit of the requirement for a genetic link. Above I discussed the great importance attributed in Israel and in the Western world to the genetic link in general, and in the surrogacy process in particular. I also explained that this regulatory element is consistent with the ethical decision of the Israeli legislature, and with that of other legislatures, in regard to the great importance of the genetic link to parents in the surrogacy process. I also explained that the legislature sought to confine surrogacy to circumstances in which an additional link to the emotional link engendered by the parental connection would be forged in the framework of the broad regulation of assisted reproductive techniques, in which some kind of link in addition to the emotional link is required. Similarly, I pointed out that this link helps in addressing some of the potential problems raised by assisted reproductive techniques such as surrogacy, and it constitutes a fulcrum for assistance through such techniques (see above, para. 27). In this case, the requirement for a genetic link reflects benefits that are in keeping with the purpose of the Agreements Law – ensuring the connection between the newborn and the prospective parents, and helping regulate the use of surrogacy on the basis of relevant distinctions. These benefits cannot be brushed aside, and the proof is that most states in the Western world that permit surrogacy have adopted similar models requiring a genetic link between the child and the prospective parent.

I will now discuss the harm caused by the demand for a genetic link. This requirement undeniably entails a result that is harmful to the right of Petitioners 5-6, and of other men and women like them that fate has not been kind enough to allow to become parents. However, this harm is not at the core of the right to become a parent, and it does not affect the existence of this right. Rather, it affects its mode of realization (see: Moshe case, para. 2 per President M. Naor, para. 12 of my opinion, and para. 26 per Justice E. Hayut). This is because Israeli law does not negate the right of the Petitioners to become parents in general, but rather, prevents their access to a particular, special track because they do not comply with the criteria required for this track. Blocking the track leaves open a wide range of ways for realizing their yearning for parenthood, for example, by means of adoption, by means of joint or shared parenting agreements, or by any other legal means. True, these possibilities are not a precise alternative to realizing of the right to become a parent by way of the process of surrogacy, but their existence means that the right is limited only in its means of realization, and it is far from being totally nullified. Hence, the harm to the right to become a parent in our case is not great. Moreover, I find that there is substance in the Respondents’ contention that removal of the requirement for a genetic link in the surrogacy process will lead to a great similarity between that process and the process of adoption. As explained by Justice N. Hendel in the Anon. case, Israeli law today recognizes parenthood on the basis of four alternative, complementary foundations – genetic link, physiological link, adoption, and a link to a link (para. 7 of his opinion). In its present format, the process of surrogacy rests on the first foundation, in view of the requirement for a genetic link. As stated, this classification therefore shows us that the genetic link constitutes a significant means of distinction between surrogacy and adoption. Unfortunately, since parenthood through a genetic link is not possible for Petitioners 5-6, this means of distinction does not exist as far as they are concerned, and therefore the alternatives of adoption and surrogacy become more similar to one another. Therefore, the harm inflicted by the requirement for a genetic link is confined and limited: it relates to one out of a number of possibilities for realizing the right to become a parent, it also affects a very particular way of realizing the right to parenthood (surrogacy with no genetic link), which is not significantly different from another way of realizing the right to become a parent (adoption). This is even more so when the particular nature of the process of surrogacy and the many dilemmas to which it gives rise are considered.

I therefore find that the requirement for a genetic link in the surrogacy process is of considerable benefit, and the harm it causes is limited. My position regarding the overall balance is that this benefit outweighs the constitutional harm that it entails. Accordingly, I have reached the conclusion that the Agreements Law also meets the third sub-criterion of proportionality, and that the harm done to the right of Petitioners 5-6 to become parents is proportional.

Summation

44.       From the above it emerges that the requirement of the Agreements Law for a genetic link complies with the limitations clause, and therefore its constitutionality is not flawed. Although the circumstances of Petitioners 5-6 arouse empathy, on the basis of all that has been said above I do not find that there is room, in the framework of the present petition, to change the principles expressed in the Agreements Law with respect to the requirement for a genetic link. I will therefore recommend to my colleagues that we deny the petition in regard to those Petitioners.

Before Concluding

45.       In the framework of this petition, the Petitioners ask that we order that the portals to the surrogacy process be opened so that also those who wish to establish a non-heterosexual family framework will be able to pass through them with pride. As stated, in view of the fact that the legislature addresses this issue in the Bill that passed its first reading last month, we have decided to allow it time and not to decide the matter at present. However, I wish to devote a few words to the existing legislative situation, and to shed some light on issues that apparently arouse more than a little discomfort.

46.       I find it hard to come to terms with a situation in which single people and single-sex couples are prevented from realizing their right to become parents by entering into surrogacy agreements when their heterosexual brothers and sisters enjoy this right. A legal arrangement that grants a right with constitutional status to one group and excludes another group because of its identity, preferences, orientations or ways of life, is an arrangement that appears  discriminatory and is hard to accept. For myself, I see no justification for preferring heterosexual parenthood over single-sex parenthood in general, and particularly insofar as the right to become a parent – in terms of all the techniques for its realization – is concerned (cf.: Mamet Megged case, paras. 5 and 10 of my opinion; Moshe case, para. 8 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel).

This unfounded preferential treatment turns its back on the value of human dignity that appears in the Basic Laws of the State of Israel, and the principle of equality that is derived from it. Even though equality is not specifically mentioned in the Basic Laws, the principle of equality has long been recognized as part of “the soul of our entire constitutional regime” (HCJ 98/69 Bergman v. Minister of Finance [57], 698). It was accorded the status of a supra-statutory constitutional right deriving from Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (see, e.g., Association of Banks case, para. 3 of my opinion; Sabah case, para. 13 of my opinion; Quality Government case, paras. 36-43 per President A. Barak), and it is a common thread running throughout the foundational documents of our State. It was Theodor Herzl who wrote in Altneuland: “Let me tell you, then, that my associates and I make no distinctions between one man and another. We do not ask to what race or religion a man belongs. If he is a man, that is enough for us.” This principle also appears in the writings of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who stated that “human rights and citizens’ rights are the property of the person and the citizen, qua person and citizen. This is a first principle.  There is no room for negotiating or for reckoning who is entitled to rights and who is not” (Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Untitled Notes, Plitonim 23, 29 (5714-1954) (Heb.)), and it is captured in the words of the Declaration of Independence, namely, that the State of Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants …”.

47.       The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is one of the basic elements of the principle of equality, and Israeli law has managed over the years to weave it into the web of legislation and case law (for a review see: AAA 343/09 Jerusalem Open House for Pride v. Jerusalem Municipality [58], para. 54 per Justice I. Amit). However, our legal system has unfortunately been left trailing behind in many aspects that are at the heart of the lives of LGBT citizens, and particularly recognition and equal rights for gay partnerships and families (see: Yotam Zeira & Barak Medina, The Right to Equality and Sexual Orientation, LGBTQ Rights in Israel: Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation and the Law, 159, 176-88 (Einav Morgenstern, Yaniv Loshinski and Alon Harel eds., 2016) (Heb.)). This legal situation comprises a severe violation of human dignity, for it places a group of citizens with equal obligations and rights in an inferior position to that of the rest of Israeli society with no material justification. This violation, and the value of a legal system that is prepared to entertain change, was discussed by US Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who stated in the context of a case related to our matter:

There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices […] If rights were defined by who exercised them in the past, then received practices could serve as their own continued justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied […] It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015) (emphasis added – S.J.).

In the context of the subject of this petition, I had the opportunity of saying the following in the Mamet Megged case (albeit in a dissenting opinion with regard to the result):

As long as the interpretation of the Committee for the Approval of Embryo Carrying of the Embryo Carrying Agreements Law remains in force, and the Law itself has not been changed by the legislature or found unconstitutional by the Court, same-sex couples find themselves in a categorically inferior position. Unlike heterosexual couples, same-sex couples can resort to surrogacy arrangements only outside of Israel […] The policy of the Respondent in all that regards parenthood discriminates against same-sex couples, and this, alongside totally preventing same-sex couples from turning to the track of surrogacy in Israel. This general policy […] is discriminatory. This policy seeks to establish the heterosexual couple as “natural” […] This discriminatory policy, alongside the deep violation of human dignity and equality, also harms the constitutional right of every person to family life (paras. 5 and 10 of my opinion).

48. It bears saying that over and above the moral flaw involved, the distinction between heterosexual and homosexual parenthood lacks any basis in academic research that has studied the welfare of the newborn. See, for example, Triger and Mass’s article, which addressed  the various arguments raised against same-sex parenthood systematically and in depth, and shows, through broad research from different areas, that they have no basis. Thus, for example, it was demonstrated that children who are raised in single-sex families do not have particular difficulties as opposed to children who grew up in families with a father and a mother – either from the point of view of the child’s development, or from the point of view of the partnership of the parents in raising the child, as well as from other aspects (see: Triger and Mass, 448-53). Other studies have looked into and dismissed various claims concerning the apparently negative ramifications of single-sex arrangements in the surrogacy process. These studies indicate that there are good connections with the surrogate mother in the course of the pregnancy and thereafter, and they also determine that it is not possible to identify any difference between the situation of children who were born to heterosexual families and that of children born to single-sex families through assisted reproductive techniques (see: Lucy Blake, et al., Gay Father Surrogacy Families: Relationships with Surrogates and Egg Donors and Parental Disclosure of Children's Origins, 16 Fertility & Sterility 1503 (2016); The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Access to Fertility Treatment by Gays, Lesbians, and Unmarried Persons: A Committee Opinion, 100 Fertility & Sterility 1524, 1526 (2013); and see Moshe case, para. 23 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel and the references there.

49.       Moreover, I am also struggling to find a relevant reason for the distinction between single women and single men in relation to realizing the right to become a parent (see and cf. HCJ 2078/96 Vitz v. Minister of Health [59]; New Family case, para. 26 per Justice M. Cheshin; Moshe case, para. 21 per Justice (emer.) E. Arbel, para. 17 per Justice E Hayut; and in the U.K.: Z (A Child) (No 2) [2016] EWHC 1191 (Fam) (20 May 2016)). It is clear that the principle of equality also extends to the difference in gender between women and men, and it seems to me, without setting the matter in stone, that limiting access to assisted reproductive techniques for one gender and not for another raises questions. Thus, for example, a distinction between men and women with respect to the realization of the right to become parents is liable, prima facie, to broadcast, even unwittingly, an approach whereby single-parent family units headed by a woman are preferable, and therefore a higher normative value is to be accorded to a single female’s yearning for parenthood than to that of a single man; it is liable to hint at a basic assumption whereby this family structure is more proper and desirable; and it may echo archaic social approaches whereby the role of a woman as a parent is more central than that of a man as a parent (cfSessions v. Morales-Santana, 198 L. Ed. 2d 150 (2017); Ben-Asher, The Curing Law, 1913-15; Jean Strout, Dads and Dicta: The Values of Acknowledging Fathers’ Interests, 21 Cardozo J. L. & Gender 135, 148-149 (2015)) – and in this it may possibly reflect a discriminatory basic assumption (cf. LAA 919/15 A. v. B..  [60] paras. 103, 105, 107 per Justice U. Vogelman; my opinion in LCA 8821/09 Prozansky v. Layla Tov Production Co. Ltd. [61]).

50. We see, therefore, that the current surrogacy arrangement gives rise to considerable fundamental difficulties. With the caution required at this interim stage, I dwelt above on the substantial harm to single-sex couples and to single men, and on the shaky social-ethical basis on which the distinctions in the Law stand. In view of our decision to postpone our ruling on the petition in order to allow for completion of the legislative process, this is neither the place nor the time to deliberate on the merits of the arguments presented by the Respondents in their response to the petition. However since we cannot suffice by leaving the matter without comment, I will note – without making any firm determination – that although I listened attentively to the Respondent’s arguments and considered them carefully, I was left with an uncomfortable feeling as to the compatibility of this arrangement with the values of the Basic Laws and their provisions. Those who are involved in this very weighty matter must consider this.

Conclusion

51.       In this decision, we are postponing determining the very important issues that I addressed above. We do so out of respect for the legislature and for the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature. This relationship is a complex one, based on dialogue between the Court and the legislature. This dialogue turns on the basic principles and the laws of the State of Israel. In that framework, the two branches aspire to advance the goals of the State and address the challenges that face  it in an optimal manner, while preserving the basic rights of every person by virtue of the Basic Laws. At the end of this dialogue, the expectation is that a legal result will be achieved that is in keeping with the fundamental principles of the State and that protects individual freedoms. At present, it is the turn of the legislative branch to have its say. Presumably it will fulfill its constitutional obligations and act to realize constitutional rights (see, at length: Aharon Barak, The Constitutional Right to Protection of Life, Body and Dignity, 17 Law and Government 9, 16-19, 29-27, 31-35 (5776-2016) (Heb.)). As always, this Court will listen very carefully to what the legislative branch has to say. And as always, its doors will be open and its ear bent to any person who claims that his constitutional right has been violated. This is so in regard to the further handling of the present petition, as well as to future petitions.

 

President M. Naor

1.         I concur in the opinion and decision of my colleague Deputy President S. Joubran, and will add just a few of my own comments.

2.         In the course of the deliberations on the petition before us, the State announced that the Ministry of Health wishes to advance an amendment to the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) Law, 5756-1996 (hereinafter: Agreements Law), which will also enable single women to enter into surrogacy agreements. Several days ago, the State updated us on the progress of the legislative process and noted that the bill to amend the Agreements Law (Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreement and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5777-2017 (hereinafter: the Bill) was due for a vote on the first reading that same day (July 17, 2017). Indeed, the Bill passed its first reading that day, and was sent for further discussion to the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee of the Knesset for the purpose of preparation for its second and third readings . Under the circumstances, passage of the Bill in its first reading and it being sent for preparation for its second and third readings created a new situation. At the time, we did indeed express our displeasure at the way in which the Respondents conducted themselves in this process, which expressed itself in submitting a memo of the Bill at the last minute, on the eve of the oral hearing. Now, however, this has indeed come to pass. Accordingly, we have decided as stated by Deputy President Joubran, not to decide at the present time on the issue at hand (other than in relation to the constitutionality of the requirement for a genetic link). This means that we who have or will soon have completed our tenure on the Court – my colleague Deputy President (emer.) Rubinstein, Deputy President Joubran and myself – will not be party to the final judgment, insofar as one may be necessary after the exhaustion of the legislative process. We are a “house of judgment” and not a “house of judges.”

3.         As a rule, a court may address the legal questions before it even when a bill on that same subject is pending in the Knesset (see and cf.: FH 25/80 Katashvili v. State of Israel [62]; HJC 6665/12 A. Sig Ltd. v. Director General of the Ministry of Health [63], para. 27 per Justice M. Mazuz). At the same time, in light of the principle of mutual respect among the branches if government, in relevant cases it is appropriate to refrain from competing with the legislature, and to give the Knesset the opportunity to complete the legislative process within a reasonable time (cf.: HCJ 8893/16 Cabel v. Minister of Communication [64], in which we granted the State’s request for an extension of the period for submitting a response due to the progress of legislation that would have affected the petition there). It is appropriate to do so in the present case, particularly considering the complexity of the issues that have been raised in the petition and the advanced stage of the legislative process. I will not deny that the Respondents have refrained from estimating when the legislative process is expected to be completed, thus giving rise to concern that they will not make progress as required (and cf. other cases in which consideration of petitions was postponed for many months, and even years, until the completion of the legislative process: HCJ 5436/07 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. National Authority for Religious Services [65], ; HCJ 8300/02 Nasser v. Government of Israel [66], paras. 2-5 per President (emer.) D. Beinisch). Moreover, the Bill in its present formulation does not provide a response to the Petitioners, and on reading the responses of the Respondents one can cautiously surmise that the chance of this changing is not great. To this must be added the fact that when realization of the right to parenthood is at stake, prolongation of the proceedings is liable to lead to an irreversible situation. Finally, it must be borne in mind that the Agreements Law was enacted more than 20 years ago, and since then it has been deliberated in various legal proceedings, in some of which reservations were expressed regarding its scope. In recent years, there have even been attempts – unsuccessful – to amend it. For this reason, and in view of the additional considerations mentioned above, I believe it right to rule, as proposed by Deputy President Joubran, that the Respondents must submit notice of the progress of the legislation within six months.

4.         Notwithstanding the above, and considering the fact that this petition has been pending for several years and oral argument has been heard in this Court, I would like to address briefly the definition of “prospective parents” in sec. 1 of the Agreements Law. What I will say is in the category of musings alone, and cannot limit the discretion of the justices who will replace us in these proceedings, if it should be necessary. What I am about to say is directed at the ears of the legislature as considerations that would seem to warrant attention.

5.         The Agreements Law was originally intended to provide a solution to a limited number of childless couples, while preserving the rights of all those involved in the process – first and foremost the surrogate mother (see: Report of the Mor Yosef Committee, at 53-54); New Family case [9], 434-35, 442-43; HCJ 625/10 A. v. Committee for the Approval of Embryo Carrying [67], para. 8 per Deputy President E. Rivlin). This being the case, the application of the Law was confined to prospective parents who are “a man and a woman who are a couple, who can never bring children into the world due to a physiological condition that prevents the woman from carrying a child or when pregnancy poses a risk to her life.” Several constitutional petitions have been submitted against the Law in the past – now is not the place to go into details – which in turn led to the establishment of various public committees. The latest committee to deal with this subject, including the question of expanding the circle of those eligible for surrogacy, was the Mor Yosef Committee. The Report of the Committee (submitted in May 2012) stated that “the Committee has been convinced of the strong desire of same-sex couples to bring children into the world and has heard that they regard surrogacy as having great potential … [that] constitutes a good solution … in light of the fact that it preserves the genetic link to one of the partners …” (at 57). Accordingly, the Committee assumed that in the absence of other significant interests, single men and women should not be prevented from bringing children into the world by way of surrogacy. However, the Committee also specified several opposing considerations: first, the concern was expressed that surrogacy would change from a specific solution for particularly difficult medical cases into an accepted way of bringing children into the world, and as a result it would be difficult to safeguard the well-being of the surrogates. Second, the concern was expressed that opening up surrogacy to broad populations would come at the expense of women who are suffering from a medical problem. Finally, there was a concern that broadening the scope of those eligible for the procedure would turn surrogacy into a solution only for the rich. In view of these considerations, the Committee ultimately recommended distinguishing between women and men in the sense that men would be permitted to enter into surrogacy agreements on an altruistic basis alone.

6.         In the petition before us, the Respondents explained that, in their view, expanding the scope of those eligible for surrogacy requires legislation. At the same time, they argued, in light of the considerations mentioned in the Mor Yosef Report, there is apparently a relevant distinction between single men or male couples and between women who suffer from a medical problem. Accordingly, as stated above, the Bill that is being considered seeks to expand the circle of those entitled to surrogacy to single women only. In my opinion, there is substance to the approach that entering into surrogacy agreements should be permitted only in a controlled fashion, and to the argument that turning surrogacy into the “major route” for bringing children into the world is problematic. Surrogacy involves health and emotional risks to the surrogate, and in certain cases it is also liable to spill over into exploitation of women and their objectivization (see: Nuphar Lipkin and Etti Semama, From Worthy Act to an Off-the-Shelf Product: Creeping Normativization of Surrogacy in Israel, 15 Mishpat u-Mimshal 435, 442 (5773-2013) (Heb.) (hereinafter: Lipkin & Semama)). These risks, which are inherent in the surrogacy process, were raised before the Mor Yosef Committee and they figured in their recommendations. Indeed, one cannot ignore the physical, emotional and ethical difficulties that are liable to arise in the surrogacy process. Nevertheless, since entering into controlled, monitored surrogacy agreements has been permitted in Israel, I see no apparent justification for distinguishing between women with medical problems and single men or male couples in this matter. These two groups are not able to bring children into the world other than by artificial insemination and reproductive techniques. At the same time, we have not been shown factual data indicating that expanding the arrangement in the Law would necessarily lead to a significant increase in demand for surrogacy in Israel. Apart from gender, there is therefore no material difference between the groups. In all events – and this is the main point – both the Mor Yosef Committee and the Respondents themselves did not argue that such a difference exists (and see and cf. also: Mamet Megged case). The considerations of the Committee, like those of the Respondents, focused, as we have said, on the extent of the demand for surrogacy and the risks this entails. However, it seems right to solve these problems in an egalitarian manner. For example, it is possible (and maybe desirable) to tighten up the control and monitoring of the surrogacy process and to improve the terms of these agreements (see: Lipkin & Semama, at 490-97). Furthermore, it is possible to limit the number of times that a couple or an individual are permitted to enter into a surrogacy agreement, or to prohibit the surrogacy process in the case of a person who already has a child (see also: sec. 5(b) of the Bill). Similarly, the possibility exists of prohibiting commercial surrogacy, and to permit only altruistic surrogacy, as is the practice in some European states (but see: Report of the Mor Yosef Committee, in which it was recommended by majority opinion to permit commercial surrogacy in Israel, at 61-62; and cf. sec. 15 of the Organ Transplant Law, 5768-2008). In the final analysis, even though approval of surrogacy agreements is no simple matter, prima facie it would seem that there is no difference between women and single men or male couples that justifies discrimination. Let me again emphasize that I am not laying down the law on the present issues. These are only comments as I see things. In any case, the legislature, which must now address these issues, will have to think about them. Insofar as the legislative processes in the Knesset are not concluded within reasonable time, the subject will return for adjudication before this Court, which will deliberate and decide as it sees fit.

7.         With respect to the constitutionality of the requirement for a genetic link as a condition for entering into a surrogacy agreement, I accept the ruling of Deputy President Joubran that the requirement of the Law that there be a genetic link between one of the prospective parents and the child meets the criteria of the limitations clause. Bringing a child into the world without a genetic or physiological link to the prospective parent gives rise to complex social, ethical and moral questions, and providing an answer to these questions in a courtroom is liable to entail broad consequences that have not been elucidated in the present proceedings. Unlike surrogacy with a genetic link, which has been discussed from every perspective over the years, in the courts and by other institutional actors, discussion of the issue of reproduction without a genetic or physiological link has not yet been exhausted. This is even more evident in view of the position of the Mor Yosef Committee, which saw fit to recommend expanding the circle of those eligible for surrogacy as long as a genetic or physiological link exists with at least one of the prospective parents. I therefore accept the position that in relation to the issue of the genetic connection, the petition should be denied. It is important to clarify, however, that our decision on this subject does not, of course, prevent the legislature from considering it, like any other matter, in the framework of the ongoing legislative process. I will also mention, with the required caution, that one cannot rule out in advance a situation in which, as a result of particular changes that may occur in the future, the legislature will once again be called upon to address this issue. I do not make light of the plight of the Petitioners. Indeed, as I have said in the past, the very fact that there are different ways to become a parent does not necessarily mean that the state must allow the realization of them all (Moshe case, para. 2 of my opinion). At the same time, without laying down the law on issues that are pending in other proceedings (see, e.g., HCJ 3217/16 Israel Religious Action Center – The Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel v. Ministry of Welfare and Social Services [68], which deals with the scope of those entitled to adopt children), we should strive for alternative solutions that will enable the Petitioners to realize their right to parenthood.

8.         To summarize: I concur in the opinion of my colleague Deputy President Joubran, whereby the petition concerning the requirement for a genetic link must be denied. As for expanding the circle of those eligible for surrogacy to include single males and male couples, at the present stage this issue should remain without a final decision due to the ongoing legislative processes and taking into account the principle of mutual respect between the branches of government.

 

Deputy President (emer.) E. Rubinstein

1.         I concur in the outcome reached by Deputy President Joubran. The issues that arise for deliberation in this case add to the human, social and legal complexity that has been created in the present era, in which technological developments in the medical field on the one hand, and social developments in the area of family on the other, have engendered situations that our forefathers could not have imagined. In HCJ 407712 A. v. Ministry of Health [30], I had the opportunity, in a different context, to say the following (para. 2):

The "genetic era" and the increasing use in recent decades of artificial reproductive techniques have brought a real blessing to many who would have remained childless "in the old world". Reality has changed immeasurably, and technology presently enables many of those whose path to parenthood was previously blocked, to bring children into the world and have a family. This is one of the dramatic developments, which creates a new social and legal reality, and gives rise to complex, sensitive human questions. The legal world has not yet had the time to properly address these issues, and it falters behind them…

This “faltering along” continues to this day, and therefore issues arise such as the one before us. There are no bounds to a person’s desire for a child. My colleague Justice Barak-Erez, at the beginning of her opinion in the above case, quoted from the poem “Barren” by the poet Rachel: “A son! If I only … had one little boy, Dark, sable-curled and so smart …”; and I would add from the end of the poem: “But I’ll still weep like Rachel the Mother. And I’ll still plead like Channah at Shiloh. I’ll await him. I’ll await…”. Whose heart would not identify with this prayer?

2.         The point is that these issues, which change the known reality, such as the situation of single women and men and same-sex couples, should in principle be addressed by the legislature, which sees the entire picture in all its aspects. My colleague (in para. 6) quoted from the Moshe case (para. 46), and I will repeat what he said in order to complete the picture:

In any event, the existence of current legislative proceedings to expand the existing circle of eligibility in the Surrogacy Law naturally and sensibly calls for judicial restraint by this Court, so it will not trail behind the legislature (para. 17 of Justice Hayut’s judgment; HCJ 9682/10, Milu’off Agricultural Cooperative Association Ltd. v. The Minister of Agriculture – Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (2011)). Of course, were there ultimately not to be legislative processes, constitutional judicial intervention must not be ruled out of the realm of possibility. I do agree with my colleague Justice Arbel’s words in her judgment that “legislative arrangements must be interpreted to fit with the principle of equality which demands the equal treatment of same sex couples” (para. 10.) However, the appropriate port of call for such changes is, first and foremost, the legislature, and the existence of advanced legislative processes warrants such judicial restraint.

These words appear to me to be in keeping with what my colleague has now proposed, that is, postponement of the decision at a time in which the legislature is acting as reported. I support his proposal, and the constitutional arguments will be reserved for the petition when it comes.

3.         I also concur in the determination as to the importance of the genetic link, for it seems to me that anyone reading the judgment in the Moshe case cannot fail to form the impression that its basic assumption is genetic parenthood for the purpose of the Agreements Law, alongside severance between the surrogate mother and the prospective parents. It is true that the “genetic model,” which was the focus of legislation in the past, has been weakened to a certain degree (see in detail the above A. v. Ministry of Health. case, para. 44), but the genetic link still carries great weight (para. 45).

4.         I will conclude with the comment that regarding all the subjects raised by my colleague at the end of his written opinion, there is room for gradual progression in order to arrive at appropriate, correct results from the overall social aspect as well. This Court should, in my opinion, address these issues while observing the progress of the legislation, without slamming the door on judicial intervention. I will only mention that, on the one hand, the Mor Yosef Committee recommended expanding the circle of those eligible for surrogacy to single women, while on the other hand, it recommended the establishment of altruistic surrogacy for single men. However, the memorandum of the Law that was submitted at the time – which differs from the present one with the change of Government – expanded the circle of those eligible for commercial surrogacy to include single men as well (see my opinion in the Moshe case, para. 45). The reason given by the Committee – that expanding the circle may numerically limit the possibilities available for single women – bothered me, even upon carefully reading what my colleague Deputy President Joubran and my colleague the President wrote, and their thoughts regarding a solution. As for myself, I think that, in general, a committee is established in order that its conclusions be adopted, unless it has clearly deviated from what is reasonable. But of course, the legislature is permitted to think differently and act differently. On the other hand, there is the question of equality, which is no small thing: we are all created imago dei, nor does time stand still, socially and personally.

5.         This judgment, in its various opinions, comprises recommendations – even if cautious – to the legislature. In order to “glide over the lips of sleepers” (Song of Songs 7:10), and to show the progress that has been made by Israeli law, I would like to cite a summary of a memo written by Supreme Court President Itzhak Olshan during his tenure (1954-1965 – the date of the memo is unknown), who is quoted by Professor Pnina Lahav in her article, The Pains and Gains of Writing the Biography of Chief Justice Simon Agranat, Harris, Kedar, Lahav & Lichovski (eds.), The History of Law in a Multi-Cultural Society (2002) 147, 157-158. I cite these words not due to agreement with their content, but as an historical comment. President Olshan wrote (I do not have the original Hebrew text) – and according to him the subject had already arisen in discussions with judges in the past – that it is not recommended to make recommendations in a written opinion (he does not explain exactly which recommendations he means, and it may not necessarily be only legislative recommendations), particularly not in criminal matters. He says that it puts the authorities in a difficult position, for if they do not accept the recommendation, they are liable to be seen as offending the Court. On the other hand, the authorities may have good reasons for not accepting the recommendation, but they will be seen as offensive. President Olshan says that he raised the subject because he had been approached on the matter. Prof. Lahav, the author, notes that the memo is of interest both because it refers to informal connections between the governmental branches, and because although President Olshan was very careful to preserve and fight for judicial independence, he also preserved the relationship with the executive branch and was prepared to deliver its requests to the judges. She points out that the proclivity of courts for writing recommendations is common; it is something that could be said to contradict the principle of separation of powers, but on the other hand it could be seen as a “safety valve” attesting to the discomfort of the Court in applying a particular law as against considerations of justice, and prohibiting it would dilute judicial opinion and prevent the Court from sounding a moral voice. According to the author, the justices did not comply with the “rebuke” of the President, but the very fact that the memo was issued is an indication of the leadership of President Olshan.

As I noted, I cited these words as an historical comment, although I disagree with the position expressed in the memo, and I would add that in my opinion, on the basis of long years of practice and common sense, it is absolutely inappropriate to withhold judicial recommendations that are generally based on long professional, institutional and personal experience, and on consideration of the distressing situations that the Court encounters. On the contrary, the fifty years that have elapsed since President Olshan retired have shown us that there was and is great value to judicial recommendations. Many of them have found their way into legislation and governmental actions, and have contributed to their improvement. Even if caution is wise in making recommendations on matters of principle that are controversial, lack of action on the part of the legislature sometimes compels the Court to have its say. In any case, in general, not only is there nothing wrong with making judicial recommendations, but they are a good thing, for the benefit of all. The dialogue between the branches is important – that is the nature of democracy. The ability to listen is invaluable, and it is of course multi-directional. The spirit of our generation in the context of judicial recommendations was aptly described by Justice Melcer in describing academic discourse (see: Desta case, paras. 6-7 of his opinion, and the references cited there).

6.         I will conclude with what I wrote in the Moshe case (para. 23):

It is quite possible that there is a social need, in light of the rapid developments in the area of relationships as experienced in our world, for eliminating the requirement for the recipient’s medical need as established in section 11 and this in light of the desire to expand the circle of those eligible for an egg donation – for example, in the Petitioners’ case or the case of single men or a male homosexual couples who need the donation as a result of an inherent biological deficit (Haim Avraham, On Parenthood, Surrogacy and the State between Them, forthcoming in 8 Hukkim (2015) (hereinafter: Avraham)), or to resolve the issue of bastards (Yossi Green, Is There Resolution for the Problem of Bastards through Medical Technologies in the Field of Reproduction?, 7 Moznei Mishpat 411 (2010)). This expansion lays first and foremost in the hands of the Legislature, which is charged with weighting the balances..

Subsequently, it was said that there is a need (in that context) for a “guide” in the form of statutory directives, which would not require any great legislative effort. This applies, mutatis mutandis, in the present case. The last word has not yet been said.

7.         This judgment is being handed down on the day of the retirement of my good friend, Deputy President Selim Joubran. I have merited to serve alongside him in friendship and with affection throughout the whole period of our tenure, since we were sworn in on the same day in 2004. Deputy President Joubran – a proud Israeli, a proud Christian Arab – has in the period of his tenure made a great contribution to Israeli law and Israeli society, both with his substantive jurisprudence in his learned opinions, and with his incomparably amiable personality as a colleague, a friend, and a public personality. The “golden mean” approach that he represented in the law, which is particularly close to my heart, has contributed greatly to the peaceful settlement of conflicts, as a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace. May my friend continue in the ways of peace, of health and of contentment.

 

Justice E. Hayut

1.         What is the appropriate scope of the circle of persons eligible for assistance through the surrogacy process in Israel?

This is an issue that the Petitioners have once again laid at the door of this Court in the present petition. The petition raises arguments against the constitutionality of the arrangement provided in the Agreements Law, most of which concern the violation of the right to parenthood and the right to equality of single-sex couples (Petitioners 1-4) and men and women who do not have partners (hereinafter: single men and women), including women who, due to the inability to become pregnant or to donate their own ovum to the reproductive process (Petitioners 5-6) will not have a genetic link to the child as required by sec. 2(4) of the Agreements Law.

2.         This Court first considered the matter of the appropriate scope of those eligible for assistance through the surrogacy process in the New Family case, but this was in one single derivative only – a single but fertile woman who was not able to become pregnant and give birth. The judgment determined by majority opinion that denial of the right of a single woman to be included within the definition of “prospective parents” in the Agreements Law, and confining the process of surrogacy under the Law exclusively to “a man and a woman who are a couple”, appeared to constitute a violation of the principle of equality and discriminated against women such as the petitioner without justification. At the same time, the Court denied the petition for the reason that it dealt with a “new and complex” issue that should be developed gradually, in small steps, through legislative processes and not by way of case law that intervenes in the legislation of the Knesset. In the New Family case, the Court therefore confined itself to a call to the legislature to the effect that –

… it think about the plight of single women such as the Petitioner; that it give serious consideration, weighing one against the other, the reasons for and reasons against the application of the Law to single women; and that it decide on the merits of the question one way or another. Indeed, the plight of single women is genuine, their plight is not less than that of couples, and those single women deserve to have the legislature think specifically about them and about the prohibitions it placed on their path to surrogacy (at 461) (for an analysis of the status of calls such as this on the part of the Court to the legislature, see: Liav Orgad and Shai Lavi, Judicial Directive: Empirical and Normative Assessment, 34 Tel Aviv L. Rev. 437 (2011) (Heb.)).

3.         More than 14 years have passed since judgment was rendered in the New Family case, but the definition of “prospective parents” in the Agreements Law has remained unchanged. As pointed out by my colleague Deputy President Joubran, some 8 years after the judgment in the New Family case, the Director General of the Ministry of Health appointed a public committee to examine the statutory regulation of the subject of fertility and reproduction in Israel, and this committee submitted a report in May 2012 (the Mor Yosef Report) in which it recommended, inter alia, to expand the circle of those eligible for assistance through surrogacy under the Agreements Law to include a single woman who has a medical condition preventing her from becoming pregnant, and a single man (with respect to whom it was recommended to permit only an altruistic surrogacy track). Also, in 2014, in the wake of the Mor Yosef Report, a governmental bill was formulated which expanded the circle of those eligible for surrogacy in Israel such that both single women and men would be able to employ the process for payment in Israel (Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreements and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5774-2014). However, this Bill was not moved forward, and when the rule of continuity was not applied to it, it lapsed.

4.         The present petition was submitted on Feb. 2, 2015. On July 17, 2017, after we – sitting as an expanded bench – had completed hearing the objections to the order nisi that had been issued, we were informed that the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreements and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5777-2017 (hereinafter: the Bill) had been published and introduced in the Knesset on July 5, 2017. Under this Bill, the circle of women eligible for surrogacy in Israel would be expanded to include single women who suffer from a medical problem that necessitates undergoing the process, on condition that the genetic link between the prospective mother and the newborn is preserved. We were also informed that the Bill had passed its first reading and was sent to the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee of the Knesset for preparation for its second and third reading.

