NewsWhat's Next in Israel's Judicial Reform?

    What’s Next in Israel’s Judicial Reform?

    JERUSALEM – Israeli lawmakers on Monday proved the prime minister’s controversial plan Benjamin Netanyahu to restrict the influence of the Supreme Court, challenging a wide range of opposition movements that have threatened to shut down large parts of the country with protests.

    The plan limits the ways in which the Supreme Court can overturn government decisions, as part of a deeply divisive judicial review that has perhs led to the most serious internal crisise of Israel since its founding 75 years ago.

    Israeli security forces remove protesters blocking the entrance to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on July 24, 2023, amid a months-long wave of protests against the government’s planned judicial reform. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

    The stakes could not be higher for Netanyahu and for Israel, where mass protests have repeatedly erupted over the plan since January.

    The decision to go ahead with the review could disrupt Israel’s economy, further strain the country’s relations with the Biden administration, and lead thousands of military reservists, a critical part of Israel’s armed forces, to refuse to volunteer for duty.

    The President of Israel, isaac herzog, has warned that the schism could lead to a civil war. Netanyahu is caught between stabilizing his coalition, which includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties that have their own reasons for wanting to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court, and placating the fury of more liberal Israelis who oppose giving the government more control over the judiciary.

    What was at stake in the vote?

    The dispute is part of a broader ideological and cultural confrontation between the Netanyahu government and its supporters, who want to make Israel a state. more religious and nationalistic, and their opponents, who maintain a more secular and pluralist vision of the country.

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    The ruling coalition claims that the court has too much leeway to intervene in political decisions and that it undermines Israeli democracy by giving unelected judges too much power over elected lawmakers.

    The coalition claims that the Court has too often acted against the interests of the right, for example by preventing the construction of some Israeli settlements in the West Bank busy or annulling certain privileges granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews, such as exemption from military service.

    Opponents of the measure fear the Court will be far less able to prevent government overreach.

    They say the government, unfettered by independent courts, may find it easier to end the persecution of Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges.

    Specifically, some warn that the government would have more freedom to replace the attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miarawhich is overseeing Netanyahu’s prosecution in an ongoing corruption case.

    Netanyahu has denied any plans to disrupt his trial.

    Critics also fear the changes would allow the government – the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history – to restrict civil liberties or undermine secular aspects of Israeli society.

    What does the government plan contain?

    To limit the influence of the Court, the government intends to prevent its judges from using the concept of “reasonableness” to annul decisions of legislators and ministers.

    Reasonableness is a legal standard used by many court systems, including Australia, Great Britain, and Canada.

    A decision is considered unreasonable if a court rules that it was made without regard to all relevant factors or without giving the relevant weight to each factor, or giving too much importance to irrelevant factors.

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    The government and its supporters claim that the concept of reasonableness is too vague and has never been codified in Israeli law.

    The Court angered the government this year when some of its judges used this tool to prevent Aryeh Deri, a veteran ultra-Orthodox politician, from joining Netanyahu’s Cabinet.

    They said it was unreasonable to name Deri because he had recently been convicted of tax fraud.

    How have the protests developed?

    Outnumbered in Parliament, the Israeli opposition parties found themselves powerless to defeat the judicial legislation on their own.

    So they boycotted the vote, and the measure passed 64-0.

    But powerful non-parliamentary groups – such as military reservists, technology leaders, academics, top doctors and union leaders – are using their social influence to pressure the government.

    All these actors joined forces and forced Netanyahu to suspend the reform a few months ago.

    Reservists from prestigious army units are again threatening to stop volunteering if the reform goes ahead.

    Labor leaders have also said they may call a general strike.

    Months of protests have intensified in recent days.

    On Monday, hundreds of protesters blocked the roads leading to Parliament, some of them chaining each other.

    Will legislators or the courts review the plan?

    The Israeli Parliament, the knessetgoes into summer recess at the end of July and does not meet again until autumn.

    But lawmakers from Netanyahu’s coalition government, responsible for Monday’s vote, are unlikely to revise the plan in the days before recess.

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    In a speech on Monday night, Netanyahu suggested that his government could go ahead with its judicial reform plan by the end of November, but wanted to allow time for talks with the opposition about it.

    His government has already tried to take action on other parts of his reform plan.

    One measure would have allowed Parliament to overrule court decisions, and another would have given the government more influence over who gets to be a Supreme Court judge.

    These parts of the plan were put on hold in the face of protests, but could be resumed.

    Israel’s Supreme Court is now facing a strange dilemma that could pit two of the country’s powers against each other:

    High court judges have to decide how to handle a plan that it would curtail his own power.

    Israeli opposition leaders have promised to ask the court to review the law; if the judges decide to accept the case, the judicial review process would take weeks, if not months.

    The Supreme Court could also suspend the entry into force of the law while it considers whether to review it.

    But Monday’s legislation is an amendment to a Basic Law – one of the bodies of laws that have quasi-constitutional status in Israel – and Israeli analysts say the Supreme Court has so far never intervened in or struck down a Basic Law.

    The high court has debated such laws in the past, but has never ruled on them.

    c.2023 The New York Times Company

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    Source: Clarin

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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