Adalah petitions Israeli Supreme Court against law that gives government sweeping powers to impose COVID-19 restrictions prior to Knesset approval

Adalah: Newly-amended law yet another steep plunge down a slippery slope. There is real danger that further such steps will lead to total tyranny at the hands of the Israeli government.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court on 13 July 2020 against a newly-amended Israeli law that gives the government sweeping powers to impose COVID-19 restrictions on the public prior to Knesset approval.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to journalists at a Health Ministry press conference. (Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu/Facebook)


According to the newly-amended law, which was rushed through the legislative process and approved on 7 July 2020, parliamentary oversight of any such government-imposed restrictions may now only be carried out retroactively, up to 13 days after they are announced by the government.


In the petition, filed by Adalah Attorney Fady Khoury, it was argued that the Israeli government’s need to respond to urgent, dynamic situations does not justify the violation of the principle of separation of powers, nor does it allow the government to bypass the Knesset as Israel’s supervisory legislative authority.


Further, the regulatory mechanism detailed in the new amendment allows parliamentary intervention only after a considerable period of time following the imposition of government restrictions. This is insufficient to ensure the protection of citizens against excessive and inappropriate use of abusive government measures liable to violate their constitutional rights.


Adalah also highlighted the potential danger of enforcing government-imposed criminal bans that are liable to be retroactively overturned. This usurpation of authority could lead to unjustified punishment and violate the principles of the rule of law.


Israeli Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, who presented the amendment to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, stated that it is intended to serve as an interim solution until the approval of a special powers bill – known as the “Novel Coronavirus Law” – designed to confront COVID-19.


The proposed “Novel Coronavirus Law” also has a similar mechanism that would allow the Israeli government to act – in real time – without parliamentary approval. This bill was drafted in the wake of the Israeli Supreme Court petition filed by Adalah and the Joint List against the Israeli government’s continued imposition of emergency coronavirus regulations without Knesset supervision; this case remains pending without decision by the court.  (See HCJ 2399/20, Adalah and the Joint List v. The Prime Minister)


Adalah Attorney Fady Khoury commented:


“Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Israel’s government has seized unbridled new powers. At first, the government imposed unprecedented ‘emergency regulations’ while utterly ignoring the need for parliamentary approval. Now, Israel’s government is simply bypassing the Knesset, undermining basic constitutional rights and the very relationship between the state and its citizens. This new amendment is yet another steep plunge down a slippery slope. There is a real danger that further steps in this direction will lead to total tyranny at the hands of the Israeli government.”


CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]


Case Citation: HCJ 4819/20, Adalah v. The Knesset, et. al.