5.         In view of the conduct of the legislature regarding this issue over the years, it may be assumed that our deliberations on the present petition served as a fairly significant accelerant in the present legislative process. At the same time, and even though the Bill currently under consideration is more limited than the 2014 version (it does not include single men), I agree with my colleague Deputy President Joubran and with my colleague President Naor that at this stage, we should not enter into a “race” with the legislature, which should be allowed to complete the legislative process before we decide on the present petition insofar as it concerns Petitioners 1-4, given the principle of mutual respect between the branches by which we should abide. I therefore concur in this context in the position of my colleagues that we postpone handing down a judgment on the petition (insofar as it concerns Petitioners 1-4) for a period of six months, in order to allow the Knesset to complete the legislative process that it has begun.

6.         As opposed to this, like my colleagues, I too am of the opinion that with respect to Petitioners 5-6, the petition should already be denied at this stage.

As will be recalled, Petitioners 5-6 (hereinafter: the Petitioners) are single women who, due to medical problems are not able to carry a pregnancy nor are they able to donate their own ova for the purpose of fertilization and implantation into the womb of a surrogate. As described in the petition, Petitioner 5 has no children, and after attempts to become pregnant from fertilized ova implanted in her womb were not successful, her doctors determined that she could not become pregnant. Petitioner 5 is in possession of several frozen fertilized eggs that were prepared in the framework of her earlier attempts to become pregnant, and after she was told that she would not be able to carry a pregnancy herself, she turned to Respondent 1 (hereinafter: the Committee for Approval of  Embryo Carrying or the Committee) with a request to allow her to embark on a process of surrogacy using these ova. The Committee for Approval of Embryo Carrying rejected Petitioner 5’s request outright, due to her personal status as a single woman and due to the provision of sec. 2(4) of the Agreements Law that makes the process of surrogacy conditional upon the existence of a genetic link between the prospective parents and the child. Petitioner 6 is also a single woman who, as the result of a medical issue, cannot carry a pregnancy, nor can she donate her own ova for the purpose of surrogacy. Petitioner 6 has one child who was born after she became pregnant through the donation of another woman’s ovum that was fertilized by a sperm donation. After she gave birth to her son, Petitioner 6 was told she would not be able to carry further pregnancies, and that several fertilized ova remained carrying the same genetic load as that of her son. Petitioner 6, too, approached the Committee asking to be allowed to embark upon the surrogacy process, in the framework of which those fertilized ova would be implanted in the womb of the surrogate mother. The Committee also rejected the request of Petitioner 6 for the same reasons as those grounding its rejection of the request of Petitioner 5. Alongside the arguments common to them and to the other Petitioners regarding the discriminatory definition of “prospective parents” in the Agreements Law, the Petitioners further argue that denying the possibility of surrogacy  to a person who has no possibility of having a genetic link to the child, as provided in sec. 2(4) of the Agreements Law, violates the right to parenthood and to equality, and that for them, this causes harm in addition to the harm caused to them by virtue of their being single women.

7.         This Court has not infrequently discussed the importance attributed by society to the human desire of many for progeny who will carry their genetic material and who will be related to them “by blood” (see: New Family case, 447; CA 488/77 A.. v. Attorney General [69], 441-42; and see further in this context: Yehezkel Margalit, The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of the Genetic Foundation for Legal Parentage Determination, 3  Medical Law and Bio-Ethics 125 (5770-2010) (Heb.)). Now, as I pointed out in one of the cases in another context:

The biological-genetic connection between parent and child is not the be-all and end-all. No less important (and sometimes even more important) “raw material” constituting and fashioning the relationships between parents and their children is the emotional link and the commitment to the well-being of the children and raising them. At the same time, and has already been mentioned, real and significant justification is required in order to deny a person the possibility of realizing the right to parenthood that includes a blood tie between himself and the child (Moshe case, para. 33 of my opinion); see also Yehezkel Margalit,  Determining Legal Parenthood by Agreement as a Possible Solution to the Challenges of the New Era, 6 Din u-Devarim 553 (2012) (Heb.); Yehezkel Margalit, Towards Determining Legal Parenthood by Agreement in Israel, 42 Mishpatim 835 (2012) (Heb.)).

It may also be said that the medical limitations due to which the Petitioners are unable to form a genetic link to the child, alongside their single status, places them in certain senses at the top of the ladder of those who encounter difficulty in realizing their right to parenthood. However, the question facing us is not whether realization of the right to parenthood must be allowed in the case of a person who cannot have a genetic relationship with a child, but whether that person should be allowed to realize this right by way of the process of surrogacy under the Agreements Law.

8.         In the New Family case, Justice M. Cheshin said as follows:

… people are not always ready and able to absorb and digest the achievements of science and technology. This is the general case. A fortiori in relation to the subject of surrogacy, in which the most sensitive and intimate aspects of a person are involved.

            Justice Cheshin further mentioned there that in view of the novelty and the complexity of the issue of surrogacy from various perspectives, it is appropriate that this process develop in a gradual, proportionate manner (at 459-60). Indeed, the issue of the scope of the circle of persons eligible to realize the right of parenthood by means of surrogacy is a complex one that involves medical, social and ethical considerations, the sensitivity of which cannot be overstated. This applies to the process of surrogacy in general, and all the more so where the prospective parent lacks a genetic link to the child. First, in the absence of a genetic link, we are not concerned with denying a person the possibility of realizing parenthood that includes a blood relationship between himself and the child. It can therefore be said that the prospective parent has no special interest in bringing a child into the world by way of surrogacy in particular. In effect, it can be said that absent a genetic or physiological link to the prospective parent, we are dealing with the production of children for the purpose of adoption (see: Anon. case, paras. 25-26 per Justice N. Hendel; and Mor Yosef Report, at 6 and 61 (note 28)). And insofar as the matter is one of a variation of adoption, the question naturally arises why the prospective parent, who has no particular interest in the process of surrogacy, should not be directed to the adoption track, with all its advantages from the point of view of benefitting children who already exist.

Similarly, in this context of surrogacy  with no genetic link, ethical questions that are not simple arise concerning, inter alia, the possibility of creating children who are in certain senses “children by order”, with all the ramifications from the point of view of the surrogate mothers who participate in the process; questions about “industrialization” of these processes; and concerns about a concept of property taking root with regard to children created in this framework (Lipkin and Semama, 441-43). As my colleague the President pointed out, it may not be right to rule out in advance the possibility of considering the process of non-genetically linked surrogacy in the future, and it may be that the experience that will continue to accumulate regarding surrogacy in Israel and the world  will warrant legislative reconsideration of the issue. However, like my colleagues, I too think that the petition does not show constitutional grounds for striking down the provision of sec. 2(4) requiring such a link. This is similar to the approach adopted in this context in most states that permit surrogacy, and respectively, to the approach adopted by the Israeli legislature in additional statutes that attribute importance to the genetic link in the context of parent-child relationships (see paras. 25-26 per Deputy President S. Joubran).

9.         In summary, I concur in the opinion and decision of my colleague Deputy President S. Joubran.

 

Justice H. Melcer

1.         I concur with the result reached by my colleague Deputy President S. Joubran. I choose not to express a detailed opinion with respect to his main reasoning, for in view of what appears in the decision part of my colleague’s opinion, I am likely to deal further with this petition, alongside my colleague Justice Hayut (and other justices who will join the panel).

Nevertheless, I will permit myself to make several comments regarding the right of Petitioners 5-6 (in relation to whom the petition is denied) to realize their aspiration for parenthood by way of surrogacy, specifically in the legal situation pertaining at present and the future, and concerning the link between legislative initiatives and the case law of this Court.

I will discuss these subjects in their order.

The right of Petitioners 5-6 to realize their aspiration for parenthood specifically by means of surrogacy

2.         Petitioners 5-6 wish to realize their aspiration for parenthood by means of surrogacy, without having a genetic link (their ova) or a physiological link (pregnancy) to the child.

In LFA 7141/15 A. v. B. [23], I explained the similarity and the difference between the right to parenthood (which is not necessarily biological) and the right to continuity (which is at base genetic). Both these rights are in my view constitutional rights, as I explained there.

In the present case, Petitioners 5-6 wish to obtain approval to enter into an agreement with a “surrogate mother”, but various provisions in the existing Agreements Law stand in their way, including the requirement for a biological link, as expressed in sec. 2(4) which provides as follows:

The implantation of a fertilized egg for the purpose of impregnation of a surrogate mother in order for the child who will be born to be given to prospective parents will not be performed unless all the following are fulfilled:

….

(4)                   The sperm used for the in vitro fertilization is that of the prospective father and the ovum is not that of the surrogate mother.

These provisions indeed violate the rights of Petitioners 5-6 to parenthood, but as my colleagues showed, it cannot be said that the requirement for a genetic link, in this context of surrogacy, fails with respect to the criteria of the limitations clause. However, the right of Petitioners 5-6 (and others like them) to parenthood may possibly be realized in other ways that do not require a genetic link.

Moreover, in the case of Anon. [11], I called upon the legislature to consider finding a means for helping those belonging in this category. This is how I stated it there:

Thus, just as in the past, the institution of adoption provided for the problem of childlessness, now it can be expanded, either to enable individuals who have no available alternative … to resort to new medical technologies in order to become parents, or to be considered such, even without a genetic link …Following these paths is intended to provide a response to a reality within which technology usually precedes the law. The legislature and the courts are therefore asked in these cases to pour the essence of the good, well-grounded existing principles into legal containers that have not been in use before (as if these were old wine that improves over time and simply requires a newer container). Cf.: Steven Breyer, Active Liberty 64 (2009); see also my opinion in CA 9183/09 Football Association Premier League Ltd. v. Anon. [48] (13.05.2012)).

3.         In conclusion: my heart goes out to Petitioners 5-6 to whom we could  not extend more help in this process, given the existing legal situation. Nevertheless, I would point out that this does not detract from the possibility on the part of the said Petitioners to present their case and the interests of those like them to the Knesset during the deliberations that are to be held in the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee (hereinafter: Labor Committee) in preparation for the second and third readings of the Embryo Carrying Agreements (Approval of Agreements and Status of the Newborn) (Amendment no. 2) Bill, 5777-2017 (hereinafter: the Bill) that was introduced in the Knesset on  July 5, 2017 and passed its first reading on July 17, 2017.

4.         Owing to the fact that the Bill passed its first reading, the Respondents requested that we not decide upon the petition, and we have granted this request partially, as described in the opinions of my colleagues. On this issue of the constitutional dialogue, which is important, I will add several comments below, as a type of introduction for the future.

 

The ramifications of legislative initiatives for pending processes

5.         In principle we (as well as the administrative authorities) are supposed to decide according to the existing law. See: HCJ 3872/93 Mitral Ltd. v. Prime Minister and Minister of Religion [70]. However, over the years exceptions to this rule have emerged. A comprehensive discussion of them appears in a recently published article: Bell Yosef, A Mixed Blessing – The Normative Status of Legislative Initiatives, 40 Tel Aviv U. L. Rev. 253 (2017) (Heb.). See also: Aharon Barak, Partnership and Dialogue between the Legislative and the Executive Authority and the Judiciary, 4 Moznei Mishpat 51, 68 (2005) (Heb.); Barak Medina, Strategic Considerations behind Normative Explanations: Lessons from Israel’s Supreme Court Expropriations Case: A Reply to Haim Sandberg, 11 Int’l J. Const. L. 771, 773-776 (2013); Alison L. Young, Democratic Dialogue and the Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2017) (hereinafter: Young)).

A related issue concerns the question of whether the reviewing court should give directives to the legislature when it strikes down a law – how to legislate a future law that will be immune, as it were, to constitutional judicial review ‒ or whether it should confine itself to a constitutional analysis of the new law that will be brought before it, after the legislature has had its say.

In the Desta case [1], I discussed this question and said as follows:

There is much theoretical discussion of the dialogue between the judiciary and the legislature that develops in such situations (for the theoretical literature on the subject, see the article by Liav Orgad and Shay Lavie,  Judicial Directive: Empirical and Normative Assessment, 34 Tel Aviv U. Law Review 437, 440 (2011) (Hebrew) (hereinafter: Orgad & Lavie, Judicial Directive), and see: Ittai Bar Siman-Tov, The Puzzling Resistance to Judicial Review of the Legislative Process, 91 B.U. L. Rev. 1915, 1954-1958 (2011); Aharon Barak, The Judge in a Democracy 382-389 (2004) (Hebrew) (English: Princeton, 2008) ; Gideon Sapir, The Constitutional Revolution in Israel: Past, Present & Future 219-222 (2010) (Hebrew)).

            The answers to this question can be classified into three categories, although the dividing line between them is sometimes blurred (the analysis, references and presentation below are based upon the article Orgad & Lavie, Judicial Directive):

(a)        One model is that of “judicial advice”. Judicial advice is an approach that allows the judge to recommend necessary legislative changes to the legislature. It does not express a demand, but rather a legal preference, while leaving discretion to the legislature (compare: Nitya Duclos & Kent Roach, Constitutional Remedies as "Constitutional Hints"A Comment on R. v. Schachter, 36 McGill L.J. 1 (1991)).

(b)        A second model is that of the “constitutional roadmap”. The constitutional roadmap is a technique that allows the judge to recommend to the legislature, expressly or impliedly, how to overcome the defects in the current law. In the constitutional context, it constitutes a sort of recommended path to correcting the constitutional defect found by the court (see: Erik Luna, Constitutional Road Maps, 90 Crim. L. & Criminology 1125 (2000)).

(c)        A third model is the “fire alarm”. The fire alarm is a technique that allows the judge to warn the legislature of defects in the current law. In the constitutional context, this concerns cases in which the court just barely accepts the constitutionality of the law, but explains that although the law is “still constitutional”, it may become unconstitutional in the future (see: Neal Kumar Katyal, Judges as Advicegivers, 50 Stan. L. Rev. 1709, 1719 (1998)).

7.         In Israel, in HCJ 1715/97 Israel Investment Managers Association v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 51 (4) 367, 412-413 (1997) (hereinafter: the Investment Managers case), President A. Barak employed the “constitutional roadmap” approach, informing the Knesset of the alternatives that it might adopt in order to create an arrangement that would pass constitutional review in place of the provision that the Court had declared void in that case, emphasizing: “Choosing the proper balance point is given to the legislature” (ibid.).

            A tendency toward approach (a) appeared in later decisions (for example, by some of the justices in the Eitan case), or toward approach (c) (for example, in the Admissions Committees case: HCJ 2311/11 Sabah v. Knesset (Sept. 17, 2014), or the judgment in the matter of raising the electoral threshold:  HCJ 3166/14 Gutman v. Attorney General (March 12, 2015)). However, there has been no decisive verdict on this issue to date, and I do not propose that we adopt one here. However, I do think it appropriate to emphasize that it would be proper, in my opinion, to tell the legislators not only what is not constitutional, but also to provide them with general guidelines as to what can be expected to meet constitutional requirements, as President Barak did in the Investment Managers case. Beyond that, I believe that the said dialogue must continue openly, comprehensively and with mutual respect.

            This is the place to note that in the meantime a tendency has developed, at least in Europe, towards a fourth approach that takes the view that a court that declares a law unconstitutional must not suggest to the (national) legislature how to fix the law (see: the majority opinion in Hirst v. United Kingdom (No. 2) 42 EHRR 41 (2006), decided by the European Court of Human Rights, and which was influenced, inter alia, by the need to grant relative freedom to the EU member states. As opposed to this, see the leading article supporting substantive dialogue: Peter W. Hogg, Allison A. Bushell Thornton & Wade K. Wright, Charter Dialogue Revisited – Or “Much Ado About Metaphors”, 45 Osgoode Hall L.J. 1 (2007)).

6.         Now, after having presented the comparative law on this issue, and the theoretical streams that indicate the possible routes for dealing with it, I will return to the matter at hand.

It appears to me that the legislators, when they discuss the Bill in preparation for its second and third readings, must give thought to the words of my colleague the President, and my colleagues who are retiring from this Court (and therefore from this panel), which were uttered by way of “judicial advice” in relation to the subjects that remain pending in this petition. Moreover, the Respondents have made it clear that issues that the Petitioners raised could be discussed in the framework of the deliberations of the Labor Committee. The same applies, in my view, to the situation discussed in the Moshe case – a petition that was denied by a majority of four judges against three, and which presented, according to all the judges, a problem that called for a solution, preferably within the borders of Israel, without sending those petitioners (one of whom had a genetic connection and the other a physiological one) to a foreign country in other to fulfill their yearning for parenthood.

7.         How is the matter of Petitioners 1-4 therefore distinguishable from that of Petitioners 5-6, such that we leave the petition of the first group pending? I will now answer that briefly.

8.         The matter concerning Petitioners 1-4 does not encounter the barrier of an absence of a genetic link (at least with respect to one of the couples). At this stage, therefore, their request ought not to be rejected in advance, for it may be possible to find a solution for the issues that they raise within the framework of particular constitutional remedies, which my colleague Justice E. Hayut and myself were ready to consider in the framework of our dissenting opinion in the Moshe  case.

However, the legislature takes precedence in this regard, and a first step has already been taken in the framework of the Bill. Therefore, we found that we should wait for the process to ripen by virtue of the principle of mutual respect between the branches. However, the Bill, even if it is approved within a reasonable period of time, still does not, apparently, provide a solution for Petitioners 1-4 and others like them. Thus, their right to claim that a constitutional omission in this area violates their basic constitutional rights must be preserved. Recognition of this, if it should be given, and if  the violation is not protected in the framework of the limitations clause, might justify obligating the legislature to act (see: Aharon Barak, The Constitutional Right to Protection of Life, Body and Liberty, 15 Mordechai Kremnitzer Volume (Ariel Bendor, Haled Ghanayim, Ilan Saban eds., 2017)  (Heb.)), or the development of a suitable constitutional remedy. I say this here, without laying down the law, as a milestone or traffic sign in the framework of the above models (cf.: Young, at 131).

9.         In conclusion: this judgment is being handed down on the day of the retirement of my colleague Deputy President Selim Joubran. In translation from Arabic to Hebrew, the name Selim has two, separate or perhaps complementary, meanings: completeness and health. I know how much my colleague wanted his opinion in the case before us to be complete and to address all the aspects of the petition, so that his opinion would give expression to his complete judicial approach, which supports equality. The irony is that due to his pursuit of peace and in light of the above legislative initiative, which appeared only recently, he is forced to leave the labor for others to complete (the legislature, and if there is no choice – this Court).

It remains to me, therefore, only to wish our colleague Selim good health – which, as we have said, is the other meaning of his name – and that he continue to engage in productive activity, and to say to him who has in our eyes symbolized the possibility of co-existence with mutual respect, recognition and appreciation – goodbye and may peace be with you.

 

Decided in accordance with paragraphs 18 and 44 of the partial opinion and decision of Deputy President S. Joubran.

Given this day, 11 Av 5777 (Aug. 3, 2017).

 


Yedidya Loewenthal, Adv. v. Prime Minister

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 2435/20
Date Decided: 
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

This petition was submitted by four lawyers, residents of Bnei Brak, requesting an order nisi requiring that the State explain why Government Decision declaring the Bnei Brak municipal district as a “restricted zone” for six days not be revoked.

 

The Petitioners argued that the declaration of Bnei Brak as a “restricted zone” was intended only to prevent the spread of the virus to adjacent cities, but in no way related to the prevention of its spread among the residents of Bnei Brak themselves. They further argued that the declaration mortally harms the residents’ freedom of occupation, their liberty, dignity and their freedom of movement, and described the situation as “collective punishment”. The Petitioners argued that the declaration was made “contrary to the obligatory constitutional norms”, that its provisions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that the provisions should have been established in primary legislation, and that the declaration did not meet the tests of proportionality. Lastly, they argued that the declaration was made without public debate, without sufficient evidentiary grounds, and in violation of the right to be heard.

 

Held (per Justice I Amit, Justice A. Baron, Justice Y. Elron concurring):

 

1.         In order to contend with the situation created by the coronavirus epidemic, the Israeli Government exercised its authority under sec. 39 of Basic Law: The Government, and promulgated emergency regulations in regard to a number of subjects intended to mitigate the danger of the spreading of the virus. On April 2, 2020, the Israeli Government decided to promulgate Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus) (Restricted Zone), 5780-2020 (hereinafter: the Regulations). Under sec. 2 (a) of those Regulations:

 

If the coronavirus has significantly spread in a particular are in Israel, and the Ministerial Committee is convinced of the need for restricting entry and exit therefrom in order to prevent the spread of the illness outside the said area, it may, with the consent of the Government, declare the area a restricted zone, on the condition that during the period when the declaration is in force, there will be an appropriate supply of necessary goods and services in the area.

 

2.         In terms of authority, the promulgation of the Regulations is facially in accordance with the Governments’ authority under sec. 39 of Basic Law: The Government, subject to the various limitations as established by law and precedent.

 

3.         The declaration of Bnei Brak as a “restricted zone” followed a large number of incidents of infection in the city, and the fear of an unrestrained transmission of the virus.

 

4.         The expert epidemiological opinion of the Deputy Director of the Public Health Service in the Ministry of Health set out the criteria for establishing a restricted zone subject to additional limitations, which are: a high level of incidence relative to other areas; a significantly higher level of incidence that in the general population; high population density; and clear concentrations of respiratory ailment in the area in the report of the Israeli Center for Disease Control (hereinafter: ICDC). The position of the opinion’s author was that in weighing the data, “the city of Bnei Brak currently constitutes an exceptionally significant center of illness, which will undermine the national effort to lessen the coefficient of contagion”. It was noted that the city of Bnei Brak meets all of the criteria for establishing a restricted zone, and accordingly, severe restrictions upon movement must be imposed.

 

5.         It is settled law that when the Court reviews a decision by a governmental agency, it does not presume to stand in its shoes and make decisions for it in its area of expertise. It is not the practice of the Court to intervene in matters of the agency’s policy, and this is particularly so in regard to policy that is based upon clearly professional data and where the decision is of a clearly professional nature under the agency’s authority and expertise. This is particularly the case in regard to professional matters concerning public health. While the case does not concern a regular administrative decision, but rather a Government decision by virtue of emergency regulations, it is a clearly professional matter.

 

6.         Clearly, the declaration of Bnei Brak as a restricted zone involves a number of violations of basic rights. The purpose of the severe restrictions imposed upon the city’s residents is clear – protecting the health and lives of the city’s residents and the residents of the entire State of Israel. In accordance with the professional discretion, and the data available to the decisionmakers – the scope of illness in the city, the rate of infection, and the population density – there was no recourse but to declare the city of Bnei Brak a “restricted zone”, and thus the declaration was made for a proper purpose.

 

7.         There is a clear rational connection between the means and the purpose.

 

8.         The less harmful means test examines the matter on a metaphoric ladder: was it possible to adopt a “lower” rung on the ladder that would be less harmful to the right? In the present case, there is no denying that declaring the city of Bnai Brak as a “restricted zone” is a very high rung on the ladder. However, it is not sufficient to show that there is another means that would violate the right to a lesser degree. The requirement is that means to achieve the purpose do so in an appropriate and necessary manner. The means were adopted after less harmful means, of the type imposed on the general population, were imposed but did not yield the desired results. In view of the number of people infected and the rate of transmission, and against the background of the city’s extreme density, there were no less harmful means available that could provide the necessary response for stemming the spread of the virus outside the Bnei Brak area at this time. Thus, the second subtest was met.

 

9.         In regard to the proportionality stricto sensu test, the Court can only rely upon the professionals, who are of the opinion that there was no recourse but to impose declare a “restricted zone” in order to stem the spread of the virus.

 

10.       We face an unprecedented situation of fear of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, with all that portends in terms of morbidity, death, and the collapse of the health system. In the horizontal balancing of rights, we now place the violation of fundamental liberties and rights like freedom of movement against the right to life and physical integrity – an uncommon situation in our state. In that horizontal balance, the right to life prevails.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Non-writer
majority opinion
Non-writer
majority opinion
Full text of the opinion: 

HCJ 2435/20

Petitioners:                              1.  Yedidya Loewenthal, Adv.

                                                2.  David Izacsohn, Adv.

                                                3.  Moshe Lipel, Adv.

                                                4.  Zvi Zaks, Adv.

 

                                                            v.

 

Respondents:                          1.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

                                                2.  Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman

                                                3.  Minister of Defense Naftali Bennet

                                                4.  Moshe Bar Simon, Director General, Ministry of Health

                                                5.  Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan

                                                6.  Minister of the Treasury Moshe Kahlon

                                                7.  District Commander Roni Numa

                                                8.  National Emergency Network

                                                9.  Bnei Brak Municipality

                                                10.  Avraham Rubinstein, Mayor of Bnei Brak

 

Attorney for the Petitioners:   Pro se

Attorneys for Respondents 1-8: Nahi Benor, Adv.; Tehola Roth, Adv.

Attorneys for Respondents 9-10: Yehuda Leibowitz, Adv.; Ariel Yunger, Adv.

 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

Before: Justice I. Amit, Justice A. Baron, Justice Y. Elron

 

 

Petition for order nisi and interim order

 

 

Israeli Supreme Court cases cited:

[1]       HCJ 8938/11 “All for Peace” v. Minister of Communications, (Feb. 24, 2015)

[2]       HCJ 5263/16 Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises v. Ministry of Environmental Protection, (July 23, 2018)

[3]       HCJ 5438/19 Jan Chibartkin v. Ministry of Justice of the State of Israel, (Feb. 26, 2020)

[4]       HCJ 13/80 Nun Canning Industries v. Ministry of Health, IsrSC 34(2) 693 (1980)

[5]       HCJ 4675/03 Pfizer Pharmaceuticals v. Director General of the Ministry of Health, (May 12, 2011)

[6]       HCJ 1407/18 Koffolk (1949) Ltd. v. Head of the Medical Preparations Registration Department, (Aug. 19, 2019)

[7]       HCJ 703/19 MBI Pharma v. Ministry of Health, (Aug. 26, 2019)

[8]       LAA 2199/20 Peshe Brook v. Ministry of Health, (March 24, 2020) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/brook-v-ministry-health]

[9]       HCJ 2233/20 Pardes Hanna-Karkur Local Council v. Ministry of Health, (March 26, 2020) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/pardes-hanna-karkur-local-council-v-ministry-health]

[10]     HCJ 10203/03 Hamifkad Haleumi v. Attorney General, IsrSC 62(4) 715 (2008) [https://versa.cardozo.yu.edu/opinions/hamifkad-haleumi-v-attorney-general]

[11]     HCJ 1715/97 Israel Investment Managers Association v. Minister of Finance, IsrSC 51 (4) 367 (1997)

 

 

Judgment

(April 7, 2020)

 

Justice I. Amit:

1.         The coronavirus epidemic leaves its mark on every area of life. Since the outbreak of the epidemic in December 2019, the world has been contending with the rapidly spreading virus, which has, to date, left a long trail of over a million sick and tens of thousands of dead. Israel has not escaped this struggle, and sadly, as of the date of this writing, over 9,000 people have been diagnosed, and dozens have died.

            From a legal standpoint, the epidemic leads us through a land not sown [Jeremiah 2:2], to legal and constitutional places and paths not imagined by our predecessors, nor even predicted by prophets of doom. Basic constitutional rights, like the right to privacy and property, freedom of occupation and freedom of movement in Israel are dumbfounded in the face of terms like closure, quarantine, encirclement, roadblocks, cellphone location tracking by the I.S.A., social distancing, etc. All of these file before us like a dystopian nightmare in a democratic state founded upon freedom of the individual. In normal times, such means would be summarily rejected as manifestly unlawful, but these are not normal times, and due to the “need of the hour” (TB Yevamoth 90b, Sanhedrin 46a), there is no alternative but to punish the public, although it did not sin and is not worthy of punishment.

2.         The present petition was submitted by four lawyers, residents of Bnei Brak, who ask that we issue an order nisi requiring that the Respondents explain why Government Decision no. 4958 of April 2, 2020, which declared the Bnei Brak municipal district as a “restricted zone” for six days (hereinafter: the Government Decision) not be revoked. The Petitioners also ask that we issue an interim order instructing the Respondents to refrain from exercising their authority under the said declaration until the petition is decided.

            Alternatively, the petition asks that we order the Respondents to provide basic food items to the city’s healthy and ailing residents, and to provide them with appropriate food, that is certified as kosher-for-Passover under rabbinical supervision acceptable to the city’s residents.

3.         The petition was brought before me last night. Due to its urgency, and with Passover soon upon us, I ordered Respondents 1-8 (hereinafter: the State) to respond to the petition by this morning at 10:00 AM (which was extended several times at their request, and the response was ultimately submitted at about 4:00 PM). In addition, I also allowed Respondents 9-10 (the Bnei Brak Municipality and the Mayor (hereinafter, collectively: the Municipality)) to submit their response.

 

Arguments of the Petitioners and the Municipality

4.         The Petitioners argue that the declaration of Bnei Brak as a “restricted zone” was intended only to prevent the spread of the virus to adjacent cities, but in no way relates to the prevention of its spread among the residents of Bnei Brak themselves. The Petitioners describe the severe consequences of the declaration, among them, they argue that the city’s residents have difficulty obtaining food, medicine, and medical treatment; that it mortally violates the residents’ freedom of occupation, their liberty, dignity and their freedom of movement. The harm is particularly severe given that we are concerned with a socially and economically deprived population that is characterized by large families and a low standard of living, given that the families have been imprisoned in their homes since several days prior to the imposition of the quarantine. The Petitioners describe the situation that has been created as “collective punishment”, and take this opportunity to complain of incitement against the ultra-Orthodox community in general, and the residents of Bnei Brak, in particular, and of the humiliation suffered by the city’s residents of ultra-Orthodox appearance, when they go out to purchase food and drugs.

            In addition, the Petitioners argue that the declaration was made “contrary to the obligatory constitutional norms”, that its provisions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that the provisions should have been established in primary legislation, and that the declaration does not meet the tests of proportionality. Lastly, they argue that the declaration was made without public debate, without sufficient evidentiary grounds, and in violation of the right to be heard. According to the Petitioners, they addressed a demand to revoke the declaration to the Respondents, but received no reply (I would note that contrary to what is stated in the petition, the Petitioners’ letter to the Respondents was not appended to the petition).

5.         The Municipality admitted, both at the beginning and at the end of its response, that all involved are working around the clock in the holy effort of aiding the residents of Bnei Brak.

            On the merits, the Municipality supports the petition, and joined its arguments. In its response, it argued that “the blood of the residents of Bnei Brak is no less red than that of the residents of Israel’s other cities,” and that from the outset, the Municipality expressed its opinion to the authorities that “it is wrong to adopt the historically unparalleled, draconian measures taken against the city of Bnei Brak alone”.

            The Municipality complained of the manner of making the decision that is the subject of the petition. It argues that before declaring Bnei Brak a restricted zone, the authorities should have heard its opinion, as it is better acquainted with the lifestyle of the city’s residents than any regulator, and is deeply involved in the city’s ongoing affairs. It claims that decisions affecting the fate of thousands of large families and thousands of elderly should not have been made without first obtaining complete, comprehensive information from the Municipality’s social services department, and without familiarity with the unique characteristics of the city’s population. For example, the Municipality (and the Petitioners) pointed out that a large portion of the city’s residents rely on “kosher” phones that cannot receive SMS messages intended to provide information to the city’s residents. Against this background, the Municipality asks that even if the Petition be denied, the Court order the end of the quarantine no later than the originally established date, and that no extension be made without prior, professional, interdepartmental consultation, and primarily, after consultation with the Municipality.

6.         The Municipality listed the following failures, one by one: The 104 call center of the National Emergency Network did not undergo basic training in regard to the special character and needs of the residents, and was not available for hours; there was no food delivery, and as a result, residents thronged the food distribution centers; there was a lack of even a basic response for support and solutions for the many sick people throughout the city; large families struggled to obtain food, drugs, and medical services. Doctors and other essential workers and service providers cannot enter the city, and those who are willing to do so just give up in the face of demands for presenting permits that no one knows how to obtain, if they can be obtained at all; people sent into quarantine in hotels complain of being ignored and abandoned; and the lack of supply of goods and food items, hygiene and other basic needs prevents the residents from properly preparing for Passover. The Municipality further complains that there was no consideration of the possibility of forbidding soldiers and security forces from moving about the city with their weapons, nor consideration of the fact that the very presence of thousands of soldiers, police and border patrol officers had a traumatic effect upon many of the city’s residents.

7.         On the legal plane, it is argued that the means adopted are disproportionate, and that they, therefore, do not meet the conditions set out at the end of sec. 12 of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which establishes:

This Basic Law cannot be varied, suspended or made subject to conditions by emergency regulations; notwithstanding, when a state of emergency exists, by virtue of a declaration under section 9 of the Law and Administration Ordinance, 5708-1948, emergency regulations may be enacted by virtue of said section to deny or restrict rights under this Basic Law, provided the denial or restriction shall be for a proper purpose and for a period and extent no greater than is required.

According to the Municipality, the trampling of the public’s basic rights to freedom of movement and liberty “for the medical needs of the handful of sick persons in Bnei Brak” is disproportionate. At the very least, no consideration was given to the possibility of isolating certain sick persons, given that their number is only about 900, some of whom are members of the same family, or to impose a quarantine only upon certain areas of the city rather than on the entire city. According to the Municipality, the harm caused by the quarantine outweighs its benefits, inasmuch as the overwhelming majority of the city’s residents are completely healthy, but they, too, have been imprisoned in the city due to the quarantine, and people suffering from chronic ailments who require medicine and treatment have also been harmed. It is further argued that the purpose of the quarantine is to prevent the transmission of the virus outside the city, and thus the fear that the State seeks to use the city’s residents as “guinea pigs” in order to test the herd effect, which is an improper purpose, and moreover, its effectiveness has not been proven.

8.         Like the Petitioners, the Municipality also emphasizes in its response that in addition to the harm caused and that will be caused to each and every one of the city’s residents, “no less important is the public harm and the stigma attaching to all the residents of Bnei Brak like a mark of Cain”. It is argued that the quarantine has resulted in wild incitement against the Bnei Brak public, and that the residents may be stigmatized as lawbreakers and “spreaders of disease”. Thus, the Municipality requests and demands that a message and declaration be sent out that “the fate of the residents of Bnei Brak is no different than that of all the citizens of the State of Israel”.

 

The normative framework

9.         In order to contend with the difficult situation created by the coronavirus epidemic, the Israeli Government exercised its authority under sec. 39 of Basic Law: The Government, and promulgated emergency regulations in regard to a number of subjects, which were intended to mitigate the danger of the spreading of the virus (see, inter alia, Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus – Restriction of Activity), 5780-2020 (March 21, 2020); Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus) (Isolation in a State Assigned Place of Isolation), 5780-2020 (April 2, 2020)).

10.       On April 2, 2020, the Israeli Government decided to promulgate Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus) (Restricted Zone), 5780-2020 (hereinafter: the Regulations). This is the text of reg. 2(a) of the Regulations:

                        Declaration of a Restricted Zone

                        2(a)      If the coronavirus has significantly spread in a particular are in Israel, and the Ministerial Committee is convinced of the need for restricting entry and exit therefrom in order to prevent the spread of the illness outside the said area, it may, with the consent of the Government, declare the area a restricted zone, on the condition that during the period when the declaration is on force, there will be appropriate supply of necessary goods and services in the area.

            Pursuant to that, reg. 3 details a list of restrictions that would apply to a “restricted zone”, which treat of prohibiting exiting and entering the restricted zone, and a limited number of exceptions, among them: exiting for medical care, legal proceedings, the funeral of a first-degree relative, and entry by medical teams, social workers and the press, and entry for the purpose of supplying necessary goods and services.

