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Israel: Judicial Bill Passes First Vote in Knesset

    Israel: Judicial Bill Passes First Vote in Knesset
    Last updated Mar 14, 2023
    Image credit: The Knesset Channel [via Ynet News]

    Facts

    • Overnight on Monday, Israel's Knesset passed the first reading of a bill that would allow it to override Supreme Court decisions and enact legislation that had been struck down. The bill is reportedly a top priority of PM Benjamin Netanyahu's government.[1]
    • The 120-member body split between coalition and opposition lines, with 61 voting in favor of the measure while 52 opposed it. Now, it will head to the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee for revisions ahead of two final votes.[2]
    • If turned into law, the bill would make it possible for lawmakers to add an override clause into any specific bill, barring judicial reviews for at least one year into the following Knesset, even if there's a conflict with one of Israel's Basic Laws.[3]
    • Two other bills – one limiting the attorney general from declaring the prime minister unfit for office and another demanding a special majority of High Court judges to strike down a law – were also approved on Monday night.[4]
    • This comes as the right-wing government seeks to promote a judicial overhaul allegedly to restore the balance of power between elected politicians and unelected judges amid claims of judicial overreach.[5]
    • Protests have flared in the country as this proposed judicial reform faces strong opposition over allegations that it would give Netanyahu's coalition unrestrained power, with an estimated 300K people joining demonstrations last Saturday.[6]

    Spin

    Left narrative

    This move by Netanyahu and his most extreme allies shows, despite a legitimate right-shift in the electorate, the prime minister actually has less control over his coalition than once thought. Facing scrutiny over bribery and fraud charges, the only way Netanyahu can maintain his power is by ripping apart Israel's long-standing democratic institutions and criminalizing judicial dissent. We are watching an authoritarian coup in real time.

    Right narrative

    Despite the left arguing that these judicial reform plans threaten democracy, the reality is actually quite the opposite. The self-appointed Israeli Supreme Court has autocratic, unchecked powers that allow it to nullify and rewrite democratically-enacted laws and policies on the basis of subjective justifications. Consequently, the move is crucial to curb the court's undemocratic excesses and protect the rule of law.

    Pro-Palestine

    Though there's much talk from the Israeli left that the country's democracy is under threat, for Palestinians it has never been a democracy. Apartheid and democracy are mutually exclusive, and the only reason Israelis are protesting in the first place is because they want to maintain the system that has oppressed Palestinians for 75 years.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that Israel will have a national election for Knesset in 2023, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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