The Israeli Arrangements Law Should Concern Us All / TheMarker
Published on August 23rd, 2017 / Ohad Shpak
(for the Hebrew version – TheMarker newspaper – click here)
On the eve of the 15th of Jewish Month of Av, (August 6), Israel’s High Court of Justice annulled the chapter on the Arrangements Law, that dealt with taxation of multiple properties (known as the Third Apartment Tax Law) and ruined the Ministry of Finance’s celebrations.
The High Court of Justice ruled that there was a fundamental flaw in the legislative process since Knesset members were not given the chance to hold proper discussions and formulate an informed position regarding the tax. It could be understood from the words of the judges’ handing down the decision, and the hearing held a few months earlier, that the decision ruled against the Israeli legislature, determining its guilt beyond any doubt. However, the issue is too great and too important to relate it only to the issue of taxes which the state is interested in imposing on owners of multiple apartments, or to the Knesset’s guilt.
At the opening of the High Court of Justice hearing, the Knesset’s legal advisor, Attorney Eyal Yinon, verbally expressed the legislative authority’s stand in no uncertain terms, when he requested the Supreme Court to set a current standard for the Knesset’s legislative procedures. Yinon stressed that if no valid criteria were set, a slippery slope might be created, and it is possible that, in the not too distant future, many legislative processes would follow the procedure by which this Law was enacted.
These legislations, like many others in the Arrangements Law, were born late at night and within a short period of time, without Knesset members having the time to read or understand the issues before they voted. Yinon’s words conveyed harsh criticism against the government’s crushing power, and implied that the Israeli parliament had turned into a rubber stamp for quite a few legislative procedures.
Although the High Court’s decision concerns the Third Apartment Tax Law, in practice it mainly affects Israeli democracy, and the balances and checks existing between the various authorities. The legislative authority demanded that the judiciary authority exercise its power and competence to restrain the executive authority before it gained too much power – and the judiciary authority agreed.
In a democratic system, for the people to be the real sovereigns, the authorities must balance each other, and prevent a particular authority from gaining more power than the others, which might be used to harm the minority, and promote tyranny of the majority.
We can be in favor or against the Third Apartment Tax Law, argue the Law’s efficiency or, alternatively, its lack of influence on the housing market; we may be on the right side of the political map or on its left side. This, however, is irrelevant when we examine the Arrangements Law’s legislative process which has government ministries promoting legislation by an accelerated and exceptional procedure, raising great questions as to the proper democratic nature of the process.
Yinon emphasized that during his ten years in the Knesset, he had not witnessed such a serious flaw as was demonstrated by the Third Apartment Tax Law legislation procedure.
His petition to the Supreme Court should serve as a great shining and flashing warning sign to us, the citizens of the State of Israel. The cancellation of the Third Apartment Tax Law by the High Court judges, is a clear call to the government to cease its improper use of the Arrangements Law legislative mechanism, and similar procedures. The Law’s repeal should serve as a warning to the Knesset that legislation should be legislated after thorough and serious discussion takes place, taking into consideration all advantages and disadvantages, and not through faction discipline.
The writer is an attorney representing a group of apartment owners in their petition to the High Court of Justice against the Multiple Apartment Tax Law.