            In addition, reg. 4 details the authorities granted to the police for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of reg. 3. It should be noted that under reg. 7, the Regulations will remain in force for a period of 30 days from the day of publication.

            [Parenthetically: Reg. 3 of the Regulations was amended in Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus) (Restricted Zone) (Amendment), 5780-2020. The amendment establishes that where the Ministerial Committee declared a particular area as a restricted zone, it may also include in the declaration that “all or part of the restrictions listed in reg. 3 will apply, and it may establish exceptions to the application of the said restrictions, in accordance with the circumstances of the restricted zone” (Official Gazette 8460 of April 6, 2020, p. 1036)].

11.       In terms of authority, the promulgation of the Regulations is facially in accordance with the Governments’ authority under sec. 39 of Basic Law: The Government, subject to the various limitations as established by law and precedent. I see no need to address those limitations in the context of this petition, inasmuch as the Attorney General expressed his opinion on the matter in his letter to the Prime Minister of April 6, 2020, and a separate petition in this regard is currently pending before this Court (HCJ 2399/20 Adalah v. Prime Minister).

12.       There was good reason for our lengthy presentation of the arguments of the Petitioners and the Municipality. This is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that a quarantine was imposed upon a city within the Green Line.[1] Naturally, this unprecedented decision raises a variety of problems for implementation in the field. This petition, although it misses the mark here and there in terms of exaggeration and analogies to dark periods of history that were better left unmentioned, expresses the authentic distress of the residents of the city of Bnei Brak, which was placed under quarantine, such that none may leave or enter its gates. It is a bitter irony that Passover has changed from the festival of freedom to a holiday of families sheltering together, imprisoned between the four walls of their homes.  Indeed, the quarantine weights heavily upon the residents of Bnei Brak, and their cries have risen to Jerusalem and the Supreme Court.

13.       With all due understanding of the distress expressed in the petition and the Municipality’s response, in view of what is stated in the State’s response, the petition must be denied.

            On April 4, 2020, the day the Regulations were promulgated, the Government made the decision to declare the Bnei Brak municipal area “restricted zone” for a period of six days. From that perspective, the petition was submitted late – four days after the declaration and two days before the end of the original date set for the end of the period.  I would note that in their response, the Respondents have informed us that the present intention is to extend the period until April 10, 2020.

14.       In practice, due to the pace of events, with one decision following on the heels of another, the petition became partly “moot” within hours of its submission, due to the intention to impose a general closure upon the entire state, such that the residents of Bnei Brak will not stand alone in the campaign. However, the Municipality argues that precisely the fact that a quarantine is being imposed at this very hour upon other places throughout the country emphasizes the discrimination against the residents of Bnei Brak, inasmuch as the imposition of the quarantine to other places is more balanced and reasonable, and is more considerate of the needs of the residents.

15.       The declaration of Bnei Brak as a “restricted zone” followed a large number of incidents of infection in the city, and the fear of the unrestrained transmission of the virus. As noted, the petition before us challenges the legality of that declaration. According to the Municipality, two preconditions for declaring the city a restricted zone were not met: the quarantine is not necessarily required to stop the spread of the virus, and there is an absence of “appropriate supply of necessary goods and services in the area”. In the Municipality’s view, a distinction should be drawn between sheltering-in-place and quarantine, and the decision was made without data and without information.

16.       However, as we learn from the State’s response, the decision to impose a quarantine was not taken lightly, but was made only after consultation with the relevant professional bodies. Thus, the State pointed out that the decision was made on the basis of an expert epidemiological opinion of the Deputy Director of the Public Health Service in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Udi Kleiner, which was also signed on April 4, 2020.

            In that opinion, appended to the State’s response (Appendix R/3), Dr. Kleiner addressed the illness caused by the coronavirus, its spread in the world and in Israel, and the steps that had been taken in Israel in order to contend with the virus. It was pointed out that Israel has adopted a general policy of “social distancing” to lessen the outbreak of the virus, and while this policy has proven itself in terms of slowing the pace of the rise in cases over the last few days, there are still areas and towns in which there are indications of significant concentrations of illness and high rates of transmission. It was also noted that these concentrations are of both local and national significance, inasmuch as they may become the source of morbidity. Dr. Kleiner emphasized that imposing strict limits upon movement in a limited area in which there is significant morbidity and a high rate of transmission, inasmuch as this means “is more effective in preventing the spread of the epidemic than increasing the restrictions upon the entire state. This will make it possible to lower the rate of transmission in the restricted zone […] and in other areas, due to a reduction in the export of infection from the restricted zone to other areas”.

            Further on, the opinion sets out the criteria for establishing a restricted zone subject to additional limitations, which are: a high level of incidence relative to other areas; a significantly higher level of incidence that in the general population; high population density; and clear concentrations of respiratory ailment in the area in the report of the Israeli Center for Disease Control (hereinafter: ICDC). It was explained that meeting most or all of the criteria adds support for deciding to declare an area as a restricted zone.

            The opinion listed the following data in regard to the city of Bnei Brak:

            (-)        The number of sick in the city stands at 966 to date (the 2nd highest rate of incidence and number of patients in the Israel), 418 of them were added over the last three days (about a fifth of the number of people testing positive over those days);

            (-)        The rate of incidence stands at 492.1 per 100,000 residents (no. 4 in Israel among towns with a population exceeding 5,000 persons), as opposed to a rate of 76.1 in Israel (according to a rate of incidence of 6,852 among 9 million residents);

            (-)        A population density of 26,368.4 persons per square kilometer (the most densely populated city in Israel by a significant margin among towns with a population exceeding 5000);

            (-)        A clear concentration of respiratory illness according to the ICDC analysis, and over time.

            We should note that the opinion was accompanied by a report of concentrations of the ICDC, and a slide detailing the ten leading towns in terms of illness and number of patients in Israel as of April 1, 2020.

            The position of the opinion’s author was that in weighing the data, “the city of Bnei Brak currently constitutes an exceptionally significant center of illness, which will undermine the national effort to lessen the coefficient of contagion”. It was noted that the city of Bnei Brak meets all of the criteria for establishing a restricted zone, and accordingly, severe restrictions upon movement must be imposed.

            As stated, on the basis of the opinion, the Government made a unanimous decision to declare the municipal area of Bnai Brak a restricted zone for a period of six days. It is that decision that is challenged by the petition.

17.       It is settled law that when the Court reviews a decision by a governmental agency, it does not presume to stand in its shoes and make decisions for it in its area of expertise. It is not the practice of this Court to intervene in matters of the agency’s policy, and this is particularly so in regard to policy that is based upon clearly professional data, and where the decision is of a clearly professional nature under the agency’s authority and expertise. That is the case in general (see, among the many cases: HCJ 8938/11 “All for Peace” v. Minister of Communications [1], para. 18; HCJ 5263/16 Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises v. Ministry of Environmental Protection [2], para. 11; HCJ 5438/19 Jan Chibartkin v. Ministry of Justice [3], para. 16), and it is particularly the case in regard to professional matters concerning public health (HCJ 13/80 Nun Canning Industries v. Ministry of Health [4], 695-696; HCJ 4675/03 Pfizer Pharmaceuticals v. Director General of the Ministry of Health [5], para. 39; HCJ 1407/18 Koffolk (1949) Ltd. v. Head of the Medical Preparations Registration Department [6]; HCJ 703/19 MBI Pharma v. Ministry of Health [7], para. 19; and see the recent cases concerning the coronavirus epidemic:  LAA 2199/20 Peshe Brook v. Ministry of Health [8], para. 6; HCJ 2233/20 Pardes Hanna-Karkur Local Council v. Ministry of Health [9]).

            While we are not concerned with a regular administrative decision, but rather with a Government Decision by virtue of emergency regulations, we are concerned with a clearly professional matter. The Ministry of Health outlined a policy of reducing contact, to the extent possible, among the population, together with isolation of validated patients. In that framework, as fully explained in the response, various restrictions were imposed that were intended to prevent congregating, which is a fertile ground for infection, restricting movement in the public domain, closing educational, cultural and leisure institutions, and places of work and commerce. According to the data and the status report, this policy has borne fruit in the form of a slowing of the pace of the increase in patients. The general status report for the state shows areas and towns in which the concentration of incidence is significant and the rate of transmission high. This has both local and national impact. Thus, the position of the professional organs is that severe restrictions on movement be imposed on these areas, in the form of declaring the area a “restricted zone”, with the resultant extreme limitations on going out in public areas and restrictions upon entering and exiting the area. This was done to reduce the “export” of infection to other areas, and to prevent the entry of infected persons who might further increase the number of those infected. As stated, as of the present time, the professional bodies have established a number of parameters for examining whether and when to declare a particular area a “restricted zone”: the number of infected persons in the area as compared to other areas; the rate of morbidity in the area relative to the general rate in the population; population density; and locating a clear concentration of respiratory illness in the area.

            On the basis of these parameters, and as stated in the aforementioned expert opinion, the data showed that Bnei Brak is a significantly exceptional center of illness – the number of patients, the morbidity, and the population density required adopting the unprecedented step of declaring the city a “restricted zone”.

18.       The stage theory  that applies constitutional review is well known: a violation; the limitations clause with its four stages (by law or by virtue of a law,  befitting the values of the State of Israel, for a proper purpose, and proportionality in accordance with the three subtests), and the remedy (Aharon Barak, The Constitutional Right and its Violation: The Three-Stage Theory, 19 Mishpat Umemshal 119 (2018) (Hebrew). I will now examine the challenged decision in accordance with the three-stage theory that applies to constitutional review, as briefly as possible, and without digressing into dissertations. The time for that will come after the plague has passed and the dust has settled, and we will leave it to the academic scholars to expand.

19.       Clearly, the declaration of Bnei Brak as a restricted zone involves a number of violations of basic rights, like freedom of movement. The purpose of the severe restrictions imposed upon the city’s residents is clear – protecting the health and lives of the city’s residents and the residents of the entire State of Israel. In accordance with the professional discretion, and the data available to the decisionmakers – the scope of illness in the city, the rate of infection, and the population density – there was no recourse but to declare the city of Bnei Brak a “restricted zone”, and thus the declaration was made for a proper purpose.

20.       The three subtests are well known: the rational connection test, the necessity test (the less harmful means), and the proportionality test stricto sensu.

            There is a clear rational connection between the means and the purpose, and I see no need to elaborate. The second subtest – the less harmful means – examines the matter on a metaphoric ladder: was it possible to adopt a “lower” rung on the ladder that would be less harmful to the right? In the present case, there is no denying that the means of quarantine, or more precisely, declaring the city of Bnai Brak as a “restricted zone”, is a very high rung on the ladder. However, it is not sufficient to show that there are other means that would violate the right to a lesser degree. The requirement is that the means to achieve the purpose do so in an appropriate and necessary manner (see, among many: HCJ 10203/03 Hamifkad Haleumi v. Attorney General [10], para. 51 per Justice Naor). Weighing the less harmful means where there are several alternatives is contingent upon whether the means realize the law’s purpose equally (HCJ 1715/97 Israel Investment Managers Association v. Minister of Finance [11], 387).

            The State proceeded up the ladder in adopting the means employed. The declaration did not appear as a bolt from the blue and as the first step adopted. It was adopted after less harmful means, of the type imposed on the general population, were imposed but did not yield the desired results. In view of the number of people infected and the rate of transmission, and against the background of the city’s extreme density, there were no the less harmful means available that could provide the necessary response for stemming the spread of the virus outside the Bnei Brak area at this time. Thus, the second subtest was met.

            In regard to the proportionality stricto sensu test – a cost-and-benefit test – we can only rely upon the professionals, who are of the opinion that there was no recourse but to impose the restrictions of a “restricted zone” in order to stem the spread of the virus. The cost, which is certainly high from the perspective of the city’s residents, “is worthy of the king’s trouble” [Esther 7:4] when it is preserving the health and lives of the residents of city and the entire State of Israel.

21.       The quarantine is not hermetic, as we see from the exceptions established in the regulations themselves, and in light of the details provided in the State’s response, inter alia: the National Emergency Network was authorized to permit individual requests in areas not listed in the Regulations; a mechanism was established for addressing exceptional cases; the SMS response of the 104 call center can be received by “kosher” phones; and in addition, the development of a liaison system through the police is currently underway.

22.       We have noted the State’s undertaking that the Homefront Command is acting and will continue to act to assist the city in regard to necessary goods and services. We were informed that, to date, 13,800 meals, including food packages for individuals and families, have been distributed; informational material appropriate to the city’s unique population was distributed; and special assistance was provided to at-risk populations, with emphasis on food and medicine. The State is working on the removal of validated and isolated patients from the city to dedicated apartment hotels that have been specially prepared for that purpose, in order to prevent circles of infection around the patients. The hotels were prepared and adapted with a mind toward the special needs of the ultra-Orthodox population in general, and in particularly in view of Passover.

            We further note that there are ongoing evaluations of the situation in accordance with updated data, and where there is no further justification for the restrictions, or where it is possible to suffice with less restrictive means, the restrictions will be eased or removed.

23.       We face an unprecedented situation of fear of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in large numbers, with all that portends in terms of morbidity, death, and the collapse of the health system. In the horizontal balancing of rights, we now place the violation of fundamental liberties and rights like freedom of movement against the right to life and physical integrity – an uncommon situation in our state. In that horizontal balance, the right to life prevails.

 

Before concluding

24.       While we write these lines, the Petitioners have filed a request for an interim order and for an expedited hearing of the petition. This is brought in response to the State’s announcing its intention to extend the declaration for two additional days, until April 10, 2020, and that the Government will hold a teleconference to approve the extension.

            That decision has not yet been made, but in any case, in view of the above, we find no cause for granting an interim order. It would not be superfluous to point out that, according to what has been reported by the media, the extension of the various restrictions until April 10, 2020 is intended to apply to all residents of the Israel.

 

Conclusion

25.       We see no grounds for intervening in the Government’s decision. Even if we can understand the painful sense of humiliation expressed between the lines of the petition – the humiliation of the residents of Bnei Brak – we need only point to the State’s response, which completely rejected the claim of discrimination against the residents of Bnei Brak for their social and religious affiliations. We act under the presumption that, in this matter, the Government made its decision on the basis of the recommendations of the professional organs, and solely for relevant reasons.

            Although we have denied the petition, we find it proper to observe that the Government’s response provided no real answer to the Municipality’s claim that the decision was made without conferring with it. This may be because the Municipality’s response was submitted shortly before the State submitted its response, and thus it did not have adequate time to respond in that regard. In any case, without addressing the factual veracity of the claim, if this was not done, it would seem that there is merit to the Municipality’s complaint, and the State must take note of this, unless there are material reasons for not doing so.

26.       This is a time of distress for all Israel, as is reflected in this petition. Let us hope that the coming festivals of Passover, Easter, Ramadan and the Prophet Jethro (Nabi Shu’eib) will mark a turning point.

            The petition is denied without an order for costs.

 

Justice A. Baron:

            I concur.

Justice Y. Elron:

            I concur.

Decided as stated in the opinion of Justice I. Amit.

Given this day, 13 Nissan 5780 (April 7, 2020).

 

 

[1] Editor’s Note: The city of Nazareth was placed under a thirty-day quarantine in Nov. 1948, due to an outbreak of smallpox (see: Mustafa Abbasi, A City in Distress: Nazareth under Military Rule 1948-1949, in 22 Iyunim Bitkumat Israel - Studies in Zionism, the Yishuv and the State of Israel 399 (Ben Gurion Research Institute, 2012) (thanks to Advocate Dan Yakir, Chief Legal Counsel of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, for bringing this to our attention).

 

Quintinsky v. Knesset (summary)

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 10042/16
Date Decided: 
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

The petitions challenged the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement (hereinafter: the Tax Arrangement) in Chapter XII of the Economic Efficiency (Legislative Amendments for the Implementation of the Economic Policy for Budget Years 2017 and 2018) Law, 5777-2016 (hereinafter: the Economic Efficiency Law), which imposed a designated tax upon owners of multiple apartments whose aggregate rights in the apartments was 249% or more. Under the Tax Arrangement, a holder of apartments to the said extent would be subject to a tax of 1% of “the determining amount” for each apartment held, exclusive of two apartments as he may choose. The Petitioners argued that there was a substantive defect in its legislative proceedings that went “to the heart of the proceedings” – a violation of the principle of the participation of Knesset members in the legislative process – that justified its annulment.

 

The High Court of Justice (per Justice Sohlberg, President Naor and Justices Hayut and Hendel concurring, and Justice Mazuz dissenting) granted the petitions as follows:

 

The High Court of Justice addressed its authority to review the Knesset’s legislative proceedings, noting that the most significant development in the matter of judicial review of legislative proceedings occurred in the Poultry Growers case. That case established that judicial intervention in the legislative process is justified only in the presence of a defect that involves a severe and substantial violation of the basic principles of the legislative process of Israel’s parliamentary and constitutional regime. Such basic principles include decision by the majority, the principle of formal equality (by which each member of Knesset has one vote), the publicity principle, and the principle of participation (by which every Knesset member has the right to participate in the legislative process).

 

The Court’s discussion focused upon the principle of participation. This principle establishes the right of Knesset members not merely to be physically present in plenum and committee debates, but rather requires granting a real, serious and fair possibility to examine, debate, comment and enlighten, question and consider, so that they will be able to form an informed position on the matter concerned. The Poultry Growers case established two related but not necessarily identical criteria for judicial review of the principle of participation: whether the Knesset members were denied any practical possibility of knowing about what they are voting; whether the Knesset members were denied any practical possibility of formulating their position with regard to the draft law. This now requires refinement in the sense that the focus should no longer be upon the question whether the Knesset members “were denied any practical possibility of knowing about what they are voting”, but rather on ensuring that the legislative proceedings allow the Knesset members to form a substantive position, if only in a very limited manner, in regard to the bills placed before them. Adopting a position is not a mere “passive” act, but requires a certain cognitive process, independent processing of the information presented to the Knesset member, and the formulation of an informed decision for or against the proposed law. Only when such an opportunity is provided, can it be said that the Knesset members were granted an opportunity to participate in a real, active sense in the legislative process. However, the Knesset is not under a duty to conduct a hearing like the “due process” required of administrative agencies, but Knesset members must be afforded the opportunity to formulate an informed position, if only minimally.

 

The following parameters may serve in assessing whether the Knesset members were, indeed, afforded the possibility for a proper debate: the length of the debate, and whether it was proportionate to the length of the bill, its complexity and the scope of its consequences; a unique, complex bill should be debated independently of other matters, sometimes in the relevant Knesset committee, in a manner that would allow appropriately serious consideration; the effect of the committee or plenum debate upon the wording and content of the bill; the factual foundations provided with the bill; the period of time that elapsed from the time the bill – or at least the essential or major part of its arrangements – was presented for examination by the Knesset members and the date of the debate; etc. This is not a “checklist” whose elements must be examined independently, but it can be useful in accordance with the particular circumstances of any specific case in assessing whether the principle of participation was met in practice.

 

The question in the present matter is whether the members of Knesset were afforded an opportunity to formulate an informed position in regard to the bill. The Court found that the haste that characterized the enactment of the Arrangement Law was inconsistent with the manner in which a parliamentary debate should be held. However, despite the not inconsequential problems presented by the procedural framework through which the Tax Arrangement was enacted, recourse to it does not, itself, invalidate a law. However, the cumulative circumstances surrounding the legislative proceedings of the Tax Arrangement in the course of the preparation of the bill leads to the conclusion that there was a defect that went to the heart of the legislative process. None of the individual elements of the process would, itself, serve as grounds for voiding the legislative proceedings. However, no real debate could be conducted when consideration is given to the hurried schedule in which the Knesset members were required to hear the reading of the bill, understand and process the explanation of its provisions, express their opinions and listen to other opinions, all in the middle of the night, following long days of debate on other matters, and all the while being pressed to hurry. Although the Knesset members received explanations of the bill, and it is reasonable to assume that they “knew what they were voting on”, the cumulative circumstances reflect a lack of an opportunity to conduct a real, even if minimal, debate. The members of the Finance Committee were not afforded an opportunity to formulate an opinion, and the legislative proceedings did not afford a possibility for realizing the principle of participation.

 

The defect in the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement goes to the heart of the proceedings. However, this does not require the voiding the legislation, and relative voidness would suffice. Therefore, the Court ordered the annulment of Chapter XII of the Economic Efficiency Law, i.e., the annulment of the Multiple Apartment Tax. The legislature could “return” to the legislative process from the stage of deliberation in the Finance Committee – the stage at which the defect occurred – and continue as required.

 

The case represents something of a development of the rule established in the Poultry Growers case. The participation principle established there was restated in a new and more detailed manner. The decision also moved the boundary and somewhat widened the scope of judicial review in regard to an infringement of the right to substantive participation.

Voting Justices: 
Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
dissent
Full text of the opinion: 

The Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice

HCJ 10042/16

HCJ 10046/16

HCJ 10054/16

HCJ 76/17

HCJ 802/17

 

Quintinsky v. Knesset

 

In the matter of the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement

 

Summary

 

            The petitions challenged the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement and its legislative procedures. An expanded five-justice panel of the Court (per Justice N. Sohlberg, Deputy President M. Naor and Justices E. Hayut and N. Hendel concurring, Justice M. Mazuz dissenting) granted the petitions and declared the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement relatively void, such that that the Knesset was not required to revisit the legislative proceedings prior to the Arrangement’s deliberation in committee in preparation for the second and third readings, but could “return” to the legislative proceedings from the point in which the defect occurred – i.e., the stage of the deliberations in the Finance Committee.

1.         The Tax Arrangement, anchored in Chapter XII of the Economic Efficiency (Legislative Amendments for the Implementation of the Economic Policy for Budget Years 2017 and 2018), 5777-2016, imposed a designated tax upon owners of multiple apartments whose aggregate rights in the apartments was 249% or more. Under the Tax Arrangement, a holder of apartments to the said extent would be subject to a tax of 1% of “the determining amount” for each apartment held, exclusive of two apartments as he may choose, where the “determining amount” would be calculated in accordance with a formula set out in the Appendix to the Law.

2.         Five petitions were submitted, arguing that the Court should annul the law both for defects in the legislative process and for unconstitutionality. On Feb. 28, 2017, the Court issued an order nisi requiring the Respondents to show cause why the Tax Arrangements should not be revoked “due to a substantive defect in its legislative proceedings that goes to the heart of the proceedings”. Inasmuch as the order nisi addressed only the defects in the legislative proceedings, the Court’s judgment focused solely upon that subject.

3.         At the outset of his opinion, Justice N. Sohlberg addressed the fundamental guiding principles of judicial review of the Knesset’s legislative procedures. On the one hand, he emphasized the principle of the separation of powers, from which the Knesset derives its elevated status as an independent authority entrusted with legislation, and which requires restraint and moderation in the judicial review of its actions. On the other hand, he presented the justifications for judicial intervention in the legislative process, bearing in mind, inter alia, the principle of the rule of law and the Knesset’s role in supervising and monitoring the activities of the government. Indeed, the principle of the separation of powers requires that judicial review of the legislative process be carried out with awe and reverence, moderation and respect. However, it also requires that the Court vigilantly stand guard lest the Knesset serve as the government’s doormat. This particularly so in Israel’s parliamentary regime in which the executive branch controls a majority of the members of the legislative branch, and all the more so when an “exceptional” legislative process like that of the Arrangements Law is concerned. The Court must, therefore, ensure that the Knesset fulfils it role faithfully and responsibly, inter alia through a proper, productive legislative process. Justice Sohlberg also noted that the Court was not concerned with review of the content of the Law, but solely with an examination of the process of its enactment.

4.         After presenting the guiding principles, Justice Sohlberg addressed the criteria for judicial review of the legislative process as developed in HCJ 4885/03 Israel Poultry Farmers Association Agricultural Cooperative Society v. Government of Israel, IsrSC 59(2) 14 (2004) (hereinafter: the Poultry Growers case) – deemed the leading case on the subject of judicial review of the legislative process – which established that judicial intervention in the legislative process is justified only in the presence of  “a defect in the legislative process that ‘goes to the heart of the process,’” that involves a severe and substantial violation of the basic principles of the legislative process. Such defects include, inter alia, the “principle of participation”, which is examined on the basis of two criteria: the first is whether the Knesset members were “denied any practical possibility of knowing about what they are voting”; the second is whether the Knesset members were denied any “practical possibility of formulating their position with regard to the draft law”.

5.         Thirteen years having passed since the Court’s decision in the Poultry Growers case – and in light of the experience accumulated in the interim, and in view of the Knesset legal adviser’s statement in the course of hearing this case that the case law does not currently provide adequate guidance to the legislature – Justice Sohlberg was of the opinion that some further polishing and direction was required. The Poultry Growers case had served its purpose, but at present, achieving a proper balance between the Knesset’s sovereignty and the need for legislative procedures appropriate to Israel’s constitutional parliamentary regime required that emphasis no longer be placed upon the question whether the Knesset members were “denied any practical possibility of knowing about what they are voting”. Rather, a somewhat different, more easily implemented and effective test was required along the lines of the second criterion raised in the Poultry Growers case. The legislative process must allow the members of the Knesset to adopt a substantive position, if only in a very limited manner, in regard to the bills placed before them. Under this approach, adopting a position is not a mere “passive” act, but requires a certain cognitive process, independent processing of the information presented to the Knesset member, and the formulation of an informed decision for or against the proposed law. Only when such an opportunity is provided, can it be said that the Knesset members were granted an opportunity to participate in a real, active sense in the legislative process.

6.         Justice Sohlberg addressed the substance and importance of parliamentary debate, and held that a proper legislative process requires debate in the substantive sense of an exchange of ideas. In the absence of an opportunity to conduct a debate, the Knesset members’ participation in the legislative process is deprived of content, and is limited merely to a basic, “passive” understanding of the proposals before them. In such a situation, there is a not-insignificant fear that the Knesset will become a “rubber stamp” for the law’s sponsors – at times, the executive branch which, as noted, enjoys a parliamentary majority. Justice Sohlberg emphasized, however, that the Knesset is not under a duty to conduct a hearing like the “due process” required of administrative agencies. The Court’s intervention in the legislative process would be justified only when Knesset members are deprived of any practical possibility for conducting a minimal discussion of the proposed bill and form an opinion in its regard – even if only in the most basic sense (para. 79 of the opinion). However, if the legislative process was conducted in the said manner, but the Knesset members failed to exploit the opportunity afforded them, there would be no grounds for judicial intervention that would “coerce” the Knesset members to conduct themselves in some particular manner.

7.         Justice Sohlberg further stressed that the question whether a parliamentary debate was conducted must not be examined in accordance with rigid, formal rules in the absence of which the principle of participation is not fulfilled. Care must be taken not to set an overly high, unattainable bar. Often, time limitations and workloads do not permit “sitting seven clean days” on every law, and conducting a comprehensive, exhaustive discussion of every jot and tittle. Clearly, it is often impossible to grant each and every Knesset member the opportunity to present all of his arguments at length and in detail. Judicial review of the legislative process thus requires addressing the matter in light of all its circumstances.

8.         Justice Sohlberg also addressed the “exceptional” procedural framework through which the Tax Arrangement was enacted. In this regard, he noted that the need for the earlier noted parliamentary debate would seem to be inconsistent with the haste that characterized the enactment of the Arrangement Law, but he nevertheless held, in accordance with the holding in the Poultry Growers case, that despite the not inconsequential problems presented by this legislative mechanism, recourse to it does not, itself, invalidate a law. Judicial review of the legislative process must be substantive, and must focus upon the maters themselves, viz., whether there was a clear, serious infringement of the fundamental principles of the legislative process. This conclusion is a consequence of the view that even if ab initio it were preferable to take the ‘high road” of the normal legislative process, after the fact there is no justification for judicial intervention in the legislative process as long as the fundamental principles of the process were maintained. Moreover, we must take care not to adopt a “pure” approach that would impose demands upon the legislative process that the public’s representatives would be unable to maintain. Therefore, the government must be permitted some leeway in this regard, and the Court should not preclude a priori a mechanism that facilitates a more rapid legislative process that makes it possible to combine matters that are directly and substantively connected to achieving the budgetary goals, as long as this does not constitute a clearly serious violation of the fundamental principles of the legislative process.

9.         Against this background, Justice Sohlberg examined the legislative process of the law under review, and held that the cumulative circumstances surrounding the legislative proceedings of the Tax Arrangement in the course of the preparation of the bill by the Finance Committee for a second and third reading leads to the conclusion that there was a defect that went to the heart of the legislative process. In this regard, Justice Sohlberg took note of the hurried schedule of the Finance Committee’s debate, which did not allow the Knesset members time to examine the details of the updated bill prior to the debate; the atmosphere of haste, pressure and panic that characterized the Committee’s debate (as reflected by the protocol of the session); and the complexity of the Multiple Apartment Tax Arrangement, which had serious economic and legal ramifications, and which could not be addressed in a hasty, routine manner.  It was further emphasized that no one characteristic of the process under review, alone, constitutes grounds for annulling the legislative procedure. However, when members of Knesset are required to hear the reading of the provisions of a bill – “new” as well as “old” – understand and assimilate the explanations, express an opinion and listen to other opinions under such time restraints and haste, in the middle of the night, and following long, exhausting debates of other issues, while all the while being pressed to hurry, it becomes clear that no real debate can be held. Inasmuch as the members of the Finance Committee who so desired were not granted an opportunity to conduct a proper debate and form a considered opinion in regard to the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement, the principle of participation was clearly and substantially infringed. Under such circumstances, there is no recourse but to hold that there was a flaw going to the heart of the legislative process of the Multiple Apartments Tax.

10.       Incidentally, Justice Sohlberg noted that the “abandoning” of the Finance Committee debate by members of the opposition may have had its political reasons, but such conduct does not provide grounds for judicial review of the process. Judicial review of the legislative process focuses upon the possibility afforded the Knesset members to conduct a debate and establish a position in regard to the bill. A Knesset member’s choice to relinquish that possibility does not itself justify judicial intervention.

11.       As for the remedy, Justice Sohlberg held that the finding of a flaw going to the heart of the legislative process does not necessarily require the nullification of the legislation under review. A distinction must be drawn between the question of the existence of a flaw going to the heart of the process and the question of the conclusion to be drawn from such a flaw. The decision as to the consequences of a flaw in the legislative process must be examined in light of the doctrine of relative voidness. In that framework, consideration must be given to the public interest that may be harmed from declaring a law or administrative act to be void, as well as to the extent of reliance upon the legislation, the scope of reasonable expectations that it created, and the consequences of declaring it void.

12.       Justice Sohlberg addressed the proposal of the Knesset’s attorney that a “warning of voidness” – a cautionary sign for the future – would suffice, but held that it would be inadequate under the circumstances. From a forward looking perspective, a mere warning would be insufficient in view of the seriousness of the defect in the legislative process, as well as in light of the opinion of the Knesset’s legal adviser in regard to the need to give expression to the principle of participation and the need to set a minimum standard, and also owing to the fact that warnings – that were, in effect, “warnings of voidance” – were repeatedly given in the past, along with expressions of great concern in regard to flaws in hasty  legislative procedures in regard to the Arrangements Law and other laws.

13.       The arguments in regard to expectations created by the Tax Arrangement were examined, along with the reliance upon its provisions in the marketplace and the public arena, and particularly by individuals, but such expectations were not found sufficient to justify retaining the Tax Arrangement. While some individuals and some of the public would certainly lose due to the nullification of the Multiple Apartments Tax, that loss would be made up for by the gain of proper legislative practices. Moreover, an examination of the protocol of the Finance Committee’s debate, and in light of the arguments made by the parties, the possibility cannot be ruled out that a proper debate in the Committee prior to the second and third readings may have resulted in changes in the content of the chapter concerning the Multiple Apartments Tax that would have influenced the ultimate legislative product.

14.       In this regard, Justice Sohlberg emphasized that the judgment was entirely focused upon the legislative process, and not on the content or wisdom of the Tax Arrangement. The Knesset may reenact the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement, and such a reenacting would not be what is polemically referred to as a “High Court bypass law”. A proper legislative process could give the Tax Arrangement legal force. Only then will the Arrangement’s expectations, reliance interests, and purposes be properly founded.

15.       Lastly, it was held that despite the severity of the defect in the legislative process, it was centered in the Committee’s deliberations in preparation for the second and third readings. That being the case, it would be proper that the remedy be focused upon what needed correction and not beyond that. There is no need or justification for voiding the entire legislative process and starting again from the beginning, which would cause greater harm than benefit. In light of that, Justice Sohlberg proposed ordering the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement relatively void, that is, it would not be necessary to repeat the legislative stages prior to the Committee’s deliberations in preparation for the second and third readings, and the legislature could “return” to the legislative process from the stage of deliberation in the Finance Committee – the stage at which the defect occurred – and continue as required.

16.       President M. Naor concurred in the judgment of Justice Sohlberg, the main points of which were presented above, and added only a few comments of her own. Inter alia, President Naor addressed the role of the chair of a Knesset committee and that of the chair of the Finance Committee in particular. The President noted that while the role of the chair of the Finance Committee is complex and requires consideration of various interests, ultimately, as the chair of a Knesset committee he must ensure the principle of parliamentary independence and the conducting of a proper legislative process. On one hand, he must ensure efficient debate, while on the other hand, he must not surrender to a demand to bring a law to a vote at any price and at any time. Against this background, the President noted that in the instant case the Chair of the Finance Committee should have acted differently, for example, by convening a further hearing on the bill on the following day, as was requested by some of the committee’s members. The President further noted that the Court had expressed criticism in regard to the legislative process, but had refrained from intervening in a law that had been enacted by such a process due to the restraint and moderation demanded by the relationship among the branches of government. However, she emphasized that this does not mean that “everything is permitted” in legislative proceedings. When the separation of powers is undermined, it is the role of the Court to ensure that each branch act within its own realm.

17.       Justice E. Hayut concurred in the judgment of Justice N. Sohlberg, and noted that given the inherent problems of accelerated legislative proceedings, as in the case of the Arrangements Law, there is no avoiding the presumption that such proceedings are facially susceptible to defects. She therefore added that it is important to establish rules and criteria that would lessen the threat, and it is regrettable that such rules have not been incorporated into the Knesset rules even 13 years after the Poultry Growers case. Justice Hayut noted that the Knesset’s legal adviser, Advocate Eyal Yinon, faithfully fulfilled one of his central statutory roles in clearly explaining to the Knesset House Committee, in advance, the importance of strict observance of the proper legislative procedures despite the pressing schedule. However, the new draft of the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement was only presented for the review of the members of the Finance Committee at the outset of the debate upon it, which raised objections from Knesset members from the entire political spectrum, as well as by the committee’s legal adviser. Under such circumstances, “the writing was on the wall” and it was clear that the debate that was about to take place under such circumstances would be improper and tainted by a defect that went to the heart of the process. In regard to the Knesset legal adviser’s letter warning that there was a defect going to the heart of the legislative process of the Multiple Apartments Tax Arrangement, and the Knesset Speaker’s letter asking the chair of the Finance Committee to consider reconvening the committee in view of the defects in the legislative process, Justice Hayut noted that one might have expected that such an exceptional letter from the Knesset legal adviser, especially when accompanied by a request from the Speaker, would have fallen on attentive ears. Unfortunately, the chair of the Finance Committee did not heed that call, and we have thus arrived at this juncture. Inasmuch as more-than-sufficient “warnings of voidance” were given in this matter, Justice Hayut concurred in the opinion of Justice Sohlberg and the remedy he proposed.

