What are Israeli PM Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms & why they’ve sparked mass protests

What are Israeli PM Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms & why they’ve sparked mass protests

Why Israel's Judicial Reforms Have Sparked Massive Protests


Israel is witnessing one of the biggest political crises in its history, as hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the government's controversial judicial reforms. The reforms, which were passed by the parliament on Monday, aim to curb the power of the Supreme Court and give more authority to the elected officials. Critics say that the reforms are a threat to democracy and the rule of law, and that they are designed to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from corruption charges. Here is what you need to know about the judicial reforms and why they have sparked such outrage.

What are the judicial reforms?

The judicial reforms are a package of bills that were proposed by Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government, which consists of his Likud party and several religious and nationalist parties. The reforms seek to change the balance of power between the three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.

The first bill, which was passed on Monday, cancels the Supreme Court's power of judicial review, which allows it to strike down laws or government decisions that it deems unconstitutional or unreasonable. The bill gives the parliament, or Knesset, the final say over any legislation, and enables it to override the Supreme Court's rulings with a simple majority of 61 out of 120 members.

The second bill, which is expected to be voted on later this year, changes the way judges are appointed in Israel. Currently, judges are selected by a committee that consists of nine members: three Supreme Court justices, two cabinet ministers, two Knesset members, and two representatives of the bar association. The bill would reduce the number of Supreme Court justices in the committee to one, and increase the number of cabinet ministers and Knesset members to four each. This would give the government more influence over who gets to sit on the bench.

The third bill, which is also pending approval, limits the role of legal advisers in government ministries. Currently, legal advisers are appointed by the attorney general, who is an independent official in charge of enforcing the law and prosecuting crimes. The bill would make legal advisers subordinate to the ministers they serve, and allow them to be fired by them. This would reduce the oversight and accountability of government actions.

Why are the reforms causing such upheaval?

The reforms have triggered a massive backlash from various sectors of Israeli society, who fear that they will undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary, and enable Netanyahu and his allies to evade justice and advance their agenda without any checks and balances.

Netanyahu is facing trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in three separate cases involving alleged favors to media moguls, wealthy businessmen, and foreign leaders in exchange for positive coverage, gifts, or political support. He denies any wrongdoing and claims that he is a victim of a witch hunt by his political opponents, the media, and the law enforcement agencies. He has repeatedly attacked the Supreme Court and the attorney general for pursuing his cases, and accused them of being biased and overstepping their authority.

Many protesters believe that Netanyahu's main motivation for pushing the judicial reforms is to avoid conviction and stay in power. They also worry that the reforms will enable him and his coalition partners to pass laws that favor their interests and ideologies, such as annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, expanding settlements, restricting civil rights, or imposing religious laws.

The protests have been led by civil society groups, opposition parties, human rights organizations, lawyers associations, academics, artists, journalists, and former security officials. They have been joined by some prominent figures from within Netanyahu's own camp, such as former justice minister Ayelet Shaked, former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, and former chief justice Aharon Barak. They have also received support from some international actors, such as the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States.

The protesters have staged rallies across the country for months, culminating in a massive march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over the weekend. They have also set up a tent city outside the Knesset building in Jerusalem, where they have held vigils and hunger strikes. They have called for a general strike and civil disobedience if the reforms are not revoked. They have clashed with police forces on several occasions, resulting in dozens of injuries and arrests.

What are the implications of the reforms?

The judicial reforms have profound implications for Israel's democracy and its future. They represent a major shift in Israel's constitutional system, which has been based on an unwritten set of norms and principles since its founding in 1948. They challenge the role of the Supreme Court as the guardian of Israel's basic laws and values, such as human dignity, equality, freedom, justice, and peace. They also threaten to erode public trust in Israel's institutions and its rule of law.

The reforms could also affect Israel's relations with its allies and its standing in the world. Israel has often prided itself on being a vibrant democracy in a turbulent region, and has relied on its judicial system to defend its actions and policies in the international arena. The reforms could damage Israel's reputation and credibility, and expose it to more criticism and pressure from the international community.

The reforms could also deepen the divisions and tensions within Israeli society, which is already polarized along political, religious, ethnic, and ideological lines. The reforms could widen the gap between the secular and the religious, the left and the right, the Jews and the Arabs, and the center and the periphery. They could also fuel more violence and extremism, and undermine the prospects for dialogue and compromise.

The judicial reforms are not a done deal yet. They still face legal challenges in the Supreme Court, which could delay or invalidate them. They also face political uncertainty, as Netanyahu's coalition government is fragile and unstable, and could collapse at any moment. The protesters have vowed to continue their struggle until the reforms are reversed. The fate of Israel's democracy hangs in the balance.

Source

(1) Explained: Why Israel's Judicial Reforms Have Sparked Massive Protests. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/explained-why-israels-judicial-reforms-have-sparked-massive-protests-4242434.
(2) Israel's SC to not block controversial judicial law passed by Knesset. https://www.wionews.com/world/israels-sc-to-not-block-controversial-judicial-law-passed-by-knesset-619663.
(3) Explained: What are Israel’s sweeping judicial reforms that have triggered widespread protests?. https://scroll.in/latest/1053232/explained-what-are-israels-sweeping-judicial-reforms-that-have-triggered-widespread-protests.
(4) Israel’s protests over sweeping judicial reforms, explained. https://www.vox.com/2023/7/23/23804795/israel-protests-judicial-reforms-netanyahu-likud-idf.
(5) What are the Israeli judicial reforms and why are they causing such .... https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-judicial-reforms-netanyahu-what-are-changes-and-why-protests/.
(6) Israel: Police and anti-judicial reform protesters clash as bill .... https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-66069529.
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