israeli judicial reform

Israel approves a law limiting Supreme Court authority

What we’re discussing
The hard-right government of Israel passed a law limiting the Supreme Court’s authority, the first step in a larger scheme to weaken the judiciary.
Monday’s vote was on the controversial “reasonableness” measure, which will remove the Supreme Court’s ability to block certain government decisions. The opposition left the legislature in protest.
The judicial reform proposals of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have prompted some of the largest protests in the country’s history, with opponents protesting for 29 consecutive weeks.

Netanyahu’s supporters argue that the Supreme Court has overstepped its role and that reforms are necessary, whereas his detractors argue that the revision will eliminate the only available mechanism for providing checks and balances on the government.

The proposal passed despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of protesters opposed to the measure, which critics claimed would weaken one of the few checks on government authority in Israel, a nation without a written constitution. The changes were defended by supporters, headed by Netanyahu, as a necessary correction to judicial overreach. Both parties assert that they are defending democracy.

Here is what you should know

After last-ditch efforts to reach a compromise failed, the Knesset authorized the proposal for a judicial overhaul in a series of votes held throughout the afternoon. Protesters staged sit-ins outside the building while security forces sprayed them with water cannons.
Netanyahu, 73, arrived at the Knesset on Monday morning, more than 24 hours after undergoing emergency surgery to have a pacemaker implanted for an unidentified cardiac condition.
After negotiations failed, Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition, stated that it was impossible to reach an agreement “that would preserve democracy.”
More than 10,000 military reserve pilots, cyberwarriors, and other specialists have pledged to decline service if the government does not respond, which, according to top generals, could compromise Israel’s defensive readiness.

The vote reflected the determination of Netanyahu and his far-right allies to move forward with the plan, which has tested the delicate social connections that bind the country, shook the cohesion of its powerful military, and repeatedly caused the United States to express concern.

From limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions to altering the selection process for judges, the overhaul calls for comprehensive reforms to limit the authority of the judiciary. Netanyahu and his allies argue that the modifications are necessary to limit the authority of unelected justices.

Protesters, however, view the reform as a power grab motivated by the personal and political grievances of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and his allies. His associates, which include ultranationalist and ultrareligious parties, have advocated for the expansion of West Bank settlements, the annexation of occupied territory, and the restriction of LGBTQ+ and Palestinian rights.

In Israel, which lacks a formal constitution, the judiciary plays a crucial role in the country’s checks and balances system.

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