18.       Justice N. Hendel concurred in the opinion of Justice N. Sohlberg, and expanded upon the theoretical and practical importance of the right of Knesset members to participate in legislative proceedings from the perspectives of political theory and Jewish law. Often, modern legislation is not the product of philosophical enquiry seeking truth and justice, but rather of political negotiations that involve political pressure and the relinquishing of principles. However, such a procedure does not violate the honor of legislation, as that derives from the nature of the common social project reflected by lawmaking. That joint creation that balances the values of all parts of society is a significant achievement that grants the law a special status worthy of public respect. But that is only true if the representatives of all the public were afforded an opportunity to participate in the legislative process. It is that participation that makes the law a foundational, unifying force, and transforms the exigencies of the process from coercion to a source of strength.

            Justice Hendel further addressed the question of the duty of Knesset members to participate in the legislative process. Jewish law stresses the recognition of this view in light of the conception of the public’s elected representatives as partners, agents and trustees of the public. Common to these approaches is a raising of the bar required of the holders of elected office. Justice Hendel’s opinion referred to a number of halakhic decisors who were active at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel and thereafter who were supportive of democracy in general, and of the State of Israel in particular. As opposed to Jewish law, Israeli law leaves the duty of Knesset members to participate in the legislative process to the public sphere. But that public duty of participation also carries legal weight when the scope of the right to participation is examined.

            The importance of the right of participation and the existence of a “public duty” of Knesset members to participate in the legislative process lead to the conclusion that, in the instant case, members of Knesset were actively deprived of that right of participation to an extent of a flaw going to the heart of the process that leads to the nullification of the law.

 

Dissent of Justice M. Mazuz:

 1.        Justice M. Mazuz, dissenting, was of the opinion that the petitions should be denied. He disagreed with the Court majority both in regard to the principles applied in reviewing the process in this case, as well as in regard to the application of those principles to the instant case.

2.         In the opinion of Justice Mazuz, the majority’s approach constituted an unjustified, substantive deviation from over three decades of the Court’s consistent precedent in regard to judicial intervention in the Knesset’s legislative process. The approach to intervention in the Knesset’s work procedures had, until now, been limited to protecting the democratic “rules of the game”. It was accordingly held that the Court would intervene in the internal decisions of the Knesset only when confronted by a serious violation of “substantive values of our constitutional regime” (the Sarid rule [HCJ 652/81 Sarid v. Speaker of the Knesset, IsrSC 36(2) 197]). That position was justified, inter alia, by considerations of the separation of powers and mutual respect among the branches of government.

3.         As far as the constitutional review of a law on a claim of flaws in its legislation, the leading case in this matter (the Poultry Growers case) established a more exacting rule under which the Court’s intervention is limited only to cases in which it is proven that the legislative process was tainted by “a defect in the legislative process that ‘goes to the heart of the process.’ A defect that ‘goes to the heart of the process’ is a defect that involves a severe and substantial violation of the basic principles of the legislative process in Israel's parliamentary and constitutional system”. That rule, which the Court reiterated on numerous occasions, focuses upon preserving the democratic “rules of the game” in regard to the legislative process (“the basic principles of the legislative process”), and expressly held that the Court would not review the legislative process on the basis of arguments as to the quality of debate (“proper legislative process”). In accordance with that rule, all of the many petitions submitted in this matter to date were unanimously denied.

4.         Justice Mazuz was of the opinion that although the majority viewed their position as implementing the extant rule in this matter, its approach actually represents a substantive change of the rule in law and in practice. In practice, the majority approach abandons the rule established in the Court’s consistent precedent that focuses upon protection of a Knesset member’s right of participation in the legislative process, and concentrates its constitutional review for claims of defects in that process upon criteria that concern the quality of the of the legislative debate in the Knesset (the length of the deliberations on the bill; the influence of the deliberations upon the bill; and the time that elapsed from the presentation of the bill for examination by the Knesset members and the date of the deliberations), inter alia in reliance upon criteria proposed by Victor Goldfeld in the framework of the doctrine of “legislative due process”, a doctrine expressly rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court.

5.         In the opinion of Justice Mazuz, we are concerned with a far-reaching change in the delicate, sensitive relationship between the Court and the Knesset in its primary role as the legislature – from the role of protecting the democratic “rules of the game” to that of conducting detailed review of the quality of the Knesset’s legislative debates. In Justice Mazuz’s view, this is a very problematic conception that raises a series of difficult theoretical and practical issues, both in terms of the normative aspect of the principles of constitutional review and in terms of the principle of the separation of powers and inter-institutional comity, as well as in terms of its practical consequences. This approach was expressly rejected over and over again by the Supreme Court in a large number of judgments spanning over three decades, and it has no counterpart in the law of other states.

6.         In the opinion of Justice Mazuz, an examination of the procedures adopted in enacting the Multiple Apartments Tax Law clearly shows that there was no violation of the right of the members of Knesset in general or of members of the Finance Committee in particular to participate in the legislative process. The rule of intervention established by the case law in this regard refers to a situation in which Knesset members are “denied any practical possibility” of knowing about what they are voting and of formulating their position with regard to the draft law. An examination of the matter refutes the argument that such was the case in matter before the Court.

            The proposal regarding the “Multiple Apartments Tax” was published for public review on Aug. 2, 2016. Shortly thereafter, the proposal was approved by the Government, and a memorandum of the law was published for public comment. After comments were obtained from various bodies, the bill was approved by the Ministerial Legislation Committee. The bill was submitted to the Knesset on Oct. 31, 2016, and was debated in two lengthy sessions of the Finance Committee held three weeks apart. The first session, held on Nov. 21, 2016, lasted some two-and-a-half hours. In the course of that session, the details of the bill were presented and comments and objections were voiced by members of the committee. The second session was held on Dec. 15, 2016. That marathon session lasted some eight hours, and at its conclusion, the bill was approved for submission to the plenum for a second and third reading. During this not inconsiderable period from the publication of the first proposal, the proposal was the subject of active, sometimes turbulent debate in the media and in various public forums. In addition, during the period of some three weeks between the two sessions of the Finance Committee, meetings and consultations were conducted between representatives of the Ministry of Finance and coalition and opposition members of the committee, as well as with the legal advisers of the committee and representatives of the Bar Association and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. While by the very nature of the process, various changes were made in the bill in the course of the process, primarily in response to requests by Knesset members, these were included in the draft presented to the committee prior to the debate, and they were also presented and explained in the lengthy concluding session by senior representatives of the Treasury who were present at the session.

7.         Under these circumstances – in which the legislative process proceeded for nearly five months, including publication to the public, a plenum debate and vote in the first reading, two lengthy sessions of the Finance Committee, and a plenum debate and vote on the second and third readings – one can hardly say, in the opinion of Justice Mazuz, that the members of Knesset were denied any practical possibility of formulating their position and of knowing about what they were voting, which is the test for a constitutional violation of the right of participation.  Justice Mazuz was also of the opinion that this was not a legislative process of which to be proud. There is no doubt that the haste and urgency of the concluding session of the Finance Committee impeded the possibility for a detailed examination of the bill. However, that is not the test for intervention, particularly when the Knesset members were acquainted with the main points of the bill for some considerable time.

8.         In Justice Mazuz’s opinion, even a comparison between the circumstances and defects argued against the process in the present case and those addressed in prior judgments shows that the defects in the present case were not of a kind that differed or were of greater severity than those addressed in previous petitions that were all denied. On the contrary, in at least some of the previous petitions, including that of the Poultry Growers case itself, the defects were clearly more severe in various aspects. In the opinion of Justice Mazuz, this demonstrates that the criteria applied in this case were different from those applied in the Court’s previous decisions.

9.         Justice Mazuz was of the opinion that broadening the scope of constitutional review of legislative proceedings also raises a significant theoretical normative problem in regard to the source of authority for constitutional review of the quality of legislative proceedings themselves. Justice Mazuz surveyed the legal situation in other countries (the United States, England, Canada and Germany), and pointed out that constitutional review of legislative proceedings per se is not accepted in those countries, and that the approach adopted by the Court’s majority deviates from the accepted practice of other states.

10.       In concluding, Justice Mazuz expressed a dissenting view in regard to the appropriate remedy in this case, as well. In his view, even if there were defects in the legislative procedures that would justify the Court’s intervention – as was the view of the majority, and with which he disagreed – the operative result decided upon by the Court’s majority is not the remedy that accords with the circumstances and the principles of constitutional relief. In his view, it would have been sufficient in this case to point out the defect, which did not influence the results of the vote, or to issue a “warning of voidance”, or at most, to declare “delayed voidance”, that is, to establish a time frame during which the law would remain in force and during which the Knesset could reenact the law from the point in which the alleged defect occurred.

Zoabi v. Knesset's Ethics Committee

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 6706/14
Date Decided: 
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

This is a statement of reasons for the judgment handed down on Dec. 10, 2014, denying the petition of Petitioner 1, Member of Knesset Hannen Zoabi, in regard to the decision of the Knesset Ethics Committee that found that Petitioner 1 had violated Rule 1A of the Knesset Ethics Rules, and ordered her suspension from participation in meetings of the Knesset plenum and committees, other than for voting, for a period of six months. This decision was made following two statements to the media made by the Petitioner. One was a statement made in a radio interview several days after the abduction of the late Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach in which the Petitioner, while clarifying that she did not agree with the kidnappers, stated that the kidnappers were not terrorists and justified their actions. The second was a statement that appeared in an article published on the Internet, in the context of which the Petitioner called for the imposition of a blockade of Israel rather than conduct negotiations with it. The decision examined the following questions: Did the Ethics Committee have the authority to impose sanctions for political statements made by a member of the Knesset that were expressed or published outside of the Knesset building, when, in principle, such statements are protected by the functional immunity granted to a member of the Knesset? If so, did the Ethics Committee exercise its authority lawfully under the circumstances of the case?

 

The High Court of Justice (per Deputy President M. Naor, Justices E. Rubinstein, E. Hayut and H. Melcer concurring, Justice S. Joubran dissenting) denied the petition for the following reasons:

 

Under the rule established in the Makhoul case, the functional immunity granted to a member of the Knesset by virtue of sec. 1(a) of the Immunity Law does not serve as a shield to proceedings against a member of the Knesset by the Knesset Ethics Committee. The Court rejected the Petitioners’ argument that the rule should be narrowly construed to apply only to circumstances concerning statements made within the Knesset building, or derogatory statements that have a potential for interfering with the proper functioning of the Knesset or that might harm the internal relationships among its members. As held in the Makhoul case, imposing sanctions for unethical statements or actions does not constitute a circumvention of functional immunity. That is also true in regard to the statements that are the subject of these proceedings, even though they were made outside of the Knesset and not in regard to any specific person or organization. Thus, even assuming that the Petitioner’s statements enjoyed functional immunity, it would not prevent the Ethics Committee from addressing them in accordance with the current ethics rules.

 

Indeed, political expression is of particular importance for members of the Knesset, as it is by that means that Knesset members present their positions to their electorate. This is particularly so in regard to a Knesset member who represents a minority group. Therefore, ethical review of the statements of Knesset members should be limited as far as possible. Indeed, the Ethics Committee correctly directed itself to refrain, as far as possible, from restricting the freedom of expression of Knesset members. However, that does not mean that the Committee lacks the power to address extreme statements that constitute support for terrorist activities against the State’s citizens, or identification with such acts. While it may be that the ethics rules have more limited application to statements made outside of the Knesset, the circumstances of the current matter are extreme.

 

The Court also rejected the Petitioners’ argument that there is no express provision in the Knesset Rules of Procedure or the Ethics Rules that authorizes the Ethics Committee to impose sanctions for the Petitioner’s statements. In this regard, the Court held that the provisions of Rule 1A of the Ethics Rules – upon which the Ethics Committee based its decision in the regard to the Petitioner – establish the basic values that obligate a member of the Knesset, such as the advancement of society and the good of the State, and upholding the dignity of the Knesset and of its members. These basic values establish general guidelines for the conduct of members of the Knesset, and express the need for preserving public trust in the Knesset, and should be granted independent status that permits the imposition of ethical sanctions by reason of their breach. As noted, the general principles established under Rule 1A include a Knesset member’s obligation to act for the advancement of the good of the State and to uphold the dignity of the Knesset. It was upon those duties that the challenged decision was based.

 

In light of the above, the Court unanimously held that the decision was within the competence of the Ethics Committee.

 

The majority further held that the Ethics Committee lawfully exercised its authority in the circumstances of the instant case. It is a matter of decided law that the scope of judicial review is influenced by the type of decision under review. As a rule, the Ethics Committee enjoys broad freedom, and therefore, the scope of judicial review is relatively narrow, and it has even been held that it should be exercised with greater restraint than judicial review of the decisions of other quasi-judicial Knesset bodies. The Court may intervene when the Ethics Committee’s decision violates a law, or where substantive issues, such as the violation of basic constitutional rights, the right to due process, or a violation of the rules of natural justice is concerned. As a rule, the more severe the violation of a Knesset member’s basic rights, and the more the sanction for the conduct deviates from what would be appropriate, the greater the Court’s willingness to intervene.

 

In the present case, the Ethics Committee found that, in view of their content and the sensitivity of their timing, the Petitioner’s statements were inconsistent with the good of the State, and severely undermined public faith in, and public perception of the Knesset. The Ethics Committee therefore found that the Petitioner’s statements violated Rule 1A(2) and Rule 1A(4) of the Ethics Rules. The Committee’s conclusions did not deviate from the broad margin of discretion granted to it.

 

The Petitioner’s statements in the interview and in the article were perceived as expressing support for terrorism and for the killing of civilians. In the opinion of the President, in light of all the circumstances, the Petitioner overstepped the boundaries. In this regard, it was held, inter alia, that any form of support for terrorism, coming from any side of the debate, could seriously undermine public faith in, and public perception of the Knesset. Therefore, and in light of the nature and timing of the Petitioner’s statements, there were no grounds for intervention in the Committee’s conclusion that the Petitioner’s statements severely undermined public faith in, and public perception of the Knesset, and constituted a violation of Rule 1A(2) of the Ethics Rules, which establish, inter alia, that a member of the Knesset act for the advancement of the good of the State. It was noted that the primary purpose of that Rule is to ensure that a member of the Knesset act in the public interest, and not exploit his status and authority for personal benefit. In the instant case, on their face, the Petitioner’s statements were not intended to promote her personal interests. However, the HCJ found that even extreme acts and statements that comprise an element of legitimizing terrorist acts against the State’s citizenry are inconsistent with the good of the State. The Petitioner’s statements were not published in the media with explanatory notes. Their spirit – despite the Petitioner’s subsequent disclaimers – was that of identification with terrorist acts and support of violence as a means for achieving political ends. Under these circumstances, there was no room for intervention in the Ethics Committee’s decision that the Petitioner violated the Ethics Rules.

 

As far as the sanction imposed by the Ethics Committee was concerned, the Court noted that the Committee’s broad discretion also applies to deciding upon the sanction. However, that broad power is not to be understood as a license to impose arbitrary punishment. In imposing a sanction for a violation of the Ethics Rules, the Committee must consider a broad spectrum of factors. In general, the sanction imposed must be proportionate to the severity of the ethical violation committed by the Knesset member. Consequently, the Committee must take into account the severity of the offense and the circumstances of its commission. In regard to statements of members of the Knesset, consideration must be given, inter alia, to the content of the statement, its subject, and its timing. A statement that defames or denigrates individuals or groups is not the same as another outrageous or deviant statement, and a statement that encourages terrorism or violence is not the same as another extreme statement. In addition, the Ethics Committee must take into consideration the circumstances of the actual Knesset member before it, including the question of whether he expressed remorse for his actions, as well as his overall ethics record. Under the circumstances of this case, the Court did not find grounds to intervene in the sanction imposed upon the Petitioner. While the sanction – suspension from participation in meetings of the Knesset plenum and committees for the maximum permitted period – is very severe under the existing hierarchy of sanctions, and is exceptionally severe in comparison to sanctions imposed in the past, under the circumstances, and in light of the Petitioner’s extreme statements and their timing, the Court would not accept the Petitioners’ claim of discrimination and disproportionality. Moreover, the sanction in this case was not a comprehensive suspension from Knesset activity for six months.   In addition, given that most of the suspension would coincide with the Knesset’s summer recess – a consideration that the Committee bore in mind – as well as with the elections recess – a consideration of which the Committee was unaware – the practical significance of intervention under these circumstances would be minimal at most.

 

Deputy President Rubinstein and Justices E. Hayut and H. Melcer concurred, while adding comments. Thus, inter alia, Justice Hayut added two comments. The first was in regard to a Knesset member’s right to inspect the Ethics Committee’s protocols in regard to the proceedings in his matter, which is required as a matter of due process. The second concerned the restriction of the freedom of political expression of an elected representative who represents a minority group. Justice Melcer added a comment in regard to the distinction between legal prohibitions and ethical prohibitions.

 

Justice Joubran (dissenting) concurred with the President in regard to the matter of competence, however, in his view, a distinction should be made between solely political expressions and expressions that comprised profanity and defamation of individuals and groups. However, in his view, that distinction was not a matter of authority, but rather concerned discretion. That is, it concerned the scope of judicial review appropriate to decisions in regard to such expressions, and the degree of protection that should be afforded them.

 

In regard to discretion, Justice Joubran was of the opinion that a member of Knesset can be convicted of an ethical violation under Rule 1A(4) where the member violated the dignity of the Knesset or its members, or where a member of Knesset acted in a manner that undermines public trust, while a conviction under Rule 1A(2) would be appropriate where a member of Knesset’s actions were not for the good of the State, as opposed to a situation in which the member did not act to advance its good. This interpretation takes into account that neutral conduct of Knesset members that does not advance but does not harm the State will not fall within the purview of the prohibition. Justice Joubran added that in view of the great value in ensuring the freedom of political expression of Knesset members and limiting its restriction as far as possible, particularly where representatives of minority groups are concerned, and in view of the broad language of the above ethics rules, the conviction of a member of the Knesset by virtue of one of them should be limited only to cases in which the content of the statements is clear, unequivocal and extreme. In the instant case, Justice Joubran was of the opinion that such clear, unequivocal content could not be attributed to the statements of the Petitioner, both in light of her later expression of reservations in regard to the abduction already in the course of making the statements, and in view of her later explanations in the media. Therefore, in the opinion of Justice Joubran, the decision of the Ethics Committee was unlawful, and the petition should have been granted.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
concurrence
Author
dissent
Full text of the opinion: 

 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice

 

HCJ 6706/14

 

 

Before: The Honorable President M. Naor

The Honorable Deputy President E. Rubinstein The Honorable Justice S. Joubran

The Honorable Justice E. Hayut The Honorable Justice H. Melcer

 

The Petitioners:                1.            MK Hanin Zoabi

2.            Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

3.            The Association of Civil Rights in Israel

 

v e r s u s

 

The Respondents:           1.            The Knesset's Ethics Committee

                2.            The Chairperson of the Knesset

                3.            The Knesset

 

Petition to Grant an Order Nisi

 

Date of Session:               17th of Kislev, 5775 (December 9, 2014)

 

On behalf of the Petitioners:      Adv. Hassan Jabarin; Adv. Dan Yakir;

Adv. Maisana Morani

 

On behalf of the Respondents: Adv. Eyal Yinnon; Adv. Dr. Gur Bligh

 

 

J U D G M E N T (R E A S O N S)

 

 

President M. Naor:

 

1.            On December 10, 2014, we issued  a judgment without reasons in which the Petition was denied by a majority opinion (Deputy President M. Naor, Justice E. Rubinstein, Justice E. Hayut and Justice H. Melcer, against the dissenting opinion of Justice S. Joubran). In the judgement we ruled that:

 

"1. The Petition before us addresses the decision of Respondent 1, the Knesset's Ethics Committee, which determines that Petitioner 1 violated Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset, and instructs that she be removed from sittings of the Knesset's plenum and committees, other than participating in votes, for a period of six months, commencing on July 30, 2014, and ending on January  29,  2015.  Approximately  half  of  the  period  of

 

 

 

removal was during the Knesset's summer recess, which lasted from August 3, 2014, through October 26, 2014.

 

2.            In the Petition, the Court was requested to intervene in and cancel the  Ethics Committee's decision  regarding the Petitioner. Alternatively, the Court was requested to intervene in the removal sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner.

 

3.            On November 9, 2014, President A. Grunis instructed the Respondents to inform whether they agree that the hearing be held as though an order nisi had been issued and based on the material that had been filed at such time. After the Respondents informed that they agree, the President instructed that the Petition be brought before an extended bench of five justices.

 

4.            On December 9, 2014, we heard the Parties' oral arguments.

 

5.            The six month period is meant to end on January 29, 2015. Therefore we have found it to be appropriate to give our ruling now, without reasons. The reasons shall be given separately.

 

6.            By a majority of opinions (Deputy President M. Naor, Justice E. Rubinstein, Justice E. Hayut and Justice H. Melcer) and against the dissenting opinion of Justice S. Joubran, we rule as follows: There is no place to intervene in the Ethics Committee's decision that the Petitioner violated Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset. As for the sanction: the sanction that was imposed is indeed unusual in its severity compared to sanctions imposed in the past. However, in the circumstances at hand and in light of the Petitioner's harsh words and the timing in which they were spoken, and considering that a significant part of the period of the sanction was during times of recess, we have not found it appropriate to intervene in the broad discretion that is granted to the Ethics Committee. Inter alia, we have taken into consideration the fact that two days ago the Dispersal of the 19th Knesset Law, 5775-2014 was legislated. In light of this law, the practical significance of intervening in the sanction is miniscule, if at all existent.

 

7.            Therefore, the Petition is denied. There shall be no order for expenses".

 

We shall now elaborate on our reasons.

 

 

 

Background

 

The Complaints Against the Petitioner and Her Responses Thereto

 

2.            The Petitioner is a member of the 19th Knesset on behalf of the Balad party. On June 17, 2014, the Petitioner interviewed on a morning program on Radio Tel Aviv (hereinafter: the "Interview"). The Interview primarily addressed the abduction of the three teenagers: the late Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Sha'er and Eyal Yifrah, which occurred on June 12, 2014, in the area of Gush  Etzion.  The Interview was held approximately five days after the abduction, at a time when the teenagers' fate was not yet known. During the Interview the Petitioner said the following:

 

"Look, look… I, let's ask a question like this, ah, naively, is it strange that people who are under occupation, who live lives that are not normal, and who live in a reality in which Israel abducts detainees every day, is it strange to you that they abduct? […] They are not terrorists […] Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any opening […] They are people who do not see any opening to change their reality, and they are forced to use these means, until Israel shall sober up a little, until the citizens of Israel, the Israeli society shall sober up a little and shall see the suffering, feel the other's suffering"

 

3.            On July 13, 2014, in the midst of operation "Protective Edge", the  www.felesteen.ps website published an article that the Petitioner wrote, and which had been previously published on the www.arab48.co.il website (hereinafter: the "Article"). Inter alia, the following, was written in the Article:

 

"In order for Israel to be convinced that it is not possible to maintain and deepen the occupation, and for it to declare the end of the achievements of the detestable trinity: the fence, the siege and coordination, which it believed turned the occupation into a no-cost occupation absent from the Israeli reality – the Palestinians must declare the end of their own lethal trinity: coordination, negotiations and the internal dispute. We must abandon the lethal trinity and declare a popular resistance instead of security coordination and impose a siege on Israel instead of negotiating therewith, and unity instead of the internal dispute" (a copy of the Article in Arabic and its translation to Hebrew were attached as Exhibit P/5 of the Petition).

 

4.            Following these  remarks, a number of complaints were filed with the  Ethics Committee against the Petitioner. The main complaint was filed on July 22, 2014, by the Chairperson of the Knesset. In this complaint the Chairperson  of  the Knesset stated that while he is aware of the Ethics Committee's position that the members of Knesset's freedom of political expression must be protected, he is of the opinion that the Petitioner "has long since crossed any line with respect to the

 

 

 

conduct that is expected of the MKs" and that the many approaches that are directed to him from the public in this matter "indicate that this is not an 'ordinary' case of a harsh or outrageous remark […], but rather continuous provocative conduct, which could materially erode the status of the Knesset in the eyes of the public." The Chairperson of the Knesset's complaint also mentioned a video clip that documents a confrontation between the Petitioner and policemen during a protest. The Ethics Committee decided not to refer to this video clip in its decision, and therefore I shall not address it.

 

5.            The Petitioner filed a response to the complaint. In her response the Petitioner stated that she "completely rejects the vexatious complaint that is indicative of a dominating culture of racism and a need to rule others and oppress their political opinions". The Petitioner added that the complaints against her were filed on political grounds and that "one must not surrender to those who disagree with me and want to silence me and punish me and even retaliate against me." With regard to the things she said in relation to the abduction of the teenagers, the Petitioner stated laconically that "I referred to the context of the sentence in a series of media interviews and I shall not reiterate it again, and I shall ask that the Ethics Committee review them to receive a complete picture". It is not superfluous to note that the Petitioner did not attach the said interviews to her response. Based on her said statement, the Petitioner asked that the Ethics Committee reject the complaint.

 

The Decision which is the Subject of the Petition

 

6.            On July 29, 2014, the Ethics Committee convened to discuss the said complaints against the Petitioner. The committee decided by a majority of opinions that the two remarks specified above constitute a violation of Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics (Decision 16/19 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the matter of Complaints against Knesset Member Zoabi" (July 29, 2014)). The  committee indeed emphasized that its consistent position is that to the extent possible, the limitation of freedom of political expression of members of Knesset should be avoided; that the members of Knesset's right to express public criticism of the government is maintained also during times of war; and that the mere voicing of harsh criticism on military moves or on government policy during times of war, should not be viewed as a violation of the Rules of Ethics. However, the committee ruled that one must distinguish between legitimate protest – harsh as it may be – and encouraging the enemies of the State and legitimizing acts of terror against its citizens. The committee added that the public in Israel, like in any state, "expects that members of Parliament, who declare allegiance to the State, shall not encourage those who act against it and those who wish to kill its soldiers and citizens and shall not support them […]" (paragraphs 8-9 of the decision).

 

7.            As for the Interview, the Ethics Committee ruled that even though the Petitioner clarified that she does not agree with the abductors, her statement that they are not terrorists and her justification of their actions – especially when the abducted teenagers' fate was yet unknown – constitutes "identifying with enemies of the State" (paragraph 9 of the decision). Regarding the Article, the committee ruled that it is not possible to interpret its content as anything other than "statements which intend to harm  the State  of Israel,  its security and its basic  interests" (paragraph 10 of the decision).

 

 

 

 

8.            The Ethics Committee ruled that the Petitioner's words do not coincide with the State's best interest and prejudice the public's trust in the Knesset and the Knesset's image. Therefore, it was ruled that the Petitioner violated Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics and imposed a sanction of her removal from the sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committees, other than participating in votes, for a period of six months, beginning from July 30, 2014, and ending on January 29, 2015. Approximately three months of the removal period were during the Knesset's summer recess, which lasted from August 3, 2014, through October 26, 2014. On December 9, 2014, the Dispersal of the 19th Knesset Law, 5775-2014, was published in the Official Gazette (Reshumot). This law provides that the 19th Knesset shall disperse before the end of its term and that the elections for the 20th Knesset shall take place on March 17, 2015. Consequently, the Knesset Committee decided that an elections recess shall begin on December 11, 2014, lasting until the 20th Knesset convenes (see: Knesset Committee Decision "In the Matter of the Dates of the Elections  Recess and the Knesset's Activity During the Recess" (December 10, 2014)). Therefore, the remaining part of the period of removal – over a month and a half – also falls during recess.

 

9.            To complete the picture, it shall be noted that on August 3, 2014, the Petitioner's attorneys requested, "in order to file a petition to the High Court of Justice" against the decision, to review the minutes of the Petitioner's matter and the materials presented to the committee in the process of reaching its decision. On August 7, 2014, the Knesset's legal counsel replied to the request and informed the Petitioner that pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules of Ethics, the ethics proceedings, including the documents and the minutes in the matter thereof, are privileged. The Knesset's legal counsel explained in his response that the committee recognizes that there are exceptional situations in which public interest requires disclosure of material from its sessions, such as a situation in which the use of the material is required for the purpose of legal proceedings. However, he stated, the exception relates to the circumstances in which the material from the committee's sessions is required for other legal proceedings and not for the purpose of challenging the decision of the Ethics Committee itself. It was elucidated that the committee is concerned about creating a precedent which will adversely affect the ability of committee members to properly fulfill their duties. Therefore, he informed that the committee unanimously rejected the petition to lift the privilege from the minutes of the session, but decided that if indeed a petition shall be filed, it shall provide the minutes of the session in the Petitioner's matter, for the Court's eyes only.

 

The Petitioner's Appeal of the Decision

 

10.          On August 13, 2014, the Petitioner appealed the Ethics Committee's decision before the plenum of the Knesset. The Petitioner's appeal was filed pursuant to Section 43 of the Knesset's By-Laws, which provides that a member of Knesset may appeal a decision of the Ethics Committee before the plenum, if it decided, inter alia, to remove him from Knesset sessions for the duration of four days of sessions, or more.

 

11.          In her appeal, the Petitioner argued that the Ethics Committee acted ultra vires and in a manner that is contrary to the principle of freedom of political expression. She

 

 

 

further argued that it emerges from the reasoning of the decision that it is not based on a proper evidentiary foundation, and that the sanction imposed is "as far as is known, the most severe sanction that was ever imposed upon a member of Knesset", due to irrelevant considerations and is disproportionate. The Petitioner requested that the Chairperson of the Knesset schedule an urgent session before the plenum of the Knesset to hear the appeal, and on August 20, 2014, she also sent a reminder letter regarding this matter. On August 25, 2014, the Knesset's legal counsel replied to the Petitioner's letter claiming that the Chairperson of  the Knesset does not have authority to convene the plenum of the Knesset during the recess (other than pursuant to Section 9(b) of the Knesset Law, 5754-1994, which empowers him to convene the plenum of the Knesset during recess, in accordance with the demand of 25 members of Knesset or of the Government). Therefore, he informed that it will not be possible to hear the appeal before the beginning of the winter session.

 

12.          The Knesset plenum held a discussion regarding the Petitioner's appeal on October 29, 2014. The Petitioner argued before the plenum, inter alia, that the Ethics Committee's decision is unprecedented in its nature and severity and that this is a vindictive and disproportionate decision. The chairperson of the Ethics Committee, Knesset Member Yitzchak Cohen, responded to the Petitioner's statements. In his response, the chairperson of the Ethics Committee reiterated the committee's main reasons, as were expressed in its decision. In the vote that took place thereafter, 16 members of Knesset voted in favor of accepting the Petitioner's appeal, 68 members of Knesset objected and one member of Knesset abstained. Thus, the petition was denied.

 

The Petition before Us

 

13.          The Petition before us was filed on October 7, 2014, approximately two and half months after the Ethics Committee's decision in the Petitioner's matter and before her appeal had been heard by the Knesset plenum. Therefore, and in light of the Respondents' notice dated October 20, 2014, that the appeal will be heard on October 28, 2014, the Court ruled that it is inappropriate to address the Petition before the Knesset rules on the Petitioner's appeal (Justice Y. Danziger, decision dated October 22, 2014). After the Knesset plenum denied the Petitioner's appeal, the discussion regarding the Petition was renewed. On November 9, 2014, President A. Grunis instructed the Respondents to inform whether they agree that the hearing be held as though an order nisi had been issued and based on the material that had been filed at such time. After the Respondents informed that they agree, the President instructed that the Petition be brought before an extended bench of five justices.

 

On December 9, 2014, we heard the Parties' oral arguments.

 

The Petitioners' Arguments

 

14.          According to the Petitioners, the Ethics Committee acted ultra vires deciding as it did. The Petitioners claimed that the Petitioner's remarks are political remarks, which are protected by the material immunity granted to a member of Knesset under Section 1(a) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law,

 

 

 

5711-1951 (hereinafter: the "Immunity Law"). The Petitioners claimed that, following the Interview, the Petitioner explained in the media that she objects to causing harm to civilians, and to abduction of civilians in particular. The Petitioners further argued that the Attorney General examined complaints that were filed against the Petitioner following the Interview and deemed it inappropriate to open a criminal investigation into her remarks. To this regard, the Petitioners filed the State's response to the petition in HCJ 5716/14 which was directed against the Attorney General's decision in this matter (the hearing in said petition is scheduled to take place on June 10, 2015). In the aforementioned response it was noted that even though the Petitioner identified with the actions of the abductors, her statements did not amount to incitement to violence. Therefore, the Petitioners argued that the Petitioner's remarks which are the subject of the Petition are part of her freedom of political expression, and as such the Ethics Committee did not have any authority to intervene therein.

 

15.          The Petitioners further argued that while this Court has reiterated in its rulings that the material immunity of members of Knesset does not serve as a defense against sanctions at the ethical level, that case law applies only to inappropriate conduct within the house, or to slanderous remarks against another member of Knesset, an individual or a certain public. Such remarks, so it is argued, relate to managing the internal affairs of the Knesset and the relationship between its members and therefore fall within the authority of the Ethics Committee. The Petitioners draw this argument, inter alia, from a principle decision of the Ethics Committee (Decision 2/19 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Remarks by Members of Knesset" (July 2, 2013) (hereinafter: "Decision 2/19")), which states that, as a rule, complaints regarding political remarks by members of Knesset should not be discussed.

 

16.          The Petitioners argued that the Ethics Committee acted ultra vires also by basing its decision on Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics, which "prescribes general values and principles and is not an operative provision" (paragraph 37 of the Petition). This rule, they claimed, has only a declaratory status and thus it is impossible to impose a sanction due to a violation thereof. The Petitioners claimed that the Ethics Committee is only authorized to impose sanctions in consequence of a violation of Rules of Ethics that anchor specific norms relating to  morality, conflict of interest, proper activity of the Knesset and proper conduct in the house. The Petitioners further argued that this is also customary in England. Finally, it was argued that the Ethics Committee is not authorized to determine which remarks are for the benefit of, or contrary to, the State's best interest. In light of all of the reasons specified above, the Petitioners argued that the committee's decision was ultra vires.

 

17.          Alternatively the Petitioners argued that the sanction imposed upon the Petitioner is "discriminatory and exceedingly severe" (paragraph 51 of the Petition). The Ethics Committee imposed its most severe sanction and for the longest possible period of time  and  therefore the  Petitioners  argued that its decision is disproportionate. According to the Petitioners this can also be deduced from a comparison to the committee's previous decisions which were quoted in the Petition itself, and namely the principle decision in the matter of remarks by members  of  Knesset  (Decision  2/19).  It  shall  be  noted  that  the  Petitioners

 

 

 

complained inter alia, about the Ethics Committee's refusal to provide them with the minutes of the Committee's session regarding the Petitioner's matter and requested that we instruct that they be delivered thereto. However, in the oral hearing, and due to the need for a quick ruling, the Petitioners' attorney did not insist on this, while reserving all of his arguments.

 

The Respondents' Arguments

 

18.          The Respondents argued that according to case law, the material immunity does not preclude the Ethics Committee from taking disciplinary actions against a member of Knesset. According to them, particularly in light of the existence of the material immunity, which does not allow for criminal or civil action to be taken against a member of Knesset due to his remarks, it is important to allow the Knesset to deal with such remarks at the ethical level. It was argued that the case law took a principle approach and did not support the argument that the imposition of sanctions for remarks that are covered by material immunity should only be possible in cases where the remarks are harming to collegial relationships between members of Knesset or disrupt the Knesset's proper conduct. The Respondents further argued that the fact that in a long list of decisions, the Ethics Committee recognized the importance of the freedom of political expression granted to members of Knesset, and that it is necessary, to the extent possible, to refrain from limiting it, does not mean that the Committee does not have the authority to impose sanctions for political remarks. This is not a matter of authority, so it is argued, but rather a matter of discretion.

