The contentious judicial overhaul proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that received widespread opposition has suffered a significant setback. Israel's Supreme Court voted to overturn a law, passed in July, that prevented judges from striking down government decisions they deemed "unreasonable." This decision could potentially reignite the divisions in Israeli society that preceded the ongoing war against Hamas.
Since the outbreak of the war with Hamas, these divisions have been somewhat put aside as the nation focuses on the conflict in Gaza. However, with this recent court decision, tensions are expected to resurface. These tensions, which previously led to mass protests against the government and strained military cohesion, could once again test the nation's unity.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has yet to react to the court's decision.
Opponents of the legislation argued that removing the standard of reasonability would open the door to corruption and improper appointments of unqualified individuals to significant positions within the government. The law was only the first step in a broader overhaul of the Israeli justice system, which has been put on hold due to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of 240 others.
This decision deals a significant blow to Netanyahu and his hard-line allies, who advocated for legislative supremacy over the high court. The Supreme Court emphasized that the parliament, or Knesset, does not possess "omnipotent" power.
Netanyahu and his allies first proposed their overhaul plans shortly after taking office a year ago. The plan entails reducing the power of judges, including limiting the Supreme Court's ability to review parliamentary decisions and changing the process for appointing new judges.
Strengthening Democracy or Consolidating Power? The Controversial Overhaul in Israel
The Israeli government's recent proposed overhaul has sparked intense debate, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies championing the changes as a necessary step to strengthen democracy. However, critics view this as a power grab by Netanyahu, who currently faces corruption charges, and an assault on a crucial watchdog institution.
Leading up to the proposed changes, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in weekly protests, expressing their dissatisfaction with the government. Notably, these demonstrators included military reservists, including fighter pilots and members of elite units, who vowed to cease reporting for duty if the overhaul was enacted. These reservists form the backbone of the Israeli military.
Although the reservists swiftly returned to their duties following the Oct. 7 attacks, it remains uncertain how they would respond if the overhaul efforts were revived. The resurgence of protests could potentially undermine national unity and have a detrimental impact on military readiness if soldiers refuse to report for duty.
In Israel's political system, the prime minister exercises governance through a majority coalition in parliament. Consequently, this grants the prime minister significant control over both the executive and legislative branches of government. As a counterbalance, the Supreme Court plays a pivotal role in providing oversight. However, critics argue that by attempting to weaken the judiciary, Netanyahu and his allies seek to erode the country's checks and balances and consolidate power over the third, independent branch of government.
Netanyahu's alliance comprises various ultranationalist and religious parties, each with their own list of grievances against the court. Their demands range from increased West Bank settlement construction and annexation of occupied territories to maintaining military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men and limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and Palestinians.
Previously, the United States had encouraged Netanyahu to pause the plans and pursue a broad consensus across the political spectrum. However, these pleas went unanswered, leading to the court's decision. Notably, the court's ruling came on the last day of its outgoing president, Esther Hayut, who retired from her position.
As the proposed overhaul continues to generate heated debate, Israel finds itself at a crossroads: Will these changes strengthen democracy or enable the consolidation of power in the hands of a few? The ultimate impact remains uncertain, but the consequences are significant for the nation's democratic fabric.
Our Latest News
The stock market in Toronto started the week with a decline, as most sectors experienced downward movement.
Fresenius Medical Care's shares plummet as Novo Nordisk's groundbreaking drug shows impressive efficacy against kidney failure.