• April 19, 2024

Israel Legislators continue legislation reforms criticised as anti-democratic 2023

Israel’s parliament took another step on Tuesday to advance a law reform plan that has triggered massive protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right administration.

In a vote held at 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT), legislators adopted a measure in its initial reading that, among other provisions, would empower the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority vote.

Protesters have criticised the measures as jeopardising Israel’s free democracy by eroding vital checks and balances. The Netanyahu administration has said the revisions are necessary to minimise judicial overreach.

Ten weeks of protests have been ongoing, as activists staged another sit-in at government departments in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, momentarily obstructing employee access.

Before ten of them were detained by police, the demonstrators asked, “Stop the drive towards a messianic dictatorship and begin working for democracy.”

The most recent bill was accepted by a vote of 61 to 52, but it still need committee approval and second and third plenum readings before becoming law.

It would empower legislators to overturn Supreme Court judgements that invalidate laws with a majority of 61 of the 120-member parliament, and then deny the court the authority to review such a move.

It would also make it more difficult for the Supreme Court to strike down legislation that violates Israel’s quasi-constitution, the Basic Laws, by requiring the backing of 12 of 15 judges.

At an earlier overnight session, legislators also adopted a bill in its initial reading that would significantly reduce the likelihood that a prime minister would be pronounced incompetent for any cause other than mental or physical infirmities.

“Constitutional anarchy”

In January, Netanyahu’s coalition, which includes ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, unveiled its judicial reform programme.

Ten weeks of widespread protests ensued, with protesters claiming the planned reforms are intended to shield Netanyahu from corruption accusations he is now fighting in court.

Netanyahu and his justice minister claim that the revisions are necessary to restore the balance of power between elected legislators and the unelected Supreme Court judges.

The revisions would also provide the ruling coalition with expanded authority to designate judges.

Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, has attempted to mediate a conversation on a crisis that has profoundly divided Israeli politics and society.

Herzog said late Monday that the “constitutional and social crisis” was harming the nation and “may have diplomatic, economic, social, and security consequences.”

Yair Lapid, the centrist former premier and head of Israel’s opposition, has refused to participate in conversation unless the ruling coalition completely suspends its efforts to get the measures into law.

Lapid and three other Jewish opposition party leaders said on Monday that they will boycott the final votes on the legal reform proposals if they reach the third reading stage. The leaders of the two Arab opposition parties were not present.

In the meanwhile, a group of eminent professors has endeavoured to propose a compromise version of the reforms to the parliament in an effort to “avoid constitutional turmoil.”

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