 

19.          The Respondents further claimed that Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics is not a declaratory rule but rather an operative provision, the violation of which can carry the imposition of sanctions. According to them, the Rules of Ethics include a variety of norms, part of which are designed as rules and part of which are designed as principles (standards) – but all of which are operative. To illustrate their argument, the Respondents stated that Rule 1A was used in the past as a basis for imposing sanctions at an ethical level in a series of cases, both as a single normative source and alongside other rules of ethics.

 

20.          As to the exercise of discretion, the Respondents argued there was no flaw in the conclusion that the Petitioner violated the Rules of Ethics. Especially taking into consideration the broad discretion that is granted to the Ethics Committee in such matters. According to the Respondents, the sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner is proportionate. The main reason indicated by the Respondents was that the severity of the sanction is commensurate with the severity of the violation for which it was imposed – a severity that stems from the content of the Petitioner's statements and the timing thereof, and which justifies deviating from the lenient policy which the Ethics Committee has exercised with respect to political remarks. The Respondents further argued that the Petitioner's remarks during the Interview "can be perceived as legitimization of and identification with the State's enemies who are carrying out acts of terror against the citizens of the State" (paragraph 70 of the Respondents' response), at a sensitive time – approximately five days after the abduction of the teenagers and at a time when their fate was unknown. The statement that the Petitioner does not agree with the abductors does not diminish the severity of her remarks. It is further argued that the Petitioner's remarks in the

 

 

 

Article can be deemed as a call to harm the State of Israel, in the midst of the fighting in the Gaza strip during the "Protective Edge" operation. The Respondents also claimed that the time the sanction came into effect, which was at the beginning of the Knesset's summer recess, should also be considered. According to the Respondents, practically speaking this was a removal that, when decided, was for approximately three months, since during the recess the Knesset plenum only assembles in rare cases and the majority of the Knesset committees convene relatively infrequently.

 

Discussion and Ruling

 

21.          The main questions that are presented in this case are whether the Ethics Committee is authorized to impose sanctions against the Petitioner because of her remarks, which in and of themselves are protected by material immunity and which are not among those remarks that are defined as remarks that disrupt the Knesset's work or the internal relationships between its members; and whether there are provisions in the Rules of Ethics that authorize the Ethics Committee to impose sanctions in consequence of such remarks. If such authority exists, this shall lead to an additional question – whether such authority, in the circumstances at hand, was exercised lawfully. I shall discuss the questions in the order of their appearance.

 

Was the Ethics Committee Authorized to Make the Decision?

 

22.          Section 17 of the Basic Law: The Knesset prescribes that "The  members  of Knesset shall have immunity; details shall be determined in the law". The details of the immunity were determined in the Immunity Law. Sections 1(a) – 1(A1) of the Immunity Law, provide:

 

 

Immunity in the Framework of Fulfilling a Position

 

1.            (a) A member of Knesset shall not bear criminal or civil responsibility and shall be immune against any legal actions, due to voting or due to expressing an opinion orally or in writing, or due to an act performed – in or out of the Knesset – if the vote, the expression of the opinion or the act were in the framework of fulfilling his position, or for the sake of fulfilling his position, as a member of Knesset.

[…]

 

(a1) To avoid doubt, an act, including, a remark, that are not random, by a member of Knesset, which constitutes any of the following, for the purpose of this section is not deemed an expression of an opinion or an act that are made in the framework of fulfilling his position or for the sake of fulfilling his position as a member of Knesset:

 

 

 

(1)          Denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;

(2)          Denial of the democratic character of the State;

(3)          Incitement to racism due to color or racial belonging or ethnical-national original.

(4)          Support of an armed struggle by an enemy state or of acts of terror against the State of Israel or against Jews or Arabs, due to their being Jewish or Arab, in Israel or abroad.

 

Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law grants a member of Knesset protection against criminal or civil liability and against any other legal action which could be taken, inter alia, due to expression of opinion in the framework of fulfilling his position. Section 1(a1) sets limits to this immunity.

 

23.          Alongside the material immunity, Section 13E(a) of the Immunity Law authorizes the Knesset Committee to promulgate Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset. Additionally, Section 13D of the Immunity Law grants the Ethics Committee of the Members of Knesset the authority to judge a member of Knesset, inter alia, in matters involving the violation of the Rules of Ethics. These authorities derive from the Knesset's constitutional authority to determine its working procedures (Section 19 of the Basic Law: The Knesset). In the matter at hand, the Committee ruled that the Petitioner violated Rule 1A(2) and Rule 1A(4) of the Rules of Ethics. These rules provide as follows:

 

 

General Values

 

1A. The member of Knesset – (1) […]

(2) Is a trustee of the public and it is his duty to represent the public that voted for him in such a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;

(3) […]

(4) Shall preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, shall conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset and shall act to foster public trust in the Knesset;

(5) […]

(6) […]

 

 

24.          The sanctions that the Ethics Committee may impose upon a member of Knesset are set in Section 13D:

 

The Ethics            13D. (a) The member of Knesset who committed

 

 

 

Committee    one of the following shall be subject to be judged by the Ethics Committee of the Members of Knesset:

[…]

(3) Violated a rule of the Rules of Ethics. […]

(d)          If the Ethics Committee ruled, by a majority of the votes of all of its members, that the member of Knesset violated the provisions of sub-section (a)(1), (1A) or (2), it may impose one of the following thereon:

(1)          A comment;

(2)          A warning;

(3)          A reprimand;

(3A) A severe reprimand;

(3B) Denial of the right to receipt the right to speak in all or some of the Knesset committees of the plenum, for a period that shall not exceed ten days of sessions;

(3C) Limitations of his activity as a member of Knesset, including prohibiting filing bills, agenda proposals, parliamentary questions, etc. except limitations regarding the right to vote, all as the committee shall decide and for a period that it shall decide and provided that the said period shall not exceed the period that remains until the end of such Knesset's session;

(4)          Removal from the sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committees for a period that shall not exceed six months, provided that the member of Knesset shall be entitled to enter the session solely for the purpose of voting;

(5)          Denial of salary and Other Payments for the period of the absence as stated in Section 2(a) or denial of salary and Other Payments for a period which shall not exceed one year due to any violation of any other provision of Section 13A.

For this purpose, "Other Payments" – payment pursuant to Chapter 9 of the Knesset Law, 5754-1994, and payments by virtue of the Retirement of Office Holders in Government Authorities Law, 5729-1969.

 

(d1) If the Ethics Committee has ruled by a majority of votes of all of its members that a

 

 

 

member of Knesset violated the provisions of sub-section (a)(3), it may exercise its authority pursuant to the provisions of sub-section (d), other than the authority under sub-section d(5).

 

25.          From the above citations, one can conclude that the Ethics Committee may impose any sanction provided in Section 13D(d) of the Immunity Law, other than the sanction provided in Section 13D(d)(5), which addresses the denial of salary or Other Payments, upon a member of Knesset who violated any of the Rules of Ethics. In the case at hand, the Ethics Committee imposed a sanction upon the Petitioner pursuant to Section 13D(d)(4) of the Immunity Law, i.e., a sanction of removal from the sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committee for six months. Prima facie, it is the maximum sanction that could be imposed due to violation of any of the Rules of Ethics. It shall be noted that the option of imposing such a sanction was added in the amendment to the Immunity Law from 2002 (Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law (Amendment no. 28), 5762-2002). I shall return to the matter of the sanction further on.

 

26.          The parties to the Petition before us assumed that the above-quoted remarks by the Petitioner are covered by the material immunity that is granted to her as a member of Knesset, under Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law. This leads to the question whether or not said immunity prevents the Ethics Committee from addressing these remarks. In my opinion, the answer should be negative. In HCJ 12002/04 Makhoul v. The Knesset, PD 60(2) 325 (2005) (hereinafter: the "Makhoul Case"), this Court (President A. Barak, with the consent of Justices A. Procaccia and S. Joubran) ruled that the material immunity of a member of Knesset does not extend to the actions of the Ethics Committee against any of the members of Knesset. There it was ruled as follows:

 

"It has been found that the Immunity Law, in that part that relates to the immunity of a member of Knesset, was primarily meant to allow the member of Knesset to perform his work as required and to protect him against being harassed by the executive authority. The Immunity Law was not meant to prevent the Knesset from dealing with conduct occurring within itself that violate its own Rules of Ethics. Indeed, actions and remarks that fall within the framework of material immunity benefit from broad protection. As such, a member of Knesset's immunity cannot be lifted in consequence thereof. The member of Knesset is not exposed to criminal proceedings or civil actions in consequence thereof. However, such rule does not mean that such actions cannot be the subject of other internal proceedings of the Knesset, in general, and of the proceeding pursuant to Section 13D of the Immunity Law [a proceeding before the Ethics Committee – M.N], in particular. This does not mean that the Ethics Committee is prevented from handling them […]. Indeed, the material immunity protects the member of Knesset against legal actions being taken against him. However, such legal action

 

 

 

does not include actions which the Knesset takes vis-à-vis itself, when at hand are internal Knesset matters […]" (on page 388; emphases added – M.N).

 

Similarly, in the Miari Case, the justices were of the opinion that the material immunity does not apply to sanctions which the Knesset imposes upon its members, pursuant to its By-Laws, which also incorporate the Rules of Ethics (HCJ 620/85 Miari v. The Chairperson of the Knesset, PD 41(4) 169, 218-219, 234 (1987) (hereinafter: the "Miari Case")). Therefore, according to case law, material immunity does not shield members of Knesset from the authority of the Ethics Committee (compare: Bar Association Appeal 8/79 Sufrin v. The Tel Aviv District Committee of the Bar Association, PD 34(4) 185, 188 (1980) (hereinafter: the "Sufrin Case")). The Petitioners are not asking that we deviate from this case law, but rather that we interpret it narrowly. According to them the Makhoul rule applies only to circumstances relating to remarks that were made within the Knesset building or to slanderous remarks which can disrupt the Knesset's proper work or can harm the internal relationships between its members. Whereas in the case at hand, we are dealing with, what the Petitioners refer to as "pure" political remarks made in the media. I do not accept this distinction proposed by the Petitioners. Indeed the circumstances of the Makhoul Case were different from those at hand, since that case regarded a sanction that the Ethics Committee imposed due to prejudicial remarks against the government, which were made during a speech in the Knesset plenum. Notwithstanding, the main question that was raised and discussed in the Makhoul Case was a question of principle, and it addressed the relation between the Rules of Ethics and  the material immunity granted to members of Knesset. The Court ruled on this question, and  determined  that imposing sanctions  due  to  unethical  actions or remarks does not constitute a circumvention of the material immunity:

 

"Section 13D, which anchors the authorities of the Ethics Committee, does not prejudice the material immunity that is prescribed in Section 1 [of the Immunity Law – M.N.]. In fact, this section, which provides for an internal judgment mechanism, an ethical-disciplinary judgment, is meant to complement and realize the Immunity Law's underlying objectives. Actions taken at an ethical level do not circumvent the protection that is granted to the member of Knesset in the Immunity Law. It is not for no reason that the Ethics Committee's authorities are anchored in the Immunity Law which determines the members of Knesset's immunity. Section 13D complements that which is stated in Section 1. Thus, while Section 1 exempts the member of Knesset from civil or criminal liability due to unethical remarks said in the framework of fulfilling his position (or for the sake of fulfilling his position), Section 13D, which is of the same normative standing, clarifies that the member of Knesset is not absolutely exempt. Indeed, Section 13D of the Immunity Law reflects the 'interest of the Knesset itself to denunciate negative conduct among its member, and the public importance this must be granted'[…]"

 

 

 

(on page 339; emphases added – M.N).

 

These statements are also relevant to the remarks which are the subject of our discussion, even though they were made outside of the house and not in connection with a specific organization or person. The material immunity was meant to ensure that a member of Knesset would have freedom of expression and opinion, without being concerned that this could cost him in a criminal conviction or a personal monetary charge in a civil proceeding (see: HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. The Attorney General, PD 60(4) 287, 300 (2006) (hereinafter: the "Bishara Case");

HCJ 1843/93 Pinchasi v. The Israel Knesset, PD 49(1) 661, 682 (1995); Criminal Appeal 255/68 The State of Israel v. Ben Moshe PD 22(2) 427, 439 (1968)). Additionally, the material immunity was meant to promote parliamentary supervision of the executive authority, without being concerned of being harassed thereby. However, the material immunity was not meant to protect a member of Knesset against internal criticism applied by the Ethics Committee. As has been ruled "The purpose of the Immunity Law was not to grant the legislative authority a mechanism that would prevent it from critiquing the actions of its members, while frustrating its constitutional authority to determine its own procedures […]" (the Makhoul Case, on page 337; emphasis added – M.N). The objective of the Immunity Law is not to prevent the Knesset from taking actions at the internal-ethical level, pursuant to the Rules of Ethics that were determined. Such conclusion is also supported by the material differences between these arrangements: a ruling that a certain act by a member of Knesset is not covered by the material immunity or that immunity should be lifted also has implications towards entities outside of the Knesset. In contrast, the ethics proceedings are internal proceedings (see and compare: the Miari Case, on page 196; compare: HCJ 306/81 Flatto Sharon v. The Knesset Committee, PD 35(4) 118, 126 (1981) (hereinafter: the "Flatto Sharon Case")). Determining that a member of Knesset's remark is not covered by the material immunity could result in criminal charges, with all that that entails. In contrast, the ruling that a member of Knesset violated one of the Rules of Ethics could at most result in a partial interruption of his parliamentary activity, for a limited period of time (see and compare: Permission for Civil Appeal  7504/95  Yassin  v. The Registrar of  Parties,  PD 50(2)  45 (1996); the Bishara Case, on pages 313-314, 318; compare: Permission for Civil Appeal 2316/96 Isaacson v. The Registrar of Parties, PD 50(2) 529 (1996); see also in  the  judgment of the  European Court  of Human Rights, in  which the majority opinion addressed the distinction between immunity that is granted to a member of parliament and internal parliamentary critique of his conduct; A. v. United Kingdom, 2002-X Eur. Ct. H. R. 917, para 86). The harm caused by determining that a member of Knesset violated one of the Rules of Ethics is less intense than in the case of determining that material immunity does not apply to his actions. The applicability of the material immunity and its objectives can be a consideration in the framework of the Ethics Committee's decisions, but they do not undermine its authority. In light of that stated, even assuming that the Petitioner's remarks are covered by the material immunity, there was nothing preventing the Ethics Committee from addressing them pursuant to the existing Rules of Ethics.

 

27.          As mentioned, the Petitioners further argued in a general and sweeping manner that  the  Ethics  Committee  has  no  authority  to  address  political  remarks  by

 

 

 

members of Knesset and that its authority is limited to inappropriate conduct of members of Knesset within the house or to the internal relationships between the members. I do not accept these arguments. Indeed, freedom of political expression is of special importance for a member of Knesset, since it is by such means that the member of Knesset expresses the positions of the public that elected him. This is particularly true when a member of Knesset who represents a minority group is concerned (see also, in a context similar to the matter at hand, the position of the European Court of Human Rights in this matter: Szel v. Hungary, App. no. 44357/13 (Sep. 16, 2014) (hereinafter: the "Szel Case"); Karacsony v. Hungary, App. no. 42461/13 (Sep. 16, 2014) (hereinafter: the "Karacsony Case")), "The political expression – the speech, the article, the interview – are the primary workings tools of the member of Knesset" (the Bishara Case, on page 325; see also, ibid, on page 317). The freedom of expression also affects the disciplinary rules that apply to members of Knesset (compare: Bar Association Appeal 1734/00 Tel Aviv Jaffa District Committee of the Bar Association v. Sheftel (January 1, 2002) (hereinafter: the "Sheftel Case"); Civil Service Disciplinary Appeal 5/86 Sapiro v. The Civil Service Commissioner, PD 40(4) 227, 237 (1986)). Due to freedom of expression, the ethical review of remarks by a member of Knesset must be as limited as possible. Indeed, the Ethics Committee instructed itself – and justifiably so – to refrain, to the extent possible, from limiting the members of Knesset's freedom of political expression. In Decision 2/19, the committee decided as follows:

 

"[…] If, in all that relates to political remarks, the committee's position is that in general they should be dismissed in limine, even if at hand are extreme and outrageous remarks, then with regard to remarks that constitute bad-mouthing,  slandering, mudslinging and humiliating of individuals and publics, the committee's position is materially different. The committee is of the opinion that such remarks materially harm the status of the Knesset and its dignity […]" (emphasis omitted – M.N).

 

28.          The Ethics Committee expressed a similar position in additional principle decisions (see: Decision 83/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Complaints regarding Remarks by Members of Knesset Against Persons and Organizations" (December 31, 2012); Decision 7/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Ethics and Freedom of Expression – the Committee's Decisions regarding Remarks by Members of Knesset" (October 12, 2009)). However, this does not mean that the committee is not authorized to address extreme expressions that amount to supporting acts of terror against the citizens of the State or identifying with such actions. The purpose of the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset is to maintain proper conduct by members of Knesset in order to foster the public's trust in the Knesset, preserve the dignity of the Knesset and its integrity (see and compare: the Sheftel Case, paragraph 22 of my judgment, Bar Association Appeal 2579/90 Bar Association District  Committee  v. Anonymous, PD 45(4) 729, 733 (1991); see also: the Report of the Committee for Preparing the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset, December 2006, on pages 43-45 (hereinafter: the "Rules of Ethics Preparation Committee Report")). The public's trust in the Knesset may also be prejudiced by remarks made by a member

 

 

 

of Knesset outside of the Knesset, which are not necessarily related to inappropriate conduct within the Knesset or to the internal relationships between its members. This is the case, for example, when an act or remark that is interpreted as supporting violence against citizens is concerned. A member of Knesset carries the Rules of Ethics with him wherever he goes (compare: the Sheftel Case, paragraphs 13-16 of my judgment). Their applicability is not limited to his relationship with other members of Knesset or internal parliamentary conduct. It is possible that the applicability of the Rules of Ethics on remarks outside of the Knesset is narrower. However, the circumstances of the case at hand are extreme. It is worth noting that the code of ethics for members of Parliament in Britain, to which the Petitioners referred, provides that the Rules of Ethics are not intended to regulate a member of Parliament's conduct in his personal life, outside the walls of the parliament. However, conduct by a member of Parliament that significantly damages the reputation or the integrity of the parliament or its members is excluded from that rule (U.K Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament (passed pursuant to the Resolution of the House of Jul. 19, 1995) § 2-3 (hereinafter: "U.K. Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament").

 

29.          The Petitioners further argued that the Ethics Committee's decision in the case at hand does not coincide with its above-mentioned principle decisions which reject intervening in the members of Knesset's freedom of political expression. However, these decisions do not constitute a precedent that denies the committee of its authority to address extraordinary remarks which in its opinion constitute a violation of the Rules of Ethics. The Ethics Committee elaborated on this matter in its decision that addressed harsh remarks by a member of Knesset during the "Pillar of Defense" operation, against those he referred to as "leftists":

 

"The majority of the complaints that have been filed to the Ethics Committee in the 18th Knesset were related to remarks by members of Knesset. The Ethics Committee, despite repeatedly being of the opinion that harsh and outrageous remarks were at issue, decided, in the majority of cases, not to exercise its  authorities, based on an orientation  of not narrowing the members of Knesset's freedom of expression […] however the fundamental principle of freedom of expression cannot protect anything a member of  Knesset says, and the committee is of the opinion that this is one of the cases in which it must intervene and express its opinion that a line has been crossed between a legitimate, albeit harsh and outrageous, statement and words of incitement. Statements in the form of 'Leftists Out', 'Leftist to Gaza' and 'Leftist Traitors' are not statements in the framework of the broad freedom of political expression which is granted to members of Knesset and do not coincide with the proper and expected conduct of a member of Knesset […]" (Decision 85/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Complaints against Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari regarding Remarks" (December 31, 2012)) (emphasis added – M.N.)

 

 

 

30.          The Ethics Committee also found it to be justified in other cases to exercise its authority with regard to remarks by members of Knesset which encouraged acts of terror or violence. For example, the committee decided to apply sanctions for statements praising Shahids (martyrs) (Decision 73/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Complaints against Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi due to a Speech on Martyrs Day'" (March 5, 2012) (hereinafter: the "Decision regarding the "Martyrs Day"")); for public support of the Intifada (Decision of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by Knesset Member Uri Yehuda Ariel against Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi" (June 24, 2003) (hereinafter: the "Decision regarding Supporting the Intifada")); and for the statement "Whoever removed sovereign land from the State of Israel – is to be sentenced to death" (Decision of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by Knesset Member Colette Avital against Knesset Member Arie Eldad" (June 24, 2008) (hereinafter: the "Decision in the Matter of Knesset Member Eldad"). Therefore, the Ethics Committee's principle decisions do not prevent its intervention in the current case and exercising the committee's authority with respect to remarks of the kind addressed in the Petition is not unprecedented.

 

31.          An additional argument by the Petitioners regarding the Committee's authority is that there is no explicit provision in the Knesset's By-Laws or in the Rules of Ethics that authorizes the Ethics Committee to impose sanctions against the Petitioner's remarks. The Petitioners argued that Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics – upon which the Ethics Committee's decision in the Petitioner's matter relied – is a "declaratory section that includes abstract principles and values and therefore has only an interpretational declaratory status" (paragraph 39 of the Petition), and does not have operative status. This argument, too, is to be denied. The provision of Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics for Member of Knesset, as was presented above, prescribes fundamental values which bind the member of Knesset, such as promoting society and the best interest of the State and preserving the dignity of the Knesset and its members. Other Rules of Ethics regulate a series of specific matters, such as additional occupation of a member of Knesset (Chapter E of the Rules of Ethics) or provisions that relate to a declaration of capital (Chapter F of the Rules of Ethics).

 

32.          The fundamental values that were prescribed in Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics outline general criteria for the members of Knesset's conduct (compare: Bar Association Appeal 7892/04 The Tel Aviv District Committee of the Bar Association v. Boteach, paragraph 14 of Deputy President M. Cheshin's judgment (May 10, 2005) (hereinafter: the "Boteach Case")), and express the need to preserve the public's trust in the Knesset. I am of the opinion that they should be considered as having an independent status, which allows imposing ethical sanctions in consequence of the violation thereof. This is necessary since naturally, specific rules of ethics do not cover all the issues that could arise at an ethical level. In the absence of a specific rule that regulates a specific situation, the member of Knesset can  find guidance in  advance in the  general values; and retroactively, the Ethics Committee can decide that a member of Knesset violated the Rules of Ethics, by violating one of the general values (see also: the Rules of Ethics Preparation Committee Report on pages 45-46; Proposal for Code of Ethics that was Submitted by the Knesset Committee's Rules of Ethics Preparation Sub-Committee,  2011;  Assaf  Shapira  "Ethics  in  the  Knesset"  Parliament  70

 

 

 

(2011). This illustrates the advantage of normative arrangements that are formatted as principles, which allow them to be applied in dynamic circumstances (for the distinction between rules and principles see, for example: Aharon Barak Purposive Interpretation in Law 248-249 (2003)).

 

33.          My conclusion also coincides with this Court's judgment in the Makhoul Case, where the Court did not find cause to intervene in the ethical sanctions that were imposed upon a member of Knesset in consequence of violating Rule 1A of the Rules of Ethics. It shall be noted that Rule 1A, as well as Rule 2 of the Rules of Ethics, which also outlines general criteria for the conduct of the members of Knesset, has served in various cases as the basis for imposing ethical sanctions on members of Knesset (see, for example: Decision 30/17 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Mutual Complaints of Knesset Member Effi Eitam and Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi" (May 27, 2008); Decision 2/17 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by Knesset Member Ruhama Avraham against Knesset Member Sofa Landver" (July 11, 2006)). Furthermore, general principles exist in various systems of disciplinary rules. The violation of these principles could justify imposing a disciplinary sanction upon the violating party. For example, the Rules of Ethics for Lawyers include general principles, the violation of which could raise cause for being found guilty of a disciplinary offense (see: Rules 2, 23, 32-33 of the Bar Association (Professional Ethics) Rules, 5746-1986); the Boteach Case, paragraph 14 of Deputy President M. Cheshin's judgment; Bar Association Appeal 736/04 District Committee of the Bar Association v. Mizrachi PD 58(6) 200 (2004); Bar Association Appeal 2379/07 Tel Aviv – Jaffa District Committee of the Bar Association v. Rosenzweig (February 12, 2008); also see and compare: Section 61(3) of the Bar Association Law, 5721-1961, which prescribes that any act or omission that do not befit the legal profession are, inter alia, a disciplinary offense; Bar Association Appeal 15/88 Anonymous v. The  State's Attorney, PD 43(1) 584. 588 (1989); Bar Association Appeal 17/79 Tel Aviv Jaffa District Committee of the Bar Association v. Anonymous, PD 34(3) 756, 660-661 (1980); also see: Gabriel Kling Ethics For Lawyers 489-494 (2001)).

 

34.          Similarly, the Rules of Ethics for judges include general principles, the violation of which has operative implications (see: Rules 1-7, and particularly Rule 2(b) of the Rules of Ethics for Judges, 5767-2007; see also: Gabriel Kling Ethics for Judges 15-16 (2014)). Accordingly, the judges' ethics committee has refrained from approving certain actions in advance, based on general principles, such as the principle that a judge must refrain from actions which do not befit his status (see: Decision A/13/17 (February 25, 2013), which did not permit judges to participate in a personal mentoring venture of the Executives Program in the School of Public Policy; Decision A/11/53 (July 27, 2011), that it would not be appropriate to allow charging the parties to a legal proceeding a judge's travel expenses; see also Section 18(a) of the Courts [Consolidated Version] Law, 5744-1984, which prescribes that the Minister of Justice may file a complaint to the disciplinary court against a judge who behaved in a manner that does not befit the status of a judge in Israel). Thus, applying such a rule with respect to the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset is not unusual compared to other systems of disciplinary rules. In any event, the Ethics Committee has broad authority to address matters that relate to the ethics of the members of Knesset, including a matter that does not have a

 

 

 

provision in the Rules of Ethics (Rule 24 of the Rules of Ethics). It follows, a fortiori, that the committee is authorized to address the violation of the general values which are anchored in the rules themselves.

 

35.          Among the general principles that are set in Rule 1A are the member of Knesset's obligations to act to advance the best interest of the State and preserve the dignity of the Knesset. The decision at hand is based on these obligations. Once I have reached the conclusion that the committee is authorized to address the violation of the general principles, it follows that it is, inter alia, authorized to address the duty to act for the benefit of the best interest of the State. As such, the Petitioners' argument that the Ethics Committee cannot decide who is acting for the benefit of the State, since such a decision is reserved for the voting public or that such a decision opens "a dangerous opening for political persecution" (paragraph 34 of the Petition), is in fact directed against the Rules of Ethics themselves and not towards the decision which is the subject of the Petition. In comparison, the Rules of Ethics in Britain include similar principles, including the duty of the members of Parliament to act in the interests of the nation as a whole (U.K. Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament § 4-7).

 

36.          In light of that stated above, the decision of the Ethics Committee was given within its authority. The question that remains is whether it is appropriate to intervene on the merits of the decision. On this level, the question that arises is whether the Petitioner's remarks constitute a violation of the Rules of Ethics, and if so – whether the sanction that was imposed due to such violation befits the severity of the offense. It shall already be clarified here that the Petitioners' arguments focused on the question of the Ethics Committee's authority to address the Petitioner's remarks, and not on the question of whether the committee was correct in its conclusion that ethical obligations were violated (compare: the Sheftel Case, paragraph 11 of my judgment). As mentioned, the Petitioners also argued that it is appropriate to intervene in the sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner. However, in order to present a complete picture, I shall address the question of whether or not the Rules of Ethics were violated.

 

The Discretionary Level: Was the Ethics Committee's Decision that is the subject of the Petition Adopted Lawfully?

 

37.          The examination of the Ethics Committee's decision in the case at hand derives from the scope of the judicial review of the Ethics Committee's decisions (see: the Makhoul Case, on page 340). The scope of the judicial review of the Knesset's decisions changes in accordance with the essence of the decision under review: Legislative acts that were completed, internal parliamentary proceedings and quasi-judicial decisions (see: HCJ 652/81 Sarid v. The Chairperson of the Knesset, PD 36(2) 197 (1982); the Flatto Sharon Case, on pages 124-126)). When the Ethics Committee addresses complaints against members of Knesset, it is fulfilling a quasi-judicial duty (the Makhoul Case, on page 340; HCJ 7993/07 Legal Forum for Israel v. The Knesset's Ethics Committee, paragraph 6 of my judgment (April 30, 2009) (hereinafter: the "Legal Forum A Case"); HCJ 6280/07 Legal Forum for Israel v. The President of the State, paragraph 22 of Justice A. Procaccia's judgment (December 14, 2009) (hereinafter: the "Legal Forum B Case")).

 

 

 

 

In principle, the judicial review that is applied to the Knesset's quasi-judicial decisions is the same as the judicial review that is directed towards quasi-judicial authorities (see: ibid). However, in contrast to other quasi-judicial authorities, the Ethics Committee of the Members of Knesset, mainly addresses internal Knesset matters that relate to discipline and the ethics of its members. "[…] the essence of the activity of the Ethics Committee, in contrast, for example, from the removal of immunity which is performed by the Knesset Committee, is directed internally towards the Knesset, and in fact, in general its actions do not have any implications outside of the house of legislators" (the Makhoul Case, on page 343). Therefore, it was ruled that this Court's intervention in the decisions of the Ethics Committee should be in a more limited scope than the scope of intervention in the activity of other quasi-judicial entities in the Knesset (see: ibid). This reflects the Ethics Committee's broad scope of discretion, when handling matters of ethics and discipline of members of Knesset. The Court may intervene when the Ethics Committee's decision was reached in violation of law, or when at hand are material matters such as a violation of basic constitutional rights, the right to due process or violation of the  principles of natural  justice (see: the Legal Forum A Case, paragraph 6 of my judgment; the Legal Forum B Case, paragraph 22 of Justice A. Procaccia's judgment). In general, "[…] the more severe the infringement of the member of Knesset's basic rights, and the more the sanction for the  actions deviates from the proper extent, this more this Court will be willing to intervene" (the Makhoul Case, on page 344).

 

38.          As mentioned above, the Ethics Committee ruled that the Petitioner's remarks, in light of their content and sensitive timing, do not coincide with the best interest of the State and severely prejudice the public's trust in the Knesset and its image. Hence, the Ethics Committee ruled that the Petitioner's remarks violated Rule 1A(2) and Rule 1A(4) of the Rules of Ethics. For the sake of clarity, I shall requote these Rules verbatim:

 

 

General Values

 

1A. The member of Knesset – (1) […]

(2) Is a trustee of the public and it is his duty to represent the public that voted for him in such a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;

(3) […]

(4)          Shall preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, shall conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset and shall act to foster public trust in the Knesset;

(5) […]

(6) […]

 

 

The language of Rules 1A(2) and 1A(4) is broad and leaves room for the Ethics

 

 

 

Committee's discretion regarding the manner of their application in specific cases. Such application must be in accordance with the objectives underlying these Rules. The Rules of Ethics reflect the principle that a member of Knesset, as an elected official, is also a trustee of the public. As such, he must make the public interest a higher priority compared to his personal matters. This also leads to the need to preserve the public's trust in the Knesset, and the Rules of Ethics are a means to realize this trust (On the importance of public trust in governmental authorities in general, see HCJ 6163/92 Eisenberg v. The Minister of Construction and Housing, PD 47(2), 229 (1993); and also see: HCJ 4921/13 OMETZ – Citizens for Good Governance and Social Justice v. The Mayor of Ramat Hasharon (October 14, 2013)).

 

39.          It is, therefore, my opinion that the committee's conclusions did not deviate from the broad range of discretion granted to it. The Petitioner's statements in the Interview and the Article were interpreted as a support of terror and the killing of civilians. In the case at hand it is not criticism of the government's policy during wartimes that is at issue and not even criticism of legislation in the Knesset or of other political maneuvers of the majority. The severity of the matter is enhanced considering the timing of the Petitioner's remarks, just a few days after the abduction of the teenagers, at a time when their fate was unknown, and in the midst of the "Protective Edge" operation. Additionally, the cumulative effect of the Petitioner's remarks, which were published in proximity to each other, must also be taken into consideration. Considering all of the circumstances of the current case – the Petitioner has gone too far. The Ethics Committee ruled that the Petitioner's statements amount to "legitimizing acts of terror against the citizens of the State", and that this is a violation of the Rules of Ethics. Indeed, words of support of terror of any kind, from either side, could severely prejudice the public's trust in the Knesset and its image. Therefore, and taking into consideration the nature of the Petitioner's remarks and their timing, it is inappropriate to intervene in the committee's conclusions that the Petitioner's statements severely harm the public's trust in the Knesset and its image, and violate Rule 1A(4) of the Rules of Ethics. The committee further ruled that the Petitioner's remarks violate rule 1A(2) of the Rules of Ethics that, inter alia, provides that a member of Knesset shall act to advance the State's best interest. It appears that the main objective of this rule is to guarantee that members of Knesset will act for the sake of the public interest, and shall not take advantage of their status and authorities for the sake of personal matters. In the case at hand, prima facie, the Petitioner's remarks were not intended to promote her personal affairs. Notwithstanding, it appears that both extreme remarks and actions which legitimize acts of terror against the citizens of the State do not coincide with the State's best interest (compare: the Miari Case, on pages 226-227). The Petitioners themselves agreed that statements that encourage and support violence are not legitimate. In support thereof, both in the Petition and in the hearing before us, the Petitioners provided a series of "explanations" of the Petitioner's remarks, and asked that we not perceive them as supporting terror. With respect to the Petitioner's statements regarding the abductors of the teenagers

– "they are not terrorists" – it was explained that the Petitioner's principle position is not to use the term "terror" in Israeli media. Since, according to her, the term "terror" is used in Israeli media only to describe Palestinian violence and not to describe Israeli violence against the Palestinian population. As to the Petitioner's Article, the Petitioner's intention when calling upon the Palestinians to turn to

 

 

 

"popular resistance" and to impose a "siege" on Israel, which was interpreted by the Ethics Committee as supporting a violent uprising against the State of Israel, was not explained in the Petition. In his oral arguments before us, the Petitioner's attorney explained that the Petitioner's intention in her Article was to encourage non-violent civil Palestinian resistance, and to express support for a "political siege" on Israel. In response to our questions, the Petitioner's attorney even stated that if the Petitioner's intention was to support a military siege, this would be problematic. However, these explanations were given retroactively, by the Petitioner's attorney, and not by the Petitioner herself. The Petitioner did not provide them to the Ethics Committee in her filed response and not even to the Knesset plenum in her appeal. It would have been appropriate for the Petitioner's explanations to be given in the framework of her response to the complaint that was filed to the Ethics Committee, and at least in the framework of her appeal of the committee's decision (compare: the Makhoul Case, on page 344). In any event, these explanations – which as mentioned were only given retroactively – are not sufficient to justify our intervention in the Ethics Committee's decision. The Petitioner's remarks were not published in the media with explanatory notes. The spirit of the statements, despite the Petitioner's later reservations, is that of identification with acts of terror and support of violence, as a means of attaining political objectives. In my opinion, in these circumstances it is inappropriate to rule that the Ethics Committee's decision that the Petitioner violated the Rules of Ethics was flawed in a manner that justifies our intervention. I shall clarify that this judgment only addresses the violation of the Rules of Ethics by the Petitioner, and no other matter.

