Israel's Parliament, known as the Knesset, approved on Monday the judicial reform law promoted by Benjamin Netanyahu's government. The law, which has the Supreme Court as its main target, was particularly controversial due to criticism from its opponents, who describe it as authoritarian.
With 64 votes in favor, the new law makes it more difficult for the Supreme Court to hinder the executive branch through its rulings. Previously, the Supreme Court enjoyed the right to a "principle of reasonableness" to intervene in government decisions. Now, the Israeli executive will be able to decide with more autonomy. The opposition bloc walked out of the vote in protest against the law, but allowed it to pass. There were therefore no votes against.
El pueblo de Israel está dividido. Yo creo que la responsabilidad es del gobierno,que intentó imponer un plan presentado como reforma necesaria pero en realidad tenía un alcance peligroso al limitar el poder judicial. En la manifestación pro reforma de ayer pensaban diferente. pic.twitter.com/uKloqGnSAf
— Jana Beris (@JanaBeris1) July 24, 2023
According to Netanyahu and his political allies, reform of the Israeli judicial system was necessary. He argued that the judges had too much power thanks to the principle of reasonableness and that this new law balances the relations between the three branches in Israel. With the reform of the Likud-led coalition, the Parliament has the power to elect a number of justices to the Supreme Court. The same way as in the United States, it can also revoke court orders with a parliamentary majority.
Yariv Levin, minister of justice and main supporter of the new law, assured that the reform is an achievement for the balance of power in Israel, which is thus freed from the grasp of its Supreme Court. "We have taken the first step in the important historic process of correcting the legal system and restoring the powers that were taken away from the Government and the Knesset for many years," Levin stated.
Manifestantes se han reunido frente al #parlamento israelí en Jerusalén para protestar contra la inminente votación final este lunes de un proyecto de ley que limitaría las competencias de del #TribunalSupremo. /ft pic.twitter.com/AyMzlCXdG3
— DW Español (@dw_espanol) July 24, 2023
Seven months of protests in Israel
Critics of the new law argue that the measures are unnecessary and fueled by Netanyahu's personal and political grievances. The prime minister is on trial on corruption charges. Outside Parliament, part of Israeli civil society mobilized against the law. The "principle of reasonableness" was considered by many as an oversight tool for the executive branch. "This is a total breakdown of the rules of the game," declared the opposition leader and former prime minister. "We are heading for disaster."
Siguen las masivas protestas en Israel por el golpe institucional que busca Netanyahu. Si fuera Teherán o Moscú sería tapa de todos los diarios. pic.twitter.com/VdxLlI28Z7
— Ernesto Resnik (@ernestorr) July 22, 2023
The opposition maintains its position totally against the reform, and although the reform was approved, it is likely that demonstrations and mobilizations will continue in Israel. President Isaac Herzog, who visited the United States last week, tried unsuccessfully to defuse tensions. He called on the political parties to reach a consensus on a "national emergency." However, the protest movement, which has been going on for seven months now, does not seem to be letting up and together with a general strike puts the country in a difficult position.
They are not the only ones taking to the streets. Pro-reform mobilizations are also massive in Israel and are a sign of the political division the country is experiencing.