• Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Israel’s Supreme Court strikes down Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul law


Jan 1, 2024


JERUSALEM — Israel’s high court on Monday struck down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s polarizing law that sought to limit the court’s power over government decisions and sparked mass anti-government protests and international condemnation.

Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judiciary upended Israel in the months leading to the Israel-Gaza war — and now threaten to cause a constitutional and leadership crisis just three months after the hotly divided country united behind the war effort.

Netanyahu’s Likud party slammed the decision as “in opposition to the nation’s desire for unity, especially in a time of war.”

“Today the Supreme Court faithfully fulfilled its role in protecting the citizens of Israel,” Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said on X, formerly Twitter.

Monday’s ruling concerned an amendment to Israel’s “Basic Law,” which serves in place of a constitution, that was pushed through and passed by Netanyahu’s far-right government in July. The altered law removed the right of the Israeli Supreme Court to block decisions made by government ministers that the judges deem “unreasonable.”

In striking down the law 8 to 7 on Monday, the top court’s ruling calls for the legislation to be removed. If Netanyahu’s government refuses to honor the ruling, the wartime country could face a constitutional crisis.

The overhaul plan, which Netanyahu’s coalition first proposed last January, set off nearly a year of widespread social unrest and drew extraordinary opposition from military and senior security officials.

Supporters of the legislation said it was a necessary corrective to an activist Supreme Court led by a clique of elite judges. Opponents said the law could lead to authoritarianism and paved the way for Netanyahu’s far-right and ultra-Orthodox backers to alter key foundation’s of Israel’s liberal democracy.

Weekly protests against the proposal drew hundreds of thousands of people. Military pilots and soldiers threatened not to report for volunteer duty if the government refused to back off its plan.

In March, Netanyahu fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, after Gallant called on the government to halt its plan, warning of potential security problems for Israel if reservists walked out. Gallant was reinstated two weeks later.

President Biden, one of Israel’s staunchest allies, in March also came out against the law in a rare public disagreement. “I hope he walks away from it,” Biden said, adding the Netanyahu’s government “cannot continue down this road.”

Mellen reported from Tel Aviv.


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