 

40.          The Petitioners requested that we intervene in the sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner, due to it being, according to them, discriminatory and disproportionate. We have ruled, by a majority of opinions, that such intervention is inappropriate in the circumstances at hand. I elaborated above on the fact that the Ethics Committee has broad discretion, and this is true also with regard to prescribing the sanction. However, the committee's broad authority is not to be interpreted as a permit to impose arbitrary sanctions. When imposing a sanction due to the violation of the Rules of Ethics, the Ethics Committee must take a variety of considerations into consideration. In general, the sanction imposed must be proportionate to the severity of the ethical offense committed by the member of Knesset (see: the Makhoul Case, on page 344). Subsequently, the committee must take the severity of the offense and the circumstances in which it was committed into consideration. As to remarks by members of Knesset, their content, subject matter and timing must, inter alia, be taken into consideration. A remark that slanders or humiliates individuals and publics does not carry  the  same consequence as another extraordinary and extreme remark (see also in this matter: the Ethics Committee's Decision "In the Matter of the Amendment of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951" (June 24, 2002)). Among all of its considerations, the Ethics Committee must also include the circumstances of the concrete member of Knesset who is being judged thereby, including the question whether he expressed remorse for his actions and his entire disciplinary past (for Ethics Committee decisions in which such considerations were considered, see, for example: The Knesset's Ethics Committee's Decision "In the Matter of Ziv Price, Eliezer Dvir and Pinchas Wolf against Knesset Members Ahmad Tibi, Taleb el-Sana and Jamal Zahalka" (June 22, 2004) (hereinafter: the

 

 

 

"Decision in the Matter of Knesset Members Tibi, el-Sana and Zahalka"); the Knesset's Ethics Committee's Decision "In the Matter of the Complaint by Knesset Member Limor Livnat, Minister of Education, Culture and Sport against Knesset Member Issam Makhoul" (December 21, 2004); the Knesset's Ethics Committee's Decision "In the Matter of the Complaint by Knesset Member Uri Ariel against Knesset Member Issam Makhoul" (July 19, 2005); the Knesset's Ethics Committee's Decision "In the Matter of the Complaints of Knesset Member Arie Eldad and Knesset Member Uri Ariel against Knesset Member Issam Makhoul" (July 26, 2005); the Makhoul Case, on page 344; and compare to Decision 64/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by Knesset Member Danny Danon against Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi" (January 3, 2012) (hereinafter: "Decision 64/18")). It must also take the punishing standard in similar cases into consideration.

 

And From These General Principles – To the Case at Hand.

 

41.          In the circumstances at hand, we have not found it appropriate to intervene in the sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner. The Ethics Committee has a broad range of proportionality and the Petitioner's remarks are especially severe, particularly – considering their timing. The severity of the statements is also reflected in the Attorney General's decision in the Petitioner's matter. While the Attorney General did not find justification to open a criminal investigation in this case, he did find it appropriate to state that his decision does not prevent taking actions against the Petitioner at an administrative or ethical level (also compare with: the Sufrin Case, on page 188). The Ethics Committee also took the impact of the decision and its accompanying sanction on the Petitioner's freedom of expression into consideration among the entire considerations, and emphasized the importance of the right to publicly criticize the government during times of war. The Ethics Committee indeed weighed relevant considerations from every direction, which were reflected in the reasoned decision. The Petitioner was given the right to be heard both before the committee and before the Knesset plenum, in the framework of her appeal. In addition, according to the data on the Knesset's website, the decision to reject the Petitioner's appeal was adopted by a significant majority, which also included members of Knesset from the opposition, and on the other hand, one of the members of Knesset from the coalition voted in favor of accepting the Petitioner's appeal. The proceeding in the case at hand was conducted while maintaining the Petitioner's procedural rights. The Petitioner's conduct during the procedure created the impression that she did not take it seriously. As mentioned, some of her explanations were first presented during oral arguments before us, by her attorney and not by her.

 

42.          Indeed the sanction that was imposed upon the Petitioner – being removed from sessions of the Knesset's plenum and its committees for the maximum possible period of time – is the most severe sanction in the existing scale of penalties. There was no dispute that this sanction had never in the past been imposed for the maximum period of time prescribed in the Immunity Law. However, in the circumstances of the case, the Petitioners' argument of discrimination and lack of proportionality, cannot be accepted. This is not the first time that the committee attributes significant severity to such remarks, remarks that encourage acts of terror or violence (see: the Decision regarding the "Martyrs Day", the Decision

 

 

 

regarding Supporting the Intifada). At the ethical level – which is meant, inter alia, to preserve the public's trust in the Knesset – remarks that express support of terror or violence against citizens, are no less serious than threats or slander that are directed at a specific sector or person. In this context it shall be noted that the majority of the decisions that were quoted in the Petition do not address remarks of this kind, and in any event not remarks during times of war or terror events. I have not ignored the judgments in the above-mentioned Szel Case and Karacsony Case, in which the European Court of Human Rights addressed fines that were imposed on opposition members of Parliament in Hungary, due to unethical conduct during sessions in parliament. At issue there, were acts of protest against a controversial bill (in the Szel Case) and acts of protest against the conduct of the majority party (in the Karacsony Case). These acts of protest included, inter alia, waving signs. The European Court ruled that indeed the fines that were imposed infringed the members of Parliament's right to freedom of expression in a disproportionate manner and ordered that they be cancelled; however the remarks in these cases are less severe than in the case before us. The Ethics Committee indeed has never before imposed a penalty of removal for the duration of six months, but penalties of this kind had been imposed for shorter periods of time – both for remarks and for actions (see, for example: Decision 7/19 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by the Chairperson of the Knesset against Knesset Member Meir Porush" (November 13, 2013) (removal from Knesset plenum sessions for two weeks); Decision 66/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by the Chairperson of the Knesset against Knesset Member Anastasia Michaeli" (January 10, 2012) (removal from sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committees for a month); The Decision in the Matter of Knesset Member Eldad (removal from sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committees for one day); The Decision in the Matter of Knesset Member Tibi, el-Sana and Zahalka (removal from sessions of the Knesset plenum and its committees for two days)). An examination of the Petitioner's entire disciplinary past indicates that her remarks have been discussed by the Ethics Committee many times. In some of the cases it was found that she did not violate the Rules of Ethics or that it is inappropriate to impose a sanction for her remarks, and in some of the cases various penalties were imposed upon her (see, for example: Decision 64/18; Decision 55/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Complaints against Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi due to her Participation in the Flotilla to Gaza in May, 2010" (July 18, 2011); Decision 52/18 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of a Complaint by the Legal Forum for Israel against Knesset Members Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka" (July 5, 2011)). I shall at this point note that in my opinion no weight should be attributed to the mere filing of complaints against a member of Knesset, as in the case at hand. According to the law, any person may file a complaint against a member of Knesset (Section 1of the Knesset Members Ethics Procedure (Complaints)). Many complaints are not accepted and many are dismissed in limine. Granting weight to complaints that were filed – even if they were not found to have any substance – could lead to abuse of this tool and to unjustified harm to members of Knesset. However, this consideration did not receive significant weight in the decision which is the subject of our discussion.

 

43.          I shall not deny that I was concerned by the "quantum leap" in the sanction that was imposed in this case. As may be recalled, the sanction of removal was added

 

 

 

to the Immunity Law in 2002, and as such, in general, should be imposed gradually (see and compare: Criminal Appeal 1042/03 Meretzplas Limited Partnership Ltd. (1974) v. The State of Israel PD 58(1) 721, 731-732 (2003); Criminal Appeal 7936/13 Levy v. The State of Israel, paragraph 46 of Justice N. Solberg's judgment, paragraph 2 of my judgment (December 16, 2014)). However, from a practical perspective, we are not dealing in this case with the Petitioner's complete removal from the Knesset's activity for six months. The summer recess, during which the Knesset operates in a limited format, took place during the first half of the removal. During the recess the Knesset plenum convenes only in extraordinary cases and Knesset committees also convene less frequently. As such, during the recess the two committees in which the Petitioner is a member convened only five times (but it shall be noted that meetings of other committees were also held), while according to the Knesset's website, during the month of November, these committees held more than twenty meetings. Furthermore, there was an elections recess during the seven weeks that remained of the period of removal, from the time of the hearing before us that was held on December 9, 2014, and the judgment that was given the following day. Therefore, the practical significance of intervening in the sanction in these circumstances is miniscule, if at all existent. I shall emphasize that in any event, the Petitioner's right to vote was not denied, and furthermore, that the sanction does not prevent the Petitioner from using parliamentary tools, such as filing bills, proposals or questions. At issue also is not a suspension from the Knesset (compare: the Flatto Sharon Case, on page 126). Considering all of the reasons mentioned above, I have not found justification for our intervention in the broad discretion granted to the Ethics Committee.

 

44.          Epilogue: The Petition is denied without an order for expenses, as stated in our judgment dated December 10, 2014.

 

The President

 

Justice E. Hayut

 

1.            I concur with the opinion of my colleague the President, both with regard to the question of the Ethics Committee's authority to impose sanctions against the Petitioner for the remarks which are the subject of the Petition and with regard to the conclusion that the authority in the circumstances at hand was exercised lawfully. I also share my colleague's remarks (paragraph 43 of her opinion) regarding the excessive severity of the sanction that was exercised in the case at hand. However, like my colleague, I am of the opinion that it is inappropriate to intervene since in the case at hand the severity of the sanction has de facto been mitigated to a considerable degree, given the fact that the majority thereof occurred during the summer recess – and this was taken into consideration by the committee – and during the election recess – even though this was not known at the time the sanction was imposed.

 

Due to the matters that emerged in this Petition, the importance of which cannot be overstated, I have found it appropriate to add two short comments: one – relates to not exposing the minutes of the Ethics Committee and the material presented thereto to be reviewed by the Petitioner despite her request in this

 

 

 

matter, and the second – relates to limiting the freedom of political expression of an elected official who represents a minority group in society.

 

The  Refusal  to  Deliver  the  Minutes  of  the  Committee  and  the  Material Presented thereto to the Petitioner's Review

 

2.            My colleague elaborated in her opinion on the fact that the Petitioner approached the Ethics Committee and requested, "in order to file a petition to the High Court of Justice", to review the minutes of its meetings and the material presented thereto in preparation for it reaching a decision, but was refused. The Knesset's legal counsel reasoned the refusal by referring to Rule 21 of the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset, which provides that the ethics proceedings, including the documents and the minutes, are privileged, and are not to be published except with the committee's written permission, and subject to the terms it shall prescribe. The legal counsel further stated in his response to the Petitioner that while the use of material and minutes of the committee's meetings for the purpose of legal proceedings is one of the exceptions the committee recognizes in this context, it is his position that this should not include a legal proceeding that is meant to challenge the decision of the Ethics Committee itself, due to the concern that this could adversely affect the committee members' ability to properly fulfill their duties. Finally, the legal counsel stated in his response to the Petitioner that if the Petition shall be filed, the minutes of the committee's session shall be delivered for the Court's review only. And indeed, immediately following the filing of the Petition, the Respondents delivered the minutes of the committee's session, in a sealed envelope to be reviewed only by the members of the bench.

 

During the hearing that was held before us on December 9, 2014, the Petitioners' attorney informed us that in order to make the hearing more efficient and to move it forward, he does not insist on the arguments he raised in the Petition regarding the refusal to provide him with the minutes of the committee's session and the material that had been presented thereto, while reserving his arguments in this matter. As such, my colleague did not find it necessary to refer to this matter in her opinion. Without setting rules in the matter, I find it appropriate to note that in my opinion the Knesset legal counsel's  reasons for refusing to make the minutes of the committee's session and the material that had been presented thereto available to the Petitioner, create non-negligible difficulties, in light of the distinction he made between general legal proceedings and legal proceedings that are intended to challenge the disciplinary decision that was adopted by the committee. It appears to me that not making the minutes and the material available to the Petitioner in these circumstances significantly impairs her ability to effectively challenge the decision and therefore it appears to me that the position presented by the Knesset's legal counsel in this context should be reexamined. This Court has elaborated in the past on the intensity of an individual's interest to receive detailed information  regarding a proceeding – disciplinary or other – in which a decision regarding him has been reached, especially in the context of a judicial proceeding against which he wishes to take action, so as to allow him to exercise his right to due process. In HCJ 844/06 Haifa University v. Oz (May 14, 2008) it was ruled in this context as follows:

 

"Whatever the extent of concern that the functioning of the

 

 

 

university examination committees will be impaired, that concern is subordinated to the need to allow the employees who were harmed by the conclusions of these committees to defend themselves against that which was attributed to them and to prove their argument that the decision regarding them was not lawfully adopted… The underlying rationale of this approach is that there is a significant social interest in giving the employees the possibility of exhausting their rights, and the interest of the efficient functionality and existence of such examination committees, however important it may be, does not in and of itself justify recognizing the material as privileged. This is certainly relevant when, as in the case at hand, there was a proceeding before a judicial instance which is addressing a question of the legal validity of the petitioner's decisions regarding changing the terms of employment of respondent 1 and terminating the employment of respondents 2 and 3. In this context, the interest that exists that the said examination committees be efficiently functional is subordinated to the respondents' right to due legal process, in the framework of which they shall be granted the possibility of reviewing all of the material relevant to establishing the arguments against terminating their employment in the School of Theatre" (the Oz Case, paragraph 18, see also: Permission for Civil Appeal 7568/00 The State of Israel – Civil Aviation Administration v. Aharoni, PD 55(5) 561, 565

(2001)).

 

It is my position that the intensity of this interest is certainly not weakened when at hand is a disciplinary proceeding that is being taken against a member of Knesset, and in this context it is not superfluous to add that the proper balance between the need to preserve the proper functionality of the Ethics Committee – the importance of which was elaborated upon in the Knesset's legal counsel's response – and the Petitioner's right to due process, can be obtained by way of stipulating terms and preventing the exposure of certain details, for example with regard to the identity of the speakers in appropriate cases, as per the committee's authority pursuant to the end of Rule 21 (see and compare: HCJ 7793/05 Bar- Ilan University v. The National Labor Court in Jerusalem, paragraph 20 (January 31, 2011); Administrative Petition Appeal 6013/04 The State of Israel

– Ministry of Transportation v. The Israel News Company Ltd. PD 60(4) 60, 96 (2006)). In any event, once the Petitioners did not insist on their argument in this matter, then, as my colleague chose, the ruling on this matter can be left for another time.

 

 

 

Limiting  the  Freedom  of  Political  Expression  of  an  Elected  Official  who Represents a Minority Group in Society

 

3.            In her opinion, my colleague elaborated on the distinguished and special status of the freedom of political expression in the order of constitutional rights, particularly when at hand is a member of Knesset who represents a minority group. This position is grounded in the past rulings of this Court, in HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. The Attorney General, PD 60(4) 287, 336-338 (2006), and in the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (Szel v. Hungary, 44357/13 (2014) at para 69; Karacsony v. Hungary, 42461/13 (2014) at para 72) to which my colleague referred. See also Tarlach Eoghan McGonagle, Minority Rights and Freedom of Expression: A Dynamic Interface (PhD Thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2008) for the special importance of protecting the freedom of expression of minority groups, in general, and the duty imposed on the state to restrain the infringement of this freedom of expression and to take measures to allow it to be realized.

 

However, the attempt to define what a "minority group" is, is not always an easy task (see and compare for example: Michael M. Karayanni, Groups in Context: An Ontology of a Muslim Headscarf in a Nazareth Catholic School and a Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox Student in Immanuel 1, 42 (January 12, 2015). Available at SSRN:http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2548548; Civil Appeal 466/83 Shahe Ajemian, Archbishop in the Armenian Church in Jerusalem v. Archbishop Yeghishe Derderian, PD 39(4) 737, 747 (1986)), and it should also be noted that at times there can be situations in which it appears that it is actually the freedom of expression or other freedoms of the majority that are at risk and need steadfast protection against being infringed upon by certain minority groups. In any event, the freedom of political expression of an elected official, as well as an elected official who represents a minority group, is not absolute, but rather, as any other constitutional right, is relative, and it is not a freedom that is free of any limitations whatsoever. Like my colleague, I am of the opinion that in the case at hand, the Petitioner's remarks crossed the line and exited the zone worthy of protection in the name of freedom of political expression, even considering the fact that she represents a minority group in Israeli society. The Petitioner's statements in the Interview, regarding the abduction of the teenagers, reflect understanding and legitimization of the atrocious act of abduction, and identify with those who committed the act, whom, according to her, should not be referred to as "terrorists". The words the Petitioner wrote in the Article that was published on various websites are no less severe from the perspective of the Rules of Ethics that apply to someone who serves as a member of the Israeli Knesset. In that same Article, the Petitioner went so far as to hand out advice as to the effective ways in which it is possible to fight the State and to harm it. Inter alia, it was written in said Article: "We must abandon the lethal trinity and declare a popular resistance instead of security coordination and impose a siege on Israel instead of negotiating therewith". These words, when voiced by a person who is a member of the Israeli Knesset, justify the steps taken by the Ethics Committee, because they illustrate that what the Petitioner had in mind when writing that Article was neither "the advancement of society and the best interest of the State" nor "fostering public trust in the Knesset". The Petitioner advocates to cease the coordination and the

 

 

 

negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which according to her are nothing but part of what she refers to as the "lethal trinity" and instead of negotiations and coordination she calls for popular resistance and imposing a siege on Israel. The Petitioner's attorney's attempt to retroactively argue that this is not a call for violence, is perplexing, inter alia, given the manner the term "popular resistance" is de facto implemented in the reality of our lives.

 

It is important to emphasize that remarks, and particularly remarks by elected officials, which constitute criticism and even extremely harsh criticism, of government policy are completely legitimate, and this is true with respect to remarks that emphasize the suffering of the other party to a conflict and which exhibit empathy towards and understanding of such suffering. This Court elaborated on this in the early days of the State, when stating that the difference between an autocratic regime and a democratic regime is marked by the possibility that is granted to the representatives chosen by the people to scrutinize the acts of government at any time "Whether to cause such acts to be rectified and create new arrangements in the State, or to bring about the immediate termination of those 'governing' or their replacement by others when comes the elections" (HCJ 73/53 'Kol Ha'am' Company Ltd. v. The Minister of Interior PD 7(1) 871, 876 (1953)). However, as mentioned, the Petitioner's remarks, for which the Ethics Committee deemed it appropriate to apply sanctions against her, completely deviated from this legitimate category, even if one takes into consideration the special caution that must be  applied  when dealing with the freedom of political expression of an elected official who represents a minority group.

 

4.            My colleagues emphasized the excessive severity that accompanies  the Petitioner's remarks given that they were made during times of war and crisis. I am of the opinion that it is inappropriate to set different criteria for the protection of the freedom of expression during times of crisis compared to those that should be applied during times of calm. However, it is clear that the likelihood and feasibility of harming other essential interests could be of different intensity during times of crisis. President A. Barak elaborated on this in HCJ 7052/03 Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. The Minister of Interior, 61(2) 202 (2006), when he stated that:

 

"Indeed, Israeli constitutional law has a uniform approach to human rights during times of relative calm and during times of enhanced war. We do not recognize a sharp distinction between the two. We do not have special balancing laws for times of war. Of course, human rights are not absolute. They can be limited during times of calm and times of war… During times of war the likelihood that damage to a public interest shall occur is greater, and the harm to the public interest is more intense, and as such it is possible to limit rights in the framework of the existing criteria… Indeed we do not maintain two systems of rules or balances, one for times of calm and other for times of terror. There is a uniform set of laws and balances, which applied both during times of calm and times of terror (the Adalah Case, paragraph 20; see

 

 

 

also: Abrams v. United States 250 U.S. 616, 627-628 (1919)).

 

Based on the grounds listed by my colleague the President, to which I added a few comments, I am of the opinion that the Petition is to be denied.

 

Justice

 

Deputy President E. Rubinstein

 

A.            I concur with the comprehensive reasons written by my colleague, the President.

 

B.            I shall add some brief remarks: Section 1(A1) of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 is somewhat of a mirror image of Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset which was adopted a short while earlier and defines when a list or a candidate shall be prevented from participating in the elections to the Knesset.

 

C.            Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which was adopted on the 4th of Iyar, 5762 (May 15, 2002) (Sefer Hachukim 5762, 410) prevents a party or a candidate from participating if their goals or actions "explicitly or implicitly include one of the following: (1) denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; (2) incitement to racism; (3) support of an armed struggle by an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel".

 

D.            Section 1(A1) of the Immunity Law which was adopted on the 13th of Av, 5762 (July 22, 2002) (Sefer Hachukim 5762, 504) excludes that which is listed below from the material immunity of Section 1(A1) of the law which addresses a vote, an expression of opinion or an act while fulfilling the position or for the sake thereof – and we shall already take note of the similarity to Section 7A of the Basic Law:

"(1) Denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

(2)          Denial of the democratic nature of the State;

(3)          Incitement to racism due to color or belonging to a race or ethnic national origin;

(4)          Support of an armed struggle by an enemy state or of acts of terror against the State of Israel or against Jews or Arabs due to their being Jewish or Arab, in Israel or abroad."

 

E.            It is not necessary to conduct a meticulous comparison between Sections 1(A1) of the Immunity Law and 7A of the Basic Law in order to receive the impression that we are dealing with provisions that are comparable and correspond to each other. The legislators of Section 1(A1) had the model of the Basic Law before them; see the bill that was filed by Knesset Members Eliezer Cohen, Zvi Hendel, Michael Nudelman and Nissim Ze'ev, Hatzaot Chok 5762, 210, which explicitly addresses this. I shall note that I reviewed the discussions in the plenum in the first reading on January 29, 2002 (in the second and third readings on May 27, 2002, no real discussion was held) and the matters discussed were split between left and right; there was also a reservation to the bill by Minister Dan Meridor. In

 

 

 

any event, the amendment was legislated.

 

F.            In light of the above, it is clear that we are dealing with the core of the Israeli parliamentary duty to which the members of Knesset pledge allegiance pursuant to Section 15(a) of the Basic Law, as follows: "I pledge myself to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully to fulfill my mandate in the Knesset"; Knesset Member Zoabi also pledged this when declaring "I Pledge" (Section 1(c) of the Knesset Law, 5754-1994). We are not dealing with a marginal matter, but rather one which is undoubtedly at the root of being a member of Knesset; the legislators of Section 1(A1) of the Immunity Law – as mentioned – viewed the matters therein as drawing sustenance from Section 1A of the Basic Law. This Court applied a very restrained approach in the context of Knesset Member Zoabi's candidacy to the Knesset with regard to her compliance with the terms of Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset. Until now an extremely lenient approach was preferred with respect to her, and I shall only mention Election Approval 9255/12 The Central Election Committee for the 19th Knesset v. Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (judgment dated December 12, 2012, reasons dated August 30, 2013); where President Grunis spoke (in paragraph 34) of Knesset Member Zoabi's activity which "comes very close to the grey area of which Section 7A warns and which it is meant to prevent", and of evidence that came close "to that 'critical mass' of evidence that justifies disqualification" – but the line was not crossed. Additional justices on the bench in that judgment expressed a similar spirit, but the judicial policy of narrowly and stringently interpreting the causes in Section 7A of the Basic Law as being designated for "most extreme cases which cannot possibly be dealt with using ordinary democratic tools" (paragraph 35), was upheld. In the context of the elections, a non-excluding approach was preferred, and subsequently the judicial and democratic tolerance was flexed to its limits. I mention this because ultimately the legal significance is that once Knesset Member Zoabi was elected to the Knesset and pledged allegiance to the State, she is in her position by right and not by grace; see Nathan Alterman's unforgettable poem "The Rebuke to Tawfik Toubi" (The Seventh Column A 276) of the 1950's (also quoted in my article "On Equality for Arabs in Israel" in my Netivei Mimshal UMishpat book (5763- 2003), 278), in which, inter alia, it was said "Such is the nature of democracy: Her servants owe gratitude to no person; In part it may not be easy, but if it shall not go without saying, it shall not be understood by us at all". Often the things that Knesset Member Zoabi says and does are not easy for many Israelis, but they are to be considered "the choosing of the lesser of two evils" (as the words of the Mecelle), and her parliamentary right is in place.

 

G.           We now approach the Rules of Ethics, which are an internal parliamentary layer, and in my opinion should be interpreted both based on their content and taking into consideration the general background of a member of Knesset's obligations, on the one hand, and his or her immunity and the exceptions thereto, on the other hand. Particularly due to the broad material immunity, the Rules of Ethics are the little that can be done to restrain deviations, "a pressure release valve" to maintain a framework of parliamentary norms. My colleague listed the general values underlying the Rules of Ethics (in paragraph 23), and in the matter at hand, we are dealing with Rule 1A(2) which designates the member of Knesset as "a trustee of the public and it is his duty to represent the public that voted for

 

 

 

him in such a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;" and with Rule 1A(4) pursuant to which the member of Knesset shall "preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, shall conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset and shall act to foster public trust in the Knesset". Indeed, these rules address  fundamental values, but, similarly to my colleague (paragraph 32), I do not accept the argument that they do not have an independent standing; in my opinion they are the soul of the Rules of Ethics, they are what gives them their real essence and their proper application.

 

H.            As my colleague mentioned (paragraph 26), the parties to this Petition assumed that the Petitioner's remarks which are the subject of the complaints are covered by the material immunity by virtue of Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law, which – as mentioned – grants immunity "due to voting or due to expressing an opinion orally or in writing, or due to an act performed – in or out of the Knesset – if the vote, the expression of the opinion or the act were in the framework of fulfilling his position, or for the sake of fulfilling his position, as a member of Knesset". I shall take the liberty to doubt whether Knesset Member Zoabi's words which we are addressing meet the criteria of Section 1(A1)(4) which excludes "support of an armed struggle by an enemy state or of acts of terror against the State of Israel or against Jews or Arabs, due to their being Jewish or Arab, in Israel or abroad." However, even with the lenient assumption that my colleague described, it is clear that there is nothing preventing discussing Knesset Member Zoabi's remarks at an ethical level.

 

I.             We shall briefly review the actual remarks.

 

J.             First of all, the interview on June 17, 2014, five days after the abduction of the three teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Sha'er and Eyal Yifrah, may G-d avenge their deaths. According to Knesset Member Zoabi, the abductors, the abductors of innocent teenagers, "are not terrorists… even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any opening…, and they are forced to use these means". It is known that throughout the world and in international law there are disputes as to the definition of terror, and it has already been said that a freedom fighter for one is a terrorist for the other. But is there a humane human in their right mind who would not deem the abduction of the teenagers and their cold blooded killing anything other than terror? Must the national liberation for the Palestinians, for which Knesset Member Zoabi is wishing, pass through despicable crimes of terror? And the stretched explanation that was voiced, that her statements were said because terror is only attributed to Arabs and not to Jews cannot hold water, inter alia, because acts of terror by Jews are on more than one occasion referred to as "Jewish Terror", and an simple surfing on the internet with such headline will prove this. Terror is terror is terror, regardless of who performs it, Jews, Arabs or others. Hence, can it be said, in this case, that the value of a member of Knesset's duty to serve human dignity, as appears in Rule 1A(2), was not violated? – There is no greater human dignity than the sanctity of life itself; "There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person as such." (Section 2 of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and see also Section 4 of the Basic Law).

 

 

 

 

K.            Secondly, the call in the article dated July 13, 2014, to the Palestinians "… to impose a siege on Israel instead of negotiating therewith". These words should not be read as a sacred text with multiple interpretations, but given the context of the matters which is "(Israel's – E.R.) detestable trinity: the fence, the siege and the coordination", it is extremely difficult to interpret the call to "impose a siege on Israel" as only a "political siege" (not that such a call in and of itself would be permitted and legitimate), but rather as an armed siege. If we shall read these statements in light of the "State's best interest" chapter in Rule 1A(2) of the Rules of Ethics, we shall ask ourselves whether a call to impose a siege on the State can be in the "State's best interest" – and this is not a political slogan of "saving Israel from itself", which some of Israel's "friends" raised in the past, but, as my colleague stated, rather an unexplained statement – which simply means joining forces with the State's enemies. The answer cannot be positive; and the forced interpretation that was given, even though it was not from the member of Knesset but rather from those supporting her, is not convincing. In light of all of that stated above, one cannot cast a doubt regarding the violation of the Rule of Ethics.

 

L.             Indeed, Knesset Member Zoabi is from a minority in Israel – and it is appropriate to apply interpretation that takes this into consideration and expands the limits of patience and tolerance; but in the case at hand, as my colleague also stated (paragraph 39) it simply went too far. Of course, this is enhanced by the timing, during the search for the teenagers, while the sounds of the cries of the mothers and fathers were heard, and during severe combat – the member of Knesset was undermining any common ground that exists and should exist among the entire Israeli public, without any explanation which could, even at a stretch, be acceptable.

 

M.          One must not criticize the members of the Central Ethics Committee, who, when dealing with the ethical level, did not take the approach of those three monkeys who do not hear, do not see and do not speak, since at hand are the core and essence of principle, central ethical obligations. Therefore, I agree with  the rulings of my colleague, the Deputy President, for example in paragraphs 31-32, 35, 39, in the principle questions that were addressed here. At issue is not the matter of the limits of the freedom of expression, which the State of Israel maintains on a very high level, as emerges from the rulings of this Court – and I personally doubt whether the type of statements that underlie this case would even be acceptable in a country that maintains ultimate freedom of expression such as the United States, pursuant to the First Amendment of its constitution. The matter at hand is the ideological base that is – or should be – shared by all members of Knesset, and which in the absence thereof – there is no survivability. I shall re-emphasize that in my opinion one of the more burdening parts of the story, as also emerges from the words of my colleague, in addition to the statements themselves, is the explanations – or the lack thereof – with respect to the remarks; it is clear that Knesset Member Zoabi's explanations are extremely stretched, and her attorney had to, skillfully, try to fill voids, at times in an impossible manner, as is stated in the Bible: "Wilt thou put out the eyes of these men?" (Numbers, 16, 14).

 

 

 

N.           Finally, as to the sanction, which ultimately ended up being more in the symbolic dimension than one of essence or substance, since, as my colleague described, it was eroded between a recess and elections, and therefore it clearly had a weak impact.

 

O.           Upon reading the opinion of my colleague, Justice Hayut, in paragraph 2, regarding the delivery of the minutes of the Ethics Committee's session to the Petitioner, I shall request only to state that we are dealing with a very delicate balance, which is intended to protect the committee members' freedom to express themselves freely on the one hand, and fairness towards the injured member of Knesset, on the other hand. As my colleague mentioned, this matter has emerged in other contexts as well. The difficulty is that even when the exposure of certain details, such as the identity of the speakers, is prevented, it is easy to comprehend that the matter still remains complex, since in a small committee (as opposed, for example, to the other Knesset committees which are large), anyone who is able to figure things out will not have difficulty identifying the speakers. Since the matter remains to be further addressed, it does not have to be ruled upon now.

 

P.            Further to the remarks of my colleague, Justice Melcer, I shall concur with his statements regarding the relationship between law and ethics. It is known that ethical duties also apply to us as judges. The Jewish Law also addresses the distinction between ethics and the letter of the law, and as we – Judge Eran Shilo and myself – wrote in an article that is scheduled to be published in the Zvi Tal Book, "Judicial Ethics in Jewish Law", "The rules of ethics are rules that professionals took upon themselves, as opposed to the law – which is externally imposed upon them, as upon the entire public"; Furthermore – "The distinction between ethics and law is what allows the judge, in circumstances that justify it – to exercise discretion with respect to the norms that are prescribed, knowing that the letter of the law that guarantees a just trial shall not be prejudiced". In the case at hand, we are dealing with the legislator itself, who also prescribes the law and not only the rules of ethics, and therefore we can adjust that which is stated and say that the Rules of Ethics are directed internally, towards the sphere of parliamentary conduct, while the law that is legislated by the Knesset is directed externally, towards everyone. However the ethical matters in the Knesset are obviously uniquely public due to the institution's status and importance, and they are meant to draw behavioral lines so that the legislator shall know its own limits, not only through constitutional review but also within the boundaries of conduct that befits those who represent the entire Israeli public.

 

Q.           My colleague, Justice Melcer, addressed the pledge of allegiance, similarly to my words in paragraph F above. It is known that the wording of this declaration is defined and a member of Knesset is not permitted to add anything thereto (HCJ 400/87 Kahane v. The Chairperson of the Knesset PD 41(2) 729); The declaration (Section 15(a) of the Basic Law: The Knesset) addresses "Bearing allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully fulfilling my mandate in the Knesset"; similarly, the President of the State is also required to "bear allegiance" (Section 9 of the Basic Law: The President), as are the Prime Minister and ministers (Section 14 of the Basic Law: The Government), judges (Section 6 of the Basic Law: The Judiciary – which was applied as early as in 5708 (my book The Judges of the Land (5741-1980), 79); religious judges (Section 10 of the

 

 

 

Religious Judges law, 5715-1955); Qadis (Section 7 of the Qadis Law, 5721- 1961), and Madhhab Qadis (Section 13 of the Druze Religious Courts Law, 5722-1963), as well as the State Comptroller, pursuant to Section 9 of the Basic Law: State Comptroller. In my opinion, by pledging this allegiance those filling these positions express the expectation of an extra degree of loyalty by any personality filling a governmental position, beyond the basic loyalty imposed by citizenship (see Section 5(c) of the Citizenship Law, 5712-1952, in which a person being naturalized pledges to be a "loyal citizen". The pledge of allegiance is a deep moral instrument, and as stated, is at the root of being a member of Knesset, and is a common thread that connects all holders of senior positions in the government system, in the framework of their mandate. One must either be a great believer or greatly naïve, to be of the opinion that Knesset Member Zoabi's statements which we are addressing here, constitute bearing allegiance.

 

R.            As to the position of my colleague, Justice Joubran: There is no dispute regarding the centrality of freedom of political expression  and the significance of the material parliamentary immunity, even what at issue is the expression of outrageous opinions. This is true for all and especially in the case of minorities from various sectors. This stems from us being a Jewish and democratic state, and from the legacy of the prophets of Israel, and as prophet Isaiah said (58, 1) "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a horn, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins."; see also the principle paragraph in the Declaration of Independence which establishes the State of Israel on "the foundations of freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel"; and Section 1 of The Foundations of Law Law, 5740-1980. My colleague is of the opinion (paragraph 17) that also when dealing with ethics it is necessary to apply restraint, and I especially agree when dealing with "politicians who are judging politicians", in the Knesset's Ethics Committee, when – without heaven forbid insulting anyone – there is an inherent concern regarding political considerations being involved in the material considerations. However, we are dealing with ethics in which severity of sanctions do not get to the root of the matter (and in the matter at hand has been wondrously eroded), and with a message which has already been described in the various opinions here.

 

S.            Where do I disagree with my close colleague Justice Joubran? In laying down the line. For example, my colleague (paragraph 19) distinguishes between one who "acted not for the advancement of the best interest of the State" and one who "did not act to advance the best interest of the State", and he is of the opinion that "neutral actions by members of Knesset which on the one hand do not advance the best interest of the State and on the other hand do not harm it, shall not be included in the prohibition". Even if such distinction is appropriate, and I shall not address this (but see the words of our colleague Justice Melcer, in paragraph 7), this is not what is at issue, since the words of Knesset Member Zoabi which we are addressing are blatantly not in the best interest of the State. According to Justice Joubran (paragraph 20), Section 1A(2) of the Rules of Ethics, which imposes upon a member of Knesset to act "in a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State", should be interpreted in a liberal manner, and its sanctions shall be limited to extreme cases. In my opinion, even in the most far reaching liberal interpretation, calling for the

 

 

 

imposition of a siege on your own state and supporting terror cannot – with all due respect – be interpreted with common sense and in the eyes of an ordinary person – as neutral, certainly not as an act "in the State's best interest". I am sorry, but this is nothing other than a blatant an act against the State's best interest. There are ethical boundaries and I shall not address the question of the boundaries of freedom of expression, and the manner of dealing with expressions that are not only provocative but tap existential roots.

 

T.            In summation: The (Middle) Eastern culture to which all of us, each sector, person and style, belong, attaches great importance to honor. Ethics is part of the values and manners between people. In the Jewish world this shall be referred to in various contexts as the theory of values (ethics). I shall quote statements that I had the opportunity to write in my article "The Equality of Minorities in a Jewish and Democratic State" Zehuyot 3 (5773-2013), 140. It is said there (on page 142) that "Mutual respect between Jews and Arabs in Israel is necessary. This is emphasized due to the importance that the culture surrounding us, the culture of the (Middle) East, attributes to the matter of honor, a culture that is expressed in words such as 'Sharaf (honor) and 'Kilmat Sharaf' (word of honor)" and hereinbelow (pages 143-144) "I myself perceive honoring my fellow-person, first and foremost as something natural that stems from within oneself, … this is also the case, mutatis mutandis, of course, with respect to matters related to the relations with Israeli Arabs within" and further on (page 145) "the principle prescription for relationships between the majority and minority in the State of Israel is complex – it is a matter of awareness and insights, which call for reciprocity. It includes Jewish insight as to the need for respect towards the Arabs and an ongoing, relentless, effort, to amend the gaps in equality in all spheres – as mentioned, I see myself as one of the first who was willing to stand up for the task of amending and bridging the gaps. However, awareness and insights are also necessary from the other side, among some of the Arab leadership  in Israel… it must recognize and understand that the objective of the struggle must be equality, and the Jewish population cannot be concerned that at hand is a struggle against the essence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state". Indeed, this was said in the context of the state being Jewish and democratic, but they  are  relevant also  when referring to terror.  When  three families and an entire country were worried about the fate of teenagers who had been abducted (and murdered) by evils, according to Knesset Member Zoabi, they are not terrorists, an ordinary person shall then ponder whether to accept her stretched explanations, and in my opinion the answer is crystal clear. This is also true with respect to the "siege sophistry", and no more words are needed.

 

Deputy President

 

Justice H. Melcer

 

1.            I concur with the exhaustive and measured judgment by my colleague, President

M. Naor.

 

However, due to the importance of the matters, I take the liberty to add a few words regarding the distinction between the prohibition of law and the prohibitions of ethics, since in the case before us the matter that emerged was

 

 

 

whether Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi violated the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset (hereinafter, also: the "Rules of Ethics") and whether judicial intervention in the sanctions that were imposed thereupon by the Knesset's Ethics Committee, is appropriate. I shall briefly address below the said distinction, and its derivatives and implications.

 

2.            Prof. Asa Kasher, in his article Professional Ethics (published in Ethical Issues for Professionals in Counseling and Psychotherapy, ed. Gaby Shefler, Yehudit Achmon, Gabriel Weil, pages 15-29 (Y"L Magnes – 5763-1993)) distinguishes between ethics and law using the terms of shelf and threshold, and clarifies that along the range of possible courses of actions:

 

"There appear to be two lines, one at the top of the ladder… even if not at its very top, and one at the bottom of the ladder… even if not at its very bottom. The top line shall be called the 'shelf'. In this picture it represents ethics. The bottom line shall be called the 'threshold'. In the current picture it represents the law.

These lines, the 'shelf' and the 'threshold' divide the entire range into three natural parts: the segment from the 'shelf' and upwards, the segment between the 'shelf' and the 'threshold' and the segment below the 'threshold'. It is important to understand the essence of each of these three segments, in order to properly understand the relationship between the world of ethics… and the world of law…

The 'shelf' represents the professional ethics, the practical ideal of professional conduct. It is the 'shelf' of proper conduct… an action at the height of the 'shelf' or above it is proper conduct, as it is conduct that is in accordance with the practical ideal of professional conduct. The segment from the 'shelf' upwards, within the range of possible courses of actions, is the proper sphere of conduct…

The 'threshold' represents the law…, the binding approach of legal conduct, the 'threshold' of permitted conduct pursuant to the law, from a legal perspective. An action at the height of the 'threshold' or beneath it constitutes… conduct that is contrary to the binding approach of legal conduct…

For the sake of accuracy, we shall mention a simple aspect of the relationship between the 'shelf' and the 'threshold', in this picture, which is not at all obvious in any context. In the picture proposed here, the 'shelf' is always higher than the 'threshold'. In reality, the relationship between a certain 'shelf' and a certain 'threshold' could, at times, be more complex… Between the 'shelf and the 'threshold' is the interim sphere. An action in this sphere constitutes improper conduct, from an ethical perspective, since it is under the said 'shelf', but it is  concurrently  deemed  a  permitted  action,  from  a  legal perspective, since it is above the said 'threshold'…"

(Ibid, on pages 23-24, original emphases – H.M)

 

 

 

Justice Yitzhak Zamir, who also dealt extensively with the distinction between law and ethics – added as follows in HCJ 2533/97 The Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. The Government of Israel PD 51(3) 46, on page 61 (1997):

 

"It is the law that determines the limit between law  and ethics. Furthermore, the law nibbles away at ethics. Rules of ethics can become rules of law. From time to time the legislator will prescribe this, and from time to time the courts will rule this, when it turns out that the power of ethics, in and of itself, does not prevent wrong behavior or severe consequences. In such an event, the law, on more than one occasion, will step in and help the ethics. See: Y. Zamir "Ethics in Politics" Mishpatim 14 (5747-5748) 250".

 

See also the opinion by Justice M. Cheshin in HCJ 1993/03 The Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, PD 57(6) 817, on pages 917-918 (2003).

 

3.            In the Petition before us – we are not dealing with the legal sphere which, for example, prescribes in Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset terms and conditions that allow preventing a list of candidates from participating in, or a person from being a candidate for, elections to the Knesset. This is the threshold and as such, its interpretation and application are exercised narrowly and its judicial review is meticulous.

 

See: Election Approval 9255/12 The Central Elections Committee for the 19th Knesset v. Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (judgment from December 30, 2012; reasons from August 30, 2013, and review the references mentioned therein).

 

4.            The Petition here addresses a different matter, since it focusses on the rules of conduct that apply to a person who was elected to serve as a member of Knesset. These bind the member of Knesset by virtue of Sections 13D and E of the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 (hereinafter: the "Knesset Members Immunity Law"). These Rules of Ethics demand that a member of Knesset behave as expected of an elected official presiding in the Knesset, which is the "State's House of Representatives" (Section 1 of the Basic Law: The Knesset). This is the threshold. The said threshold leans on two supporting beams:

 

(a)          The pledge of allegiance, which the member of Knesset declares by virtue of Sections 15 of the Basic Law: The Knesset and Section 1(c) of the Knesset Law, 5754-1994, and on this matter I concur with the position of my colleague, the Deputy President, Justice E. Rubinstein.

 

(b) The Rules of Ethics of the "House of Representatives"

 

I shall address each of the two said sources separately below:

 

 

 

 

Pledge of Allegiance

 

5.            Since the dawn of political thought and democratic history the pledge of allegiance has had more than just ceremonial meaning, but also deep substantial relevance. Indeed, as early as in ancient Greece, the governors in the Police were required to swear their allegiance to the unification of the state, and Plato, the reputed jurist of such time, in his book: Laws (Volumes III 685 and XII 960) wrote that the pledge of allegiance has both legal significance and political importance. Aristotle, in his book: Politics (Volume III, 1285) analyzed the meaning of the pledge of allegiance as a means of securing the rule of law. See: Matthew A. Paully, I Do Solemnly Swear: The President's Constitutional Oath: Its Meaning and Importance in the History of Oaths (1999) ibid, on pages 45-52. See also: Suzie Navot "The Knesset Chapter on the Constitution Draft: Three Remarks" Mishpat U'mimshal 10 593, 624-633 (the chapter on the status of the pledge of allegiance) (5767) (hereinafter: "Navot on the Status of Pledge of Allegiance"); Yigal Marzel "On a Judge's Pledge of Allegiance" Orr Book 647 (5773-2013; hereinafter: "Marzel on the Pledge of Allegiance").

 

Therefore, anyone who crossed the threshold and his/her candidacy was approved and he/she was elected to the Knesset, must still declare allegiance in order to actually take the position, This is the significance of the pledge of allegiance, in the framework of which the member of Knesset undertakes:

 

"To bear allegiance to the State of Israel and to faithfully fulfill his mandate in the Knesset".

 

It indeed turns out that while candidates to the Knesset must first cross the threshold and after they are elected they must represent their voters – those who sent them and their party – still the common denominator for all members of Knesset is the pledge of allegiance from which the shelf is derived. If the pledge, which has a uniform wording for all members of Knesset, and which cannot be deviated from in any way – is not made, the members of Knesset cannot function in the Knesset (see: Section 16 of the Basic Law: The Knesset; HCJ 400/87 Kahane v. The Chairperson of the Knesset, PD 41(2) 929 (1987); see also: Marzel on the Pledge of Allegiance page 651 and 664-665).

 

Comparative law further demonstrates that not only is a person who is not willing to pledge allegiance not entitled to benefit from his rights in parliament, but that the "house" may deny, or de facto limit the rights and actions in parliament of a person who violates his said pledge. Compare: McGuinness v. The United Kingdom, case no. 39511/98 ECHR (1999); Spanish Constitutional Court decisions: number 101 dated November 18, 1983; number 122 dated December

16, 1983, number 8 dated January 25, 1985; number 119 dated June 21, 1990, and number 74 dated April 8, 1991. See: Navot on the Status of the Pledge of Allegiance, on pages 628-631 and see Prof. Aparicio Perez' article that is mentioned in Prof. Suzie Navot's said article, in the framework of which the following was written (free translation from Spanish by Prof. Navot):

 

"The member of parliament benefits from a dual status: the

 

 

 

one which derives from his status as an elected person and a representative, since his status stems from the fact that he was elected by the public in the framework of his party: and that of a member in a representative organ. The fact that a member of parliament is "elected" does not automatically grant him the rights in the representative organ, meaning, the parliament… This duality is possible. In certain cases, the parliament may, by virtue of its internal arrangements, even take away the mandate a member of parliament received and remove him. The fact that a person was elected as a member of parliament is a condition for him to participate in the common organ referred to as the parliament. However, in order to be included in this organ, the elected person must fulfill the material conditions to be included in this organ. Only after the member of Parliament has fulfilled these terms, can he be considered a 'parliamentarian'…"

 

It is appropriate to add here that both the European Court of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitutional Court denied judicial intervention in decisions that limited parliamentary participation from those who refused to pledge allegiance, and ruled that even the right to vote in parliament (which was not denied from Knesset Member Zoabi in this case) may be limited, provided that the prevention is meant to attain a proper goal and is proportionate. See: Navot on the Status of the Pledge of Allegiance, on page 630. With respect to the applicability of the proportionality criteria in the context of immunity and the denial thereof – also compare with that stated in the judgment in Cordova v. Italy (No. 1 and No. 2), Application no. 40877/98 and Application no. 45649/99, which was given by the European Court of Human Rights (dated April 30, 2003).

 

Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset

 

6.            These are relevant to the matter at hand, since in the framework of Section 1A thereof they further anchored general values that apply to the member of Knesset. In the framework of these rules – the member of Knesset must (inter alia):

 

(1)          Fulfill his position out of loyalty to the basic values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State;

(2)          Act as a trustee of the public, and fulfill his duty to represent the public that voted for him in a manner that will serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;

(3)          Diligently uphold the laws of the State of Israel and act to advance the principle of the rule of law;

(4)          Preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset, and act to foster public trust in the Knesset;

(5)          Fulfill his mandate in the Knesset responsibly, honestly and fairly, out of dedication to his status as a leader in society, and strive to serve as a personal example for proper behavior;

 

 

 

(My emphases – H.M.)

 

As to the "dignity of the Knesset", Section 2 of the Rules of Ethics provides that: "The member of Knesset shall uphold the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall act in a manner befitting his status and duties as a member of Knesset, and shall avoid using his immunities and rights as a member of Knesset in an improper manner" (My emphases – H.M.)

 

7.            In light of Knesset Member Zoabi's conduct which was the subject of the complaints that were filed against her – it can certainly be said, as was ruled in the decisions which are the subject of the Petition, that she violated Section 1A of the Rules of Ethics for Members of Knesset, and particularly the provisions of the above sub-sections (2) and (4) of the said Rules, since, according to my position, she was not diligent about maintaining allegiance to the State (see: Yaffa Zilbershats, Loyalty to the State, Zamir Book, 491 (2005); Marzel on the Pledge of Allegiance 669-673). These violations were reflected in the "understanding" Knesset Member Zoabi exhibited towards the acts of the abductors of the teenagers: Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Sha'er and Eyal Yifrah, may their memories be blessed, and in her calls to impose a siege upon Israel. In doing so she not only ethically violated her fiduciary duty towards the State of Israel, but also prejudiced her status as a trustee of the public, who is meant to act in a manner that shall serve the advancement of the best interest of the State (sub-section 1A(2) above). She also deviated from her obligation as one who is required to uphold the dignity of the Knesset and act in a manner that befits her status as a member of Knesset, and to act to foster the public's trust in the Knesset (above sub-section 1A(4)). See: Suzie Navot "The Member of Knesset as a 'Trustee of the Public'" Mishpatim 31(2) 433 (particularly ibid, on pages 518-

520) (5761). In this context my colleague, Justice S. Joubran states that in his opinion an ethics violation is possible "when a member of Knesset acts not for the advancement of the best interest of the State, as opposed to a situation in which he did not act to advance its best interest" (original emphases – H.M.) I am willing to accept this interpretation, however, even according thereto – Knesset Member Zoabi's conviction of an ethical offense is not to be cancelled. Calling for a siege on the State of Israel is explicitly an act not for the advancement of the best interest of the State and here we must clarify that for this purpose it makes no difference whether at hand is a "military siege" or a "political siege", as Knesset Member Zoabi's attorney retroactively argued before us.

 

8.            Here one should note that it is possible that MK Zoabi also violated additional Rules of Ethics however since this was not reflected in the decisions which are the subject of the Petition – I shall refrain from addressing this, just as I shall also presume (although this presumption could be disputed, in light of the provision of Section 1(A1)(4) of the Knesset Members Immunity Law) that the material immunity applies with respect to her actions, which are the subject of the complaints, in all that relates to criminal, or civil, liability (as opposed to ethical liability – see: HCJ 12002/04 Makhoul v. The Knesset, PD 60(2) 325 (2005) and see Barak Medina and Ilan Saban, "Expanding the Gap?" on the Scope of a Member of Knesset's Right to Support Resistance to the Occupation, Following HCJ 11225/03 Bishara v. The Attorney General, Mishpatim 37 219, on page

 

 

 

236, footnote 42 (5767)).

 

9.            Before ending I shall add and emphasize that I concur with the words of my colleague, Justice E. Hayut, with respect to the right to review the minutes of the Ethics Committee when at issue is a disciplinary proceeding that is being held against the member of Knesset. This is warranted by the principle of "proper process".

 

10.          In summary: All that is stated above leads to the conclusion that in the circumstances of the matter (including the actual duration of the sanctions that were imposed upon the Petitioner) – it is inappropriate to intervene in the ethical decisions that were issued in the matter of the Knesset Member Zoabi, which are the subject of the Petition.

 

I shall end with a note, as I also remarked in the hearing, that it is not for no reason that the Petitioners and their educated attorneys did not find even one case in comparative law in which a member of parliament called for a siege against his state, and was absolved.

 

Justice

 

Justice S. Joubran

 

1.            Is the Knesset's Ethics Committee (hereinafter: the "Ethics Committee" or the "Committee") authorized to apply sanctions of one kind or another due to political remarks that one of its members said or wrote outside of the Knesset, when such remarks are covered by the material immunity granted to a member of Knesset? If so, did the Ethics Committee exercise its authority lawfully? These are the two questions we are to rule on in this Petition.

 

2.            After hearing the Petition, this Court, by a majority of opinions, decided to deny it. My opinion was different, and had it been heard, we would have ruled that the Ethics Committee exercised its authority unlawfully, and we would have cancelled its decision. At the end of our judgment, we ruled that our reasons would be given separately, and now the time for the reasons has come.

 

3.            As mentioned, the Petitioner argued that the Ethics Committee lacks the authority to impose a sanction upon her for remarks that are covered by the material immunity that is granted to a member of Knesset. She also argued that the things that she said and wrote do not constitute a violation of the Rules of Ethics. My colleague, President M. Naor, is of the opinion that the Ethics Committee was authorized to address the Petitioner's remarks and that in the current case it exercised its authority lawfully. I agree with my colleague the President on the matter of the authority. I am also of the opinion that the Committee is authorized to address the Petitioner's remarks. The scope of disagreement between me and my colleague relates to the discretionary level. I am of the opinion that the Petitioner did not violate the Rules of Ethics, and therefore, the Committee's authority was exercised unlawfully. I shall add a few words on the authority level, and thereafter shall discuss the discretionary level.

 

 

 

 

The Authority Level

 

4.            The Ethics Committee operates by virtue of Section 19 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which constitutes authorization for regulating the Knesset's work proceedings in By-Laws, and by virtue of the Knesset Members  Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, 5711-1951 (hereinafter: the "Immunity Law"). The two main provisions which are relevant to the case at hand are:

 

1.            (a) A member of Knesset shall not bear criminal or civil responsibility and shall be immune against any legal action, due to voting or due to expressing an opinion orally or in writing, or due to an act performed – in or out of the Knesset – if the vote, the expression of the opinion or the act were in the framework of fulfilling his position, or for the sake of fulfilling his position, as a member of Knesset.

 

13D. (a) The member of Knesset who committed one of the following shall be subject to be judged by the Ethics Committee of the Members of Knesset:

[…]

(3) Violated any of the Rules of Ethics.

 

5.            The Rules of Ethics appear in the Knesset's By-Laws and their power is vested by virtue of Section 13E(1) of the Immunity Law. In the matter at hand, the Ethics Committee ruled that the Petitioner violated Section 1A of the Rules of Ethics which prescribes, in the relevant parts, that:

 

1A. The member of Knesset –

(2) Is a trustee of the public and it is his duty to represent the public that voted for him in such a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;

(4) Shall preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, shall conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset and shall act to foster public trust in the Knesset;

 

6.            The Petitioner's approach is that there is no place for the Ethics Committee to act if the member of Knesset's action is protected by material immunity. According to this approach, Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law requested to exclude  these matters from the Committee's authority. This approach was denied in HCJ 12002/04 Makhoul v. The Knesset PD 60(2) 325 (2005) (hereinafter: the "Makhoul" Case). In that matter, it was ruled that the Ethics Committee's decision is not a "legal action" which is included in Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law, and therefore a member of Knesset is not immune from facing it. This ruling coincides with the purpose of Section 13D of the Immunity Law, which anchors the Ethics

 

 

 

Committee's authority to address the violation of the Rules of Ethics and to apply sanctions on members of Knesset for such violations. This ruling also coincides with the interpretive proceeding which should be applied to Sections 1 and 13D of the Immunity Law. Thus, it was ruled in the Makhoul Case that normative harmony requires the interpretation that at hand are two provisions which complement each other, rather than there being a contradiction between two provisions that are mutually exclusive (ibid, on pages 334-335). Therefore, I am of the opinion that that stated in Section 13D complements that stated in Section 1 and does not contradict it.

 

7.            The Petitioner raised an additional argument on the authority level, that the Ethics Committee is not authorized to discuss political remarks by members of Knesset and that its authority is limited to remarks that substantially disturb the work of the Knesset and relate to the social relationship within the Knesset. Indeed, the position of the Ethics Committee in its decisions is that "in all that relates to political remarks, the Committee's position is that in general they should be dismissed in limine, even if at hand are extreme and outrageous remarks". However, I am of the opinion, as is my colleague, the President, that this does not mean that the Ethics Committee lacks authority to discuss these remarks (see paragraphs 27-28 of her opinion). Indeed, my opinion is that one must distinguish between remarks that are only political, and remarks that constitute bad-mouthing and slandering of individuals and publics. However, I am of the opinion that the distinction does not have to be made at the authority level, but rather at the discretionary level. Meaning, in the scope of judicial review which should be applied on decisions that discuss these remarks and the scope of protection that should be given to remarks of such nature, as I shall elaborate below.

 

The Discretionary Level

Limiting the Freedom of Political Expression of an Elected Official

 

8.            At the discretionary level, the Court examines the merits of the Ethics Committee's decision. In the case at hand, whether the Petitioner, through her remarks, violated the Rules of Ethics by virtue of which she was convicted. This matter is directly related to the question of members of Knesset's freedom of political expression and the question of the limitation thereof. I am of the opinion that the point  of reference in this matter lies in the recognition of the importance of guaranteeing the existence of elected official's freedom of political expression and of striving to promote it.

 

9.            "The political expression – the speech, the article, the interview – are the member of Knesset's primary working tools" – so wrote President A. Barak in HCJ 11225/03 Knesset Member Dr. Azmi Bishara v. The Attorney General PD 60(4) 287, 326 (hereinafter: the "Bishara" Case). Political expression is the core of parliamentary activity and constitutes a primary tool for the member of Knesset to perform his main duty – expressing his position and the positions of the public that voted for him on public matters.

 

10.          In order to guarantee that the member of Knesset shall be able to faithfully fulfill his position and represent the public that voted for him while giving free and full expression of his opinions and perspectives, without fear or concern, the legislator

 

 

 

chose to grant the members of Knesset material immunity against being criminally charged or against a civil law obligation, for remarks that were expressed in the framework or for the sake of fulfilling their position. This immunity is essential to guarantee the democratic character of the ruling government. In the Bishara Case it was ruled as follows:

 

"The purposes underlying the material immunity are varied. They are meant to protect the fundamental political freedoms. They are meant to allow proper activity of the legislative authority. They reflect a desire to guarantee the member of Knesset's independence and freedom of action. They are meant to strengthen the democratic rule. On the other hand, one must not ignore the other (general) purposes of the Immunity Law" (ibid, on page 323)

 

One can learn of the importance of protecting the members of Knesset's freedom of political expression, which is reflected in the material immunity granted to them, and of the tight linkage between it and the proper activity of the democratic process, from the spirit of the words of President S. Agranat in Criminal Appeal 255/68 The State of Israel v. Avraham Ben Moshe, PD 22(2) 427, 435 (1968), when he examined the actions of a person who was harassing a member of Knesset due to words spoken by such elected official:

 

"The right of a member of a house of representatives, in this forum or elsewhere, to voice his views on the "cutting-edge" political questions, without fear and concern that he will be harmed by anyone who does not support such perspectives or who is convinced that they are dangerous for the nation – such right is but only a tangible reflection of the tight linkage that exists between the principle of freedom of expression and dispute and the proper activity of the democratic process. Moreover, due to the significant importance we attribute to the later aspect of the discussed principle, the legislator deemed it fit to grant the members of Knesset an  entire system of privileges, which are meant to guarantee that each of them shall be able to express their opinion and formulate their positions, regarding the political issues that require solution and decision, in an open and free manner and without them having to be accountable for them to any person or authority. I mean the various immunity rights… one of which is that which is prescribed in Section 1(a)…"

 

11.          The Israeli legislator even adopted a rather broad model of material immunity in Section 1(a) of the Immunity Law. This immunity applies also to actions and not only to voting or expressing an opinion and spans over the activity of the member of Knesset within the walls of the Knesset and outside thereof, and applies also after he ceased being a member of Knesset (see: HCJ 620/85 Miari v. The Chairperson of the Knesset, PD 41(4) 169, 204 (1987) (hereinafter: the "Miari" Case); the Bishara Case, on page 301). The broad scope of the material immunity indicates the great importance the legislator attributes to protecting the

 

 

 

members of Knesset's freedom of expression. This protection is not meant to serve the member of Knesset's personal well-being, but rather is meant to guarantee the right of all of the citizens to full and effective political representation – that their opinions be heard, through their elected representatives, in the public discourse, in general, and in the house of legislators, in particular.

 

12.          It shall be noted that guaranteeing the existence of freedom of political expression is also important when at hand are aggravating and outrageous remarks and ideas, and it is especially important for members of Knesset who express ideas that are perceived as such by the majority of the public. Indeed "Freedom of expression is also the freedom to express dangerous, aggravating and deviant opinions, which disgust the public and which it hates (HCJ 399/85 Kahane v. The Executive Committee of the Broadcast Authority, PD 41(3) 255, 279 (1987)). The essence of the importance of this right is granting protection to words that are not popular and not in consensus and which can even grate on the ears.

 

13.          There is no denying that guaranteeing the existence of freedom of free political expression and minimizing the limitation thereof is especially critical for members of Knesset who belong to minority groups in the population. My colleague, Justice E. Hayut, elaborated in her opinion on the special importance of protecting the freedom of expression of minority groups in general. I am of the opinion that when members of Knesset are at issue, this is all the more relevant. There is great significance to protecting the freedom of expression of minority groups in the parliament and restraining the infringement thereof. So as to guarantee effective and egalitarian representation of the minority groups in the parliament, in a manner in which their voice shall be heard and not excluded. This approach is grounded in the rulings of this Court. For example, in the Bishara Case, President A. Barak stated, in the context of the members of Knesset's material immunity, that protecting freedom of expression is "vital particularly for citizens who are members of minority groups in the population. In this sense the material immunity also advances civil equality by also protecting the right of the members of the minority groups in the population to full and effective political representation, and protects them by protecting the member of Knesset who is representing their affairs and their  perspectives against the power of the majority" (ibid, on page 323).

 

14.          This approach was also recognized in the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (Szel v. Hungary, 44357/13 (sep. 16, 2014) at para 69; Karacsony

v. Hungary 42461/13 (sep. 16, 2014) at para 72), to which my colleagues also referenced. As mentioned, the European Court cancelled the conviction of an ethical offense of four opposition members of Parliament in Hungary, due to their remarks in the framework of acts of protest. In that matter, it was ruled that in a democratic society, freedom of expression is a tool of supreme importance for members of Parliament. It was also ruled that this freedom of expression is particularly necessary for members of Parliament who belong to minority groups, in order to guarantee their right to express their positions and the right of the public to hear these positions.

 

 

 

 

One can also learn of the importance of protecting freedom of expression of minority groups from the spirit of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Jerusalem v. Austria ECHR 26958/95. In that case it was ruled that interfering with an opposition member of parliament's freedom of expression calls for broader scrutiny by the Court:

 

"Interference with the freedom of expression of an opposition member of parliament, like the applicant, calls for closest scrutiny on the part of the Court" (at para 36)."

 

The Ethics Rules

 

15.          As to the ethics rules. As mentioned, the point of reference in any legal examination of the matter being discussed – including the examination of the ethics rules - is the recognition of the supreme status of freedom of expression in our legal system and the importance of minimizing interference therewith. I agree with my colleague, the President, that freedom of expression also projects onto the laws of ethics that apply to members of Knesset (see paragraph 27 of her opinion). This Court has ruled in the past that "Freedom of expression projects onto and has implications for all the other branches in our legal system, including disciplinary rules" (Bar Association Appeal 1734/00 Tel Aviv Jaffa District Committee of the Bar Association v. Sheftel, paragraph 25 of the judgment of (then) Justice M. Naor (January 1, 2002)). This Court applied a similar approach with respect to the disciplinary rules that apply to civil servants (Civil Service Disciplinary Appeal 5/86 Sapiro v. The Civil Service Commissioner, PD 40(4) 227 (1986) (hereinafter: the "Sapiro" Case)). In that case it was ruled that:

 

"We must be diligent about the promotion and existence of freedom of expression, even in light of the reasonable assumption that there is a difference, in terms of the range of permitted actions, between an ordinary citizen and a civil servant, and consequently there are certain limitations on the public remarks by a civil servant […], the qualifications that are imposed upon civil servants, should, to the extent possible, be minimized. Additionally, general and unspecified reservations should not be imposed upon the civil servants, but rather their classification should be limited to those circumstances in which there is near certainty of damage or harm to the public service or to the interests it serves (ibid, on pages 236-237)

 

I am of the opinion that this is all the more relevant when at issue is the limitation of members of Knesset's freedom of political expression, since their political expression is the main tool for them to perform their duty. Therefore,  the question is what are the criteria for ruling that a member of Knesset violated the ethics rules? I am of the opinion that one can learn of the proper criteria from looking at the laws of the members of Knesset's material immunity. As mentioned, the broad scope of material immunity that is granted to the members of  Knesset  embodies  the  supreme  importance  the  legislator  attributed  to

 

 

 

protecting their freedom of expression. I have listed the reasons for this in the paragraphs above, and, as I have demonstrated, previous rulings of this Court have also done this well. It appears that these reasons are relevant also when at issue are the ethics rules. My colleague, Deputy President E. Rubinstein is of the opinion that "Particularly due to the broad material immunity, the Rules of Ethics are the little that can be done to restrain deviations, 'a pressure release valve', to maintain a framework of parliamentary norms" (paragraph G of his opinion). Indeed, a conviction of an ethical offense is generally considered less severe than a civil or criminal conviction against which the material immunity protects, and generally the sanctions accompanying it are less severe. It appears that this also justifies distinguishing between the extent of the democratic tolerance which applies in each set of rules. Thus, there can be remarks that do not cross the red lines that are defined by the material immunity and are covered thereby, while they do constitute ethical violations. However, a conviction of an ethical offense is also not a trivial matter, and the sanctions accompanying it can be especially severe, as in the current case – removal from the sessions of the Knesset's plenum and its committees for a period of six months. This can create a chilling effect for members of Knesset. In my opinion, this approach requires the Ethics Committee to apply restraint when limiting members of Knesset's freedom of expression and convicting them under the laws of ethics, for political remarks.

 

16.          It is important to note in this context that that which is stated above is relevant when at issue is the violation of an ethical provision in the matter of a member of Knesset's purely political remark - as in the case at hand – and not when dealing with remarks that constitute slander or bad-mouthing. The reason for this is the degree of importance that should be attributed to political expression, since it promotes a free market of opinions and reflects the perspectives of the voting public. This is in contrast with the second type of expressions which do not promote these values, but rather harm the status and dignity of the Knesset and deteriorate the public discourse in Israel. This also coincides with the approach of the Ethics Committee itself, as it emerges from its decisions:

 

"To the extent possible, the limitation of the members of Knesset's freedom of political and ideological expression should be avoided, even when the words they say are harsh and outrageous. The right of freedom of expression constitutes a tool of supreme importance for members of Knesset, within the Knesset and outside thereof, the essence of the importance of this right is granting protection to words that are not popular and which can even grate on many ears. However, if, in all that relates to political remarks the position of the committee is that that in general they should be dismissed in limine, even if at hand are extreme and outrageous remarks, then with regard to remarks that constitute bad-mouthing, slandering, mudslinging and humiliating individuals and publics, the committee's position is materially different. (Decision 2/19 of the Knesset's Ethics Committee "In the Matter of Remarks by Members of Knesset" (July 2, 2013)).

 

 

 

17.          In the case before us the Ethics Committee decided that the Petitioner violated both of the values prescribed in Sections 1A(2) and 1A(4) of the Rules of the Ethics, which read as follows:

 

1A. The member of Knesset –

(2) Is a trustee of the public and it is his duty to represent the public that voted for him in such a manner that shall serve human dignity, the advancement of society and the best interest of the State;

(4) Shall preserve the dignity of the Knesset and the dignity of its members, shall be devoted to fulfilling his duties in the Knesset, shall conduct himself in a manner that befits his status as a member of Knesset and shall act to foster public trust in the Knesset;

 

The Ethics Committee ruled that "The Member of Knesset's words that were written and spoken in sensitives times do not coincide with the best interest of the State, even if we grant this term an expansive interpretation, and they constitute a violation of the duty of allegiance that applies to members of Knesset". It was further ruled that "The words severely prejudice the public's trust in the Knesset and its image, which is also reflected in the large number of complaints that were filed with the Committee".

 

18.          The above-mentioned Section 1A prescribes basic values which outline general criteria for the conduct of members of Knesset. As my colleagues, I am of the opinion that even though at hand are basic values that do not delineate a sanction alongside them, they benefit from an independent status and members of Knesset who act in contradiction to that stated therein, can be convicted by virtue thereof. Thus, a conviction of an ethical offense based on Section 1A(4) would be appropriate when a member of Knesset prejudices the harms the Knesset or the members thereof (the Makhoul Case; Rules of Ethics Preparation Committee Report, December 2006, on page 46), or when a member of Knesset acts in a manner that prejudices the public trust. In my opinion, it appears that a conviction of an ethical offense based on Section 1A(2) would be appropriate when a member of Knesset acted not for the advancement of the best interest of the State as opposed to a situation in which he did not act to advance its best interest. Such interpretation takes into account that neutral actions by members of Knesset which on the one hand do not advance the best interest of the State, and on the other hand do not harm it, shall not be included in the prohibition.

 

19.          According to my position, an interpretation that expands the limits of patience and tolerance is appropriate in this matter as well. In my opinion, one must act with a strict and stringent criterion when determining that a member of Knesset violated the values of "advancing the best interest of the State" and "fostering the public's trust". General and unspecified limitations should not be imposed upon a member of Knesset, but rather the classification should be limited to those extreme cases. Consequently, the member of Knesset should be granted broad freedom of action and his actions and words should be interpreted liberally,

 

 

 

such that only the extreme and clear substance of the contents of his words can be the basis for his conviction (compare: the Miari Case, on page 212). There are a number of reasons for my said position. Firstly, the specific provision deals with political remarks, which by their nature are intertwined with the member of Knesset's duties. As such, members of Knesset who engage in political expression as a main part of their position, are at a high risk of committing this ethical prohibition (compare: the Bishara Case, on page 326); Secondly, in light of the broad language in which the values of "advancing the best interest of the State" and "fostering the public's trust" are drafted, there is a concern that if members of Knesset shall be exposed to severe sanctions, which can reach six months of being removed from the sessions of the Knesset's plenum and its committees (Section 13D(d)(4) of the Immunity Law), this could chill their ability to express themselves without fear also in cases in which what they are saying does not constitute an ethical offense. Thirdly, members of Knesset often express themselves in controversial matters in a manner which could appear to be callous and outrageous to part of society. This is especially true in the divided Israeli society (see: E. Benvenisti "Regulating Freedom of Expression in a Divided Society" Mishpatim 30 29 (1999)). Hence, it is natural that in light of the Petitioner's perspectives and the platform of her party, she will find herself expressing positions regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the risk that her statements shall be interpreted by a large part of society, as statements that harm the State's best interest, is great. (Compare: the Bishara Case, on page 327).

 

20.          Given the above, one must examine whether the Petitioner, through her remarks, violated the Rules of Ethics. Meaning, is the Ethics Committee's decision which is the subject of the Petition, lawful. Examining the merits of the Committee's decision raises a question of the scope of judicial review of the Ethics Committee's decisions. I shall now address the examination of this scope and thereafter examine, in the form of applying the general rule to the specific case, whether the current case justifies our intervention.

 

The Scope of Judicial Review of the Ethics Committee's Decisions

 

21.          Case law prescribes that the scope of judicial review is impacted by the type of decision which is the subject of the review (see: HCJ 652/81 Knesset Member Yossi Sarid v. The Chairperson of the Knesset PD 36(2) 197 (1982)). As my colleague, the President, elaborated, it was ruled in the Makhoul Case that in general the Ethics Committee has broad room for maneuver and consequently the room for judicial review is relatively narrow (ibid, on page 343). I agree with this position, however, each case is examined on its own merits and the scope of the judicial review is determined in accordance with the circumstances of each case. In the Makhoul Case, the main reasons for determining the relatively narrow scope of judicial review were that the Ethics Committee's decisions are closer to the sphere of the Knesset's internal matters; that its decisions harm the member of Knesset in a relatively mitigated manner; and that at issue are matters which generally have a small impact outside of the Knesset. Therefore, it was ruled that the extent of this Court's intervention shall be less than that which is exercised with respect to other quasi-judicial decisions that are in the framework of the Knesset's authority. However, these reasons are not relevant in the current case. Since at hand are political remarks that were said outside of the Knesset and

 

 

 

which do not relate to its internal affairs or its conduct or to the conduct of any of its members. The Ethics Committee's decision in the current case harms the core of the freedom of political expression, and as such its impact outside of the Knesset is not small. In my opinion in such cases, when the Committee examines purely political remarks, there is no justification for the judicial review to be narrower that the judicial review of other quasi-judicial decisions.

 

22.          This ruling coincides with the ruling in the Makhoul Case, that when examining the Ethics Committee's decision, the Court shall take into consideration those consideration that relate to the severity of the infringement of the basic rights and the proportionality of the sanction that is imposed by the Ethics Committee. Indeed, ethics rules are not a cover for infringing basic rights that are granted to a member of  Knesset. When the Knesset wishes to exercise its authority  and qualify the rights granted to a member of Knesset by law, it must comply with the legal criteria that are required for exercising this authority (see: the Miari Case, on page 196). The more severe the infringement of the member of Knesset's basic rights, and the more the sanction for the act deviates from the proper extent, the more this Court will be willing to intervene (see: the Makhoul Case, on page 344). In the case before us the member of Knesset's freedom of expression was infringed. The fact that at hand is a member of Knesset from a minority group exacerbates the infringement and justifies broader judicial review. In this matter, the words of Justice E. Rivlin in the Bishara Case, are relevant:

 

"In any event the special significance of judicial review in those cases in which basic human rights are at issue, should be recognized. It is here that it is important that the judicial review exhaust its full power and ability. This ability shall serve it if it shall succeed in refraining from scattering its legal and social resources which are nurtured by the public's trust, when the scope of deference expands. This is true in general, and particularly when immunity relating to freedom of expression is at issue, and in the case at hand – not just expression, but political expression, and not just political expression, but political expression of a member of Knesset, and not just a member of Knesset, but a representative of a minority group" (ibid, on page 337) [emphases added – S.J.]

 

From the General Rule to the Specific Case

 

23.          I shall now examine the Petitioner's remarks in light of that stated. I shall state at the outset that in my opinion the Petitioner did not violate the Rules of Ethics. I did not reach this conclusion easily, and it is not obvious. Indeed, in my opinion this is quite a borderline case. The Petitioner's statements, at the timing in which they were said, are harsh and in my opinion near the line beyond which it could not be said that they comply with the Rules of Ethics. However, in my opinion, given the circumstances of the matter, and considering the entire considerations, the proper conclusion is that ultimately the Petitioner did not violate the Rules of Ethics. The main reason for this is that one cannot extract any clear and unequivocal content, that amount to a violation of the ethical values, from her

 

 

 

remarks, but rather her remarks were vague, some had reservations attached and some had explanations that were later attached, as I shall immediately describe in detail.

 

24.          As for the call in the article dated July 13, 2014, to impose a siege on the State of Israel, the Petitioner did not state what type of siege she is calling for – whether a political siege or a military siege. The Petitioner's attorney claimed in the hearing before us that the Petitioner meant the imposition of a political siege and not the imposition of a military siege. I agree with my colleague the President that the words of the Petitioner's attorney were stated retroactively and that the Petitioner should have presented this explanation to the Ethics Committee. However, I am of the opinion that this interpretation that was suggested by the Petitioner's attorney – that the call is for a political and not a military siege – is at least possible, and could be implied from the words the Petitioner wrote. In this context, I do not agree with my colleague, the Deputy President, that it is very difficult to interpret the call "to impose a siege on the State of Israel" as only a political siege, but rather as a military siege.

 

25.          As to the Petitioner's statements in the interview dated June 17, 2014, that the abductors of the teenagers "Are not terrorists", these statements were accompanied at the time they were said, by a reservation from the act of abduction, as it was said "even if I do not agree with them". Following the said interview, the Petitioner explained in the media that she objects to the abduction, that she does not agree with this act and that she objects in principle to harming civilian population, Israeli and Palestinian. As to her remark "They are not terrorists", she explained that it is her principle position not to use the term "terror" in the Hebrew press. I am of the opinion that in the circumstances of the matter, these words by the Petitioner somewhat soften her remarks in the interview. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the statement "They are not terrorists" was made orally, in an interview, as a response to the interviewer's question. Meaning, the Petitioner did not have time to redraft or refine her statements, or retract them before they were made public. A similar position was expressed in the European Court of Human Rights in Mondragon v. Spain 2034/07, where it was ruled that the Court must take into account the fact that the statements were made orally during a press conference so that it was not possible to redraft or retract the statements before they were made public:

 

"The Court further takes account of the fact that the remarks were made orally during press conference' so that the applicant had no possibility of reformulating' refining or retracting them before they were made public (at para 45)".

 

Secondly, the Petitioner provided explanations in the media to the meaning of her remarks with regard to the teenagers' abductors, in order to convince the public that she objects to the act of abduction and to harming civilian population. The Petitioner explained that the statement "They are not terrorists" stems from her principle position against using the term "terror" in Israeli media, and not from her identifying with the act of abduction. Even if these explanations which the Petitioner provided to the media, do not reflect her inner feelings, the fact that they are possible explanations, is sufficient to somewhat soften her remarks. I

 

 

 

agree with the position of my colleague, the President, that extreme acts or expressions which legitimize acts of terror and which encourage and support violence against civilian population, cannot overcome the ethical prohibitions. However, as I explained above, this is not exclusively and unequivocally implied from the Petitioner's statements, in light of her reservations when they were said and in light of her later explanations. One must also add that the Attorney General ruled on July 24, 2014, that a criminal investigation shall not be opened against the Petitioner for her remarks regarding the teenagers' abductors. The explanation given to this by the deputy Attorney General is that the Petitioner's reservation from the act of abduction "creates difficulty in perceiving the statements as inciting abduction". It appears, from all of that stated above, that one cannot extract clear and unequivocal content from the Petitioner's remarks that amount to a violation of the ethical prohibitions.

 

26.          As for the timing in which the statements were said, I concur with the remark by my colleague, Justice E. Hayut, that one must set uniform criteria for the protection of freedom of expression during times of war and times of calm (see paragraph 4 of her opinion). In my opinion, the supreme status of the freedom of expression is also reserved during times of war. The Ethics Committee also ruled in its decision which is the subject of the Petition that "The right of members of Knesset to express positions that are not in consensus and to express public criticism on the government, is reserved also during times of war". It shall also be noted that the distinction between times of calm and times of crisis is not always sharp and clear, particularly in the Israeli reality. In this context the words of President A. Barak in HCJ 7052/03 Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. The Minister of Interior, 61(2) 202 (2006), to which my colleague referred, are relevant:

 

"Furthermore, it is not possible to make a sharp distinction between the status of human rights during times of war and their status during times of peace. The line between terror and calm is thin. This is true everywhere and certainly in Israel. It is not possible to sustain this over time. We must treat human rights seriously both during times of war and times of calm" (ibid, in paragraphs 20-21).

 

However, as my colleague, Justice E. Hayut, stated "the likelihood and feasibility of harming other essential interests could be of different intensity during times of crisis."

 

27.          In summary, in light of the great value of granting members of Knesset free political expression and minimizing the limitation thereof as much as possible, particularly when at issue are members of Knesset who belong to  minority groups, and in light of the broad language of the ethical provisions by virtue of which the Petitioner was convicted, the conviction of members of Knesset by virtue of these provisions should be limited only to cases in which the content of the statements is clear, unequivocal and extreme. In the case before us, I am of the opinion  that one  cannot extract clear and unequivocal content from the Petitioner's statements, both in light of her reservations from the act of abduction while making the remarks and in light of her later explanations in the media.

 

 

 

Therefore,  it is my position that  the  decision of the  Ethics  Committee  was reached unlawfully.

 

28.          In light of all that stated, if my opinion were to have been heard, we would have accepted the Petition and cancelled the Ethics Committee's decision in the Petitioner's matter.

Justice

 

It was decided by a majority of opinions as stated in the judgment of President M. Naor.

 

Given today, the 21st of Shvat, 5775 (February 10, 2015).

 

President            Deputy President            Justice

Justice  Justice 

 

Yadid v. The Coordination Committee of the Organizations of Persons of Moroccan Origin in Israel by the Committee Chairperson Rafael Ben Shushan

Case/docket number: 
HCJ 687/15
Date Decided: 
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Decision Type: 
Original
Abstract: 

The Israeli Knesset adopted the Victims of Nazi Persecution (Restrictions on Fees for Handling Pension Claims under an Administrative Decision)   (Amendment No. 20) Bill, 5775-2014. The questions presented by this petition are as follows: A. Does the amendment infringe the constitutional rights of the Petitioners in a manner that is repugnant to the Limitations Clause? B. Is the retroactive application of the amendment just and proper under the circumstances? C. Was there any fundamental flaw in the legislative procedure of the amendment that would justify its annulment?

 

The Supreme Court, sitting as High Court of Justice, denied the petition, holding:

 

The Court will not lightly declare a law to be unconstitutional. The starting point of the Court in examining the constitutionality of a law is that the law enjoys something of a presumption of constitutionality that requires that the Court assume that the law was not intended to violate constitutional principles. The scope of the Court’s intervention in Knesset legislation is, therefore, limited.

 

The recognition granted to the existence of an infringement of a constitutional right is broad, and every infringement (as long as it is not trivial) that detracts from the right will be deemed one that requires constitutional examination. As has been held, the more severely a law infringes the right, and the closer the infringement to the core of the right, the greater the justification for strict judicial review of the law. And vice versa, the closer the violation is to the margins of the right, the greater the constitutional margin enjoyed by the offending law, and the smaller the margin of intervention of this Court.

 

The amendment under review is not intended to deprive the Petitioners of the right to handle suits by Holocaust survivors, but rather to restrict the manner of its realization. That being the case, the infringement of the constitutional right to freedom of occupation is limited. This is also true of the infringement of the Petitioners’ freedom of contract, which is also of relatively low magnitude for two reasons: First, the law already placed limits upon attorneys’ fees prior to its amendment, and in that sense, it does not create a “new world order”. Second, the purpose of the amendment is to prevent the charging of exorbitant fees and exploiting Holocaust survivors. The right to charge exorbitant fees is not at the core of the right to freedom of contract.

 

As opposed to this, it would seem that the violation of the Petitioners’ property right, expressed in the demand to return excess legal fees already paid, does indeed strike at the core of the right. There can be no doubt that applying the amendment retroactively increases the severity of the violation of the Petitioners’ rights. However, if there is appropriate justification, there is no bar to the retroactive application of the law. In the instant case, the primary justification for applying the amendment retroactively is that were that not done, the amendment would almost entirely be a “dead letter”. That is so because most of the Holocaust survivors whom the law intends to benefit have already signed fee agreements, and if the amendment would not apply to them, what would be achieved? Extending the application of the amendment to cases in which the fees have already been paid is also justified, inasmuch as limiting the application of the amendment only to situations in which legal fees have not been paid would, in practice, create an unjustified distinction between survivors who were quick to pay their fees and those who were not. Along with these justifications, we should bear in mind that the amendment adopted mitigating factors that create a proportionate, balanced arrangement.

 

The infringement of the Petitioners’ rights meets the criteria of the Limitations Clause. In that regard, the purpose was found to be proper – preventing unfair harm by parties who sought to exploit Holocaust survivors. Similarly, we found that we are concerned with a proportionate law: exploitation of Holocaust survivors by parties handling claims is a substantial phenomenon. The legislature was presented with a sufficient factual foundation to provide adequate grounds for the rational connection; the alternatives proposed by the Petitioners do not realize the purpose of the amendment to an extent equal to that achieved by the means selected; the benefit of the amendment is far greater that its cost. First, the legislature adopted mitigating measures that lessen the magnitude of the injury to the Petitioners by creating fee levels corresponding to the extent of the involvement of the person handling the claim, and by creating special mechanisms that treat of mitigating the influence of retroactive application. Second, a comparison of the provisions of the amendment to the prior legal situation reveals that the change introduced by the amendment is not so dramatic, and in some situations, changes nothing at all. On the other side of the scales, the benefit is not expressed solely in a profit of a few hundred or a few thousand shekels for each survivor. First and foremost it is moral.

 

No defect was found in the legislative procedures, let alone a severe and exceptional defect going to the very core of the procedure. The facts show that, as opposed to the claim of the Petitioners, there was no substantive defect in regard to the principle of participation in the legislative process of the amendment.

Voting Justices: 
Primary Author
majority opinion
Author
concurrence
Non-writer
majority opinion
Full text of the opinion: 

 

The Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice

 

 

HCJ 687/15 HCJ 858/15 HCJ 1164/15 HCJ 1201/15

 

 

Before: The Honorable President M. Naor The Honorable Justice H. Melcer The Honorable Justice N. Sohlberg

 

The Petitioners in HCJ 687/15:    1.            David Yadid, Advocate and Notary

                2.            Eliyahu Weber, Advocate and Notary

                3.            Dr. David Etzion, Advocate and Notary

                4.            Shlomo Ben Porath, Advocate and Notary

                5.            Asher Fadlon, Advocate

                6.            Dorit Attia, Advocate and Notary

                7.            Theodore Weinberg, Advocate and Notary

                8.            Yisrael Kuris, Advocate and Notary

                9.            Guy Touti, Advocate and Notary

                10.          Dr. Ilan Keidar, Advocate and Notary

The Petitioners in HCJ 858/15:    1.

 

 

 

2.            The Coordination Committee of the Organizations of Persons of Moroccan Origin in Israel by the Committee Chairperson Rafael Ben Shushan

The World Federation of Moroccan Jewry

                3.            Sam Ben Shitreet, Chairperson of the Federation

                4.            The World Organization of North African Jews

                5.

 

6.            Shaul Ben Simchon, Chairperson of the Organization

The Alliance of Persons of Moroccan Origin in

               

7.            Israel

Shavie Tzion, the Association of French, North

               

8.            African and French Speaking Immigrants Yitzchak Bitton, President of the Association

                9.

 

10.          Association of Academics of Iraqi Origin in Israel

Prof. Shmuel Moreh, Chairperson of the

               

11.          Association

Dr. Nissim Kazaz, Member of Management of

               

12.          the Association

The Center for the Heritage of Mosul Jewry

                13.          Aharon Efroni, Chairperson of the Center

                14.          Adv. David Nawi, Chairperson of the Shemesh – Shalom Ve'Shilumim Amuta

The Petitioners in HCJ 1164/15:  1.            Yaacov Yaacobovitch, Advocate and Notary

                2.            Israel Feder, Advocate

 

The Petitioner in HCJ 1201/15: Rachel Duani

 

 

v e r s u s

 

The Respondents:           1.            The Knesset

                2.            The Attorney General

The Parties Requesting to Join as amici curiae:   

1.           

The Clinic for Legal Assistance to Elderly

               

 

2.            Persons and Holocaust Survivors, The Law Faculty, Bar-Ilan University

The Clinic for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors,

                                The Law Faculty, Tel-Aviv University

 

Petitions for Orders Nisi and Applications to Grant Interim Orders Date of Session:           10th of Nissan, 5775 (March 30, 2015)

On behalf of the Petitioners

in HCJ 687/15:    Adv. Ilan Bombach; Adv. Yariv Ronen

 

On behalf of the Petitioners

in HCJ 858/15:    Adv. David Yadid; Adv. Doron Atzmon

 

On behalf of the Petitioners

in HCJ 1164/15:  Adv. Yaacov Yaacobovitch; Adv. Yisrael Feder

 

On behalf of the Petitioners

in HCJ 1201/15:  Adv. Amram Doani

 

On behalf of Respondent 1:        Adv. Dr. Gur Bligh On behalf of Respondent 2:   Adv. Hani Ofek On behalf of Party requesting

to join as amicus curiae 1:             Adv. Aviad Igra

 

On behalf of Party requesting

to join as amicus curiae 2:             Adv. Yael Abasi-Aharoni

 

 

J U D G M E N T

 

Justice N. Sohlberg:

 

In their petitions, the Petitioners addressed three issues: (a) Limiting lawyer's fees; (b) Partial restitution thereof; (c) Retroactive application. Is the law constitutional?

 

1.            On  December  29,  2014,  the  Israeli  Knesset  approved  the  second  and  third readings of the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons (Limiting Fees for Handling a

 

Claim to Determine Entitlement to Payments pursuant to an Administrative Decision) (Amendment no. 20) Bill 5775-2014 (hereinafter: the "Amendment" or the "Bill"). This Bill, as is evident from its title, addresses the limitation of the legal fees which holocaust survivors pay lawyers and additional entities who are not lawyers who handle their claims to receive compensation (hereinafter: the "Claim Handlers").

 

2.            Four petitions were filed in which this Court was requested, as an initial and primary relief, to rule that the Amendment is not constitutional and to order that it be cancelled. The Petitioners in HCJ 687/15 and in HCJ 1164/15, attorneys who engage in representing holocaust survivors, requested that if the court shall not accede to their request to order that the Amendment be cancelled, then it shall alternatively instruct that the Amendment be partially cancelled, emphasizing the provisions regarding the retroactive application of the Amendment; alternatively to such alternative, that it instruct that the application of the Amendment be suspended for a period of a year "so that the Knesset shall amend it in a proper and reasonable procedure while minimizing the harm to the petitioners". The petitions were heard together, on March 30, 2015. On March 31, 2015, in light of the urgency of the matter, a judgment without reasons was delivered in which we rejected the four above petitions. The time has come to specify the reasons.

 

3.            A word of preface: The petitions before us are greatly similar to each other, both in terms of the requested remedy and the substance of the arguments raised therein. However, not all of the petitions include the same arguments or the same requested remedies. For the sake of convenience and efficiency, the discussion relating to the Petitioners' arguments shall relate to all of the petitions as an entirety, despite certain differences among them. This is also the case vis-à-vis the Respondents – the Knesset and the Attorney General – which filed their responses separately, but their arguments greatly overlap, and therefore the discussion relating to their arguments shall, in general, be held in a consolidated manner, except in relevant places.

 

Background

4.            As mentioned, the Amendment addresses determining limitations to the  fees which can be collected for handling claims to receive payments pursuant to the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law, 5717-1957 (hereinafter: the "Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law") and pursuant to the Claims of Holocaust Victims (Handling Arrangement) Law, 5717-1957 (hereinafter: the "Claims of Holocaust Victims Law"). The normative and historical background for the legislation of the Amendment was elaborately described by the parties' attorneys and is complicated and convoluted. I shall briefly address the details relevant to the case at hand.

 

5.            Limiting fees for handling claims of holocaust survivors to receive payments is not an innovation of this Amendment. Section 22(a) of the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law, which was enacted as early as in 1960, and which is entitled "Limitation of Fees", prescribes that "The Minister of Justice may, by order, prescribe maximum rates for the fees that can be received for handling a claim". The Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons (Limitation of Fees) Order, 5721-1961 (hereinafter: the "Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Order")

 

was promulgated by virtue of this section, and prescribes that "The maximum fee that it is permissible to receive for handling a claim, when the fee is contingent upon results, is 8% of the total payments for a period of five years". On January 9, 2011, an amendment to the order came into effect (hereinafter: the "Amendment to the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Order"). In the framework thereof an absolute 'cap' on fees was prescribed, in addition to the original limitation of 8% of the total payments, and it is currently NIS 7,013. Similarly, provisions regarding limiting fees were also prescribed with respect to compensation claims pursuant to the Claims of Holocaust Victims Law. Thus, Section 10(b) of the Claims of Holocaust Victims Law prescribes that the 'cap' of fees which can be collected for handling claims pursuant to this law is 15% of the amount paid to the claimant.

 

Until recently, these provisions regulated the matter of the Claim Handlers' fees without any special difficulty. However, in recent years two main developments took place which changed matters, and led to the enactment of the Amendment at hand:

 

(1)          The Administrative Decision Regarding Libyan Jews

6.            During the Second World War many of the Libyan Jews were forced to flee their homes due to the events of the war. For many years the customary approach of the courts in Israel was that the Libyan Jews do not have a sweeping entitlement to receive payments by virtue of the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law, and in order to receive payments, Libyan Jews were required to specifically prove that they indeed fled in fear of the Germans. Proving this fact was not simple, and indeed the vast majority of the claims were rejected. In 2010 a judgment was delivered in Appeal Committee 255/08 Tayar v. The Competent Authority (April 7, 2010) (hereinafter: the "Tayar" Case), which changed matters with regard to claims of persons who left Libya. Although the judgment rejected the appellants' motion to rule that they are sweepingly entitled to payments, it did rule, based on various testimonies and opinions, that the claim that the fleeing of the Libyan Jews did, at least partially, stem from fear of the Germans – is a reasonable scenario. This factual presumption constituted a significant change, which made it much easier for persons who left Libya to prove that their fleeing indeed stemmed from fear of the Germans, and to consequently establish their entitlement to compensation. Approximately five months after the judgment in the Tayar case, the Minister of Finance published a decision in the framework of which he instructed that commencing April 2010 (the time the judgment in the Tayar case was delivered), compensation be given to any person who left Libya who shall claim that his fleeing from his home during the war stemmed from fear of the Germans, without any evidential examination or legal hearing. This decision, which was also applied to claimants whose claim had already been rejected in a final judgment, significantly changed the legal situation in the matter of the Libyan Jews, as it de facto determined a sweeping entitlement to compensation for Libyan Jews by virtue of the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law.

 

(2)          The Amendment to the German Law

7.            In 2002, a law that recognizes the entitlement of holocaust survivors to payment of allowances also for the period during which they worked in Ghettos was

 

adopted in Germany. However, for many years it was not clear when the entitlement to the payment of the allowance commences, and the German court's rulings were inconsistent in this matter. On June 6, 2014, the German law was amended (hereinafter: the "Amendment to the German Law"), and survivors entitled to an allowance were granted the option to choose between continuing to receive the allowance that was paid to them until then, and receiving a retroactive allowance from a uniform date that was prescribed in the law (July 1, 1997), subject to a certain reduction of the amount of the allowance.

 

8.            The similar aspect of these developments – the administrative decision regarding Libyan Jews, on the one hand, and the Amendment to the German Law, on the other hand – is that in consequence thereof the procedure of receiving the payments was made significantly easier, and, in general, amounts to completing a simple form without needing complex legal procedures. Despite the fact that the handling of these procedures became significantly easier, in the period following their commencement, the Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority and other entities were approached by many holocaust survivors claiming that exaggerated amounts of fees had been collected from them in claims to receive payments by virtue of these procedures. The legislator did not remain indifferent to these approaches and requested to adjust the law to the new reality by creating additional limitations to the fee 'cap', to create a proper correlation between the scope of the Claim Handler's work and his fee.

 

9.            On July 14, 2014 the said Bill, which is a private bill, was tabled in the Knesset and on November 26, 2014, it was discussed in a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum. In this reading the representative of the government announced the government's support of the Bill, subject to making a number of changes. The preliminary reading of the Bill was approved, and on December 9, 2014, the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee (hereinafter: the "Constitution Committee" or the "Committee") began to discuss the bill in order to prepare it for the first reading. At the end of the discussion, the Committee unanimously approved the Bill for the first reading, in accordance with the changes that had been requested by the government, and on that same day the first reading of the Bill was approved in the Knesset plenum. It shall be noted that at this stage the Bill only included an amendment to the matter of claims for payments that were received by virtue of an administrative decision, but not to the matter of claims pursuant to the Amendment to the German Law.

 

10.          On December 28, 2014, the Constitution Committee discussed the Bill in order to prepare it for the second and third reading. The wording that was tabled in the Committee was an updated wording, the result of internal discussions of the relevant professional bodies, and it also included an indirect amendment to the Claims of Holocaust Victims Law, prescribing limitations on fees for claims for an allowance pursuant to the Amendment to the German Law. At the end of the discussion, and after it was agreed to make a number of changes to the updated wording, the Committee unanimously approved the Bill for the second and third reading. On December 29, 2014, the Knesset plenum approved the second and third reading of the Bill, and on December 31, 2014, the Amendment was published in the Book of Laws of the State of Israel.

 

The Principles of the Arrangement in the Amendment

11.          The essence of the principles of the new arrangement is as follows, and the specifics shall be discussed in detail further on. The arrangement imposes limitations on the rate of the fees in two situations: The first, claims to receive payments under the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law, that were approved as a result of an administrative decision (at this time there is only one administrative decision, the decision regarding the Libyan Jews); the second, claims to receive an allowance by virtue of the Claims of Holocaust Victims Law, in accordance with the Amendment to the German Law dated June 6, 2014.

 

12.          With respect to the claims pursuant to the Nazi Persecution Disabled Persons Law that were approved as a result of an administrative decision four levels of payment were prescribed, in accordance with the date the fee agreement was entered and the stage of the claim. Thus, the lowest level of payment prescribes a fee 'cap' in the amount of NIS 473, and it applies in a situation in which the fee agreement and the filing of the claim were made after the administrative decision was delivered, while the highest level of payment prescribes a fee 'cap' in the amount of NIS 5,960, and it applies in a situation in which the administrative decision was only delivered after the claimant had already actually filed an appeal to the court.

 

13.          The rule is as follows: The gain is according to the pain; the more work devoted by the Claim Handler, the greater his remuneration.

 

14.          With respect to claims pursuant to the Claims of Holocaust Victims Law in accordance with the Amendment to the German Law two levels of payment were prescribed, in accordance with the date the claim or the appeal was filed in relation to the date of the Amendment to the German Law (June 6, 2014; hereinafter: the "Effective Date"). Thus, if and to the extent a claim or appeal was filed before the Effective Date, and at such time the claim or the appeal were pending, then the rate of the fee for handling the claim shall not exceed the lower of 7.5% of the retroactive payment given to the claimant or an amount of NIS 25,000. In contrast, if and to the extent a claim or appeal were not filed or were not pending on the Effective Date, then the fee for handling the choice between the two alternatives, shall not exceed an amount of NIS 473.

 

15.          An additional main aspect of the Amendment is the provisions regarding the chronological application. Thus, it was prescribed that the provisions of the Amendment shall also apply to fee agreements that were entered prior to the publication thereof, provided that a final judgment was not delivered in the matter of the fees prior to the Amendment coming into effect. Moreover, even when the fee has already been actually paid, the claimant is entitled to restitution of the surplus fee that was already collected that exceeds the provisions of the Amendment. In furtherance thereof, and in order to make it easier for the holocaust survivors to conduct claims for the restitution of the surplus fees, it was ruled that they shall be entitled to legal assistance from the State without any need for an income examination.

 

The Principles of the Parties' Arguments

16.          The Petitioners' arguments are divided into two main matters: the first, the matter

 

of the unconstitutionality of the Amendment; the second, the matter of the procedure of legislating the Amendment. Below, in brief, is the essence of their arguments.

 

17.          As to the matter of the illegality of the Amendment, the Petitioners claim that the Amendment infringes a list of basic rights that are granted thereto by virtue of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, and does not meet the criteria of the limitation clause. The Petitioners particularly emphasized the severe harm caused thereto due to the unusual requirement to return amounts of money that have already been duly paid, thus constituting a harsh infringement of their property. Additionally, the Petitioners complained about the late intervention in agreements that were duly entered, constituting an infringement of their right to freedom of contracts and their right to autonomy, and about narrowing the steps of those who engage in the field, after they have gained knowledge, experience and expertise through hard work over many years, in a manner that infringes their right to freedom of occupation.

 

18.          As to the procedure of legislating the Amendment, the Petitioners claim that the procedure was held "in a hasty and panicked manner", in order to pass the Amendment prior to the dispersion of the Knesset. According to the Petitioners, this amounts to being "a flaw at the root of the legislative procedure", and as such it is to be cancelled.

 

19.          On the other hand, the Respondents are of the position that the petitions should be denied. According to them, despite the unusual nature of the Amendment that also applies retroactively, its alleged infringement of the constitutional rights is limited in its scope and complies with the terms of the limitation clause. The Respondent further claims that when examining the constitutionality of the Amendment thought must be given to the 'target audience' which the Amendment is meant to serve – elderly holocaust survivors, and the State of Israel has a moral responsibility to protect them from being exploited and to care for their financial wellbeing. Additionally, the Respondents elaborated on the case law which provides that the court must act with restraint when exercising its authority to apply constitutional review of the laws of the Knesset. As to the alleged flaw in the legislative procedure of the Amendment, the attorney for the Knesset was of the position that "in light of the active participation of the members of Knesset in the Committee's discussions, the broad space given to the Petitioners to argue their claims against the Amendment, and the changes that were inserted in the Bill following these claims" it cannot be argued that in the case at hand there is 'a flaw that is at the root of the legislative procedure', that would justify the court's intervention.

 

Discussion and Ruling

20.          There are three central questions before us: The first, whether the Amendment infringes the Petitioners' constitutional rights in a manner that does not comply with the terms of the limitation clause? The second, intertwined with the first, is whether the retroactive application of the Amendment is just and appropriate in the circumstances at hand? The third, whether there is a flaw at the root of the legislative procedure that justifies its cancellation? As mentioned, our principle answer to these questions is negative. We shall now elaborate on the grounds of

 

our ruling.

 

21.          The Petitioners and the Respondents and the parties that requested to join as amici curiae laid before  us an  extensive and  well-reasoned factual and  legal presentation; both in writing and orally. Thus, our path has already been paved for us and we have only to walk the path on which the parties' attorneys have led us. Our route shall be as follows: At the first stage, I shall briefly discuss the matter of the scope of judicial review of Knesset laws. At the second stage, I shall discuss the constitutionality of the Amendment, and in this context I shall refer to the essence and the scope of the alleged infringement of the Petitioners' rights; the matter of the Amendment's chronological application; and the proportionality of the infringement of the Petitioners' rights in accordance with the customary criteria. Finally, I shall address the legislative procedure of the Amendment and shall explain why it is not flawed, certainly not with a flaw that is 'at the root of the procedure' that justifies our intervention.

 

Judicial Review

22.          The starting point of our discussion stems, to a significant degree, from the question of the scope of the judicial review of the Knesset's legislation. When discussing the constitutionality of any law, we must remember that "it is not with ease that the court shall rule that a certain law is not constitutional" (HCJ 2605/05 The Law and Business Academic Center, The Human Rights Division v. The Minister of Finance, PD 63(2) 545, 592 (2009) (hereinafter: the "Prisons Case"), and also see the references presented there in paragraph 14 of the judgment of President (Ret.) D. Beinisch). "The court owes honor to the law as an expression of the desire of the people. Before the court disqualifies a law, it must be absolutely certain: it must carefully examine the language of the law and the purpose of the law and be extremely diligent, until it is completely convinced that at hand is a defect that cannot be cured" (the words of Justice I. Zamir in HCJ 3434/96 Hoffnung v. The Speaker of the Knesset, PD 50(3) 57, 67 (1996) (hereinafter: the "Hoffnung Case")). The words of Justice

A.            Procaccia in HCJ 6304/09 Lahav – The Umbrella Organization for the Self-Employed and Businesses in Israel v. The Attorney General (September 2, 2010), in paragraph 62 of the judgment, are appropriate for this matter:

 

"The examination of the constitutionality of primary legislation of the Knesset is performed by the court cautiously and with great restraint while diligently attending to the delicate balance that is required between the principles of the majority rule and the separation of powers, and the constitutional protection of human rights and the fundamental values underlying the system of government in Israel… In the framework of striking this balance, even if it shall be found that the act of legislation does not coincide with a constitutional principle, a significant level of intensity of constitutional infringement is required in order to justify judicial intervention in the acts of the legislative authority."

 

23.          Hence, the court's starting point when examining whether or not the law before it is constitutional, is that the law has a sort of presumption of constitutionality that

 

obligates the court to assume that the law was not meant to infringe constitutional principles (see the Prisons Case, page 592; the Hoffnung Case, page 67). Thus, the scope of the court's intervention in the Knesset's legislation is limited. While keeping this in mind, we shall set out on our path.

 

Constitutional Examination

24.          First one must examine whether, as alleged, the Amendment indeed infringes basic rights that are granted to the Petitioners by virtue of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. As is known, the existence of an infringement of a constitutional right is recognized broadly, and any infringement (provided that it is not an inconsequential infringement) that derogates from the right shall be considered an infringement that is subject to constitutional examination:

 

"The restriction or infringement occurs in any situation in which a government authority prohibits or prevents the owner of a right to exercise it to its fullest extent. In this matter, there is no significance to the question whether the infringement is severe or slight; if it is at the core of the right or in its penumbra; whether it is intentional or not; whether it is by act or omission (where there is a positive obligation to protect the right); any infringement, irrespective of its scope, is unconstitutional unless it is proportionate" (A. Barak Proportionality in Law – The Infringement of the Constitutional Right and the Limitations Thereof 135 (2010) (hereinafter: "Barak – Proportionality in Law")).

 

25.          In the case at hand there is no doubt that the Amendment infringes the Petitioners' rights. The payment which they are entitled to collect for their services has been limited, agreements they signed were retroactively changed, and they are being required to return payments they have already received. However, I agree with the Respondents' position that the infringement of the Petitioners' rights, if and to the extent at issue are freedom of occupation and freedom of contracts, is limited, and is not at the core of the right. This fact is of importance with regard to the degree of severity that should be applied at the constitutional review stage:

 

"The more exacerbated the law's infringement of the right and the closer it is to the core of the right, the greater the justification for a diligent judicial review of the constitutionality of the law; and vice-versa. As in the case at hand: the more the law's infringement is only at the margins of the right, the more the sphere of constitutionality that the infringing law shall be granted shall increase, respectively, and the sphere of this court's intervention shall decrease respectively" (HCJ 7956/10 Gabbay v. The Minister of Finance, the judgment of Justice D. Barak-Erez (November 19, 2012)).

 

26.          The Amendment's infringement of the freedom of occupation is not expressed in the denial of the Petitioners' occupation or in preventing them from entering a certain  field  of  occupation,  but  rather  in  the  manner  of  exercising  the

 

occupation (see also my statements in HCJ 3676/10 Keter Cederech Hamlachim Ltd. v. The Minister for Religious Services (May 8, 2014), paragraph 20 of the judgment). This distinction between the various types of infringement of the freedom of occupation has long ago been recognized in the judgments of this court:

 

"Not every infringement of the freedom of occupation is of the same level. It can be said that the restriction of occupation by preventing it, denying it or shutting the entrances thereto is a more severe and exacerbated infringement than the imposition of limits upon one who engages in the profession or vocation that he desires, but the legislator has imposed restrictions as the manner or scope of performance, in which case the infringement of the freedom of occupation indeed exists but to a more tolerable degree" (HCJ 726/94 Clal Insurance Company Ltd. v. The Minister of Finance, PD 48(5) 441, 475 (1994)).

 

27.          The Amendment at hand clearly falls within the definition of an infringement in the manner of exercising the occup