It is Israel’s controversial judicial reform that has led to massive protests
For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets across the country to protest long-overdue changes to the legal system that some say threaten the country’s democratic foundations.
Tensions escalated this weekend when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for opposing the planned reform.
What are the expected changes in Israel’s judiciary?
The judicial reform consists of a set of bills that must pass three votes in the Knesset before becoming law.
One of the Netanyahu government’s most important items is a bill that would change the composition of the nine-member panel that selects judges to give the government a majority of seats on the panel.
Netanyahu and his supporters argue that the Supreme Court has become a closed and elitist body that does not represent the Israeli people. They say the Supreme Court is overstepping its mandate and interfering in matters it should not adjudicate.
To defend his plans, the prime minister pointed to countries like the United States, where politicians control which federal judges are appointed.
How do these changes affect Netanyahu?
While there are many bills that could affect Netanyahu, the one with the biggest impact on the Israeli prime minister is how to declare a prime minister “unfit for office.”
Critics say Netanyahu is pushing the review because of his own corruption probe, in which he faces charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.
Opposition leaders see the bill as a way to protect Netanyahu from being declared unfit for office as a result of the investigation.
Despite being investigated, Netanyahu agreed to a conflict-of-interest declaration as part of his agreement to serve as prime minister with the court. The Attorney General determined that the statement meant that Netanyahu could not participate in the formulation of judicial reform policies. There is currently a petition in the Israeli Supreme Court to declare Netanyahu ineligible for office based on his violation of that declaration of conflict, and the Attorney General has written an open letter to Netanyahu alleging that he violated the treaty and the law. .
Critics also argue that if the government had more power over judicial appointments, Netanyahu’s allies would appoint judges they knew would rule in his favor.
What will the changes mean for Palestinians?
Weakening the judiciary could limit Israelis and Palestinians from going to court to defend their rights if they believe the government is endangering them.
What are opponents saying?
The reform has caused concern in Israel’s financial, business, education and defense sectors.
Critics say the reform goes too far and would completely destroy the only way to provide checks and balances to the Israeli legislature.
They warn that it would undermine the independence of the judiciary and violate rights not enshrined in Israel’s semi-constitutional basic laws, such as minority rights and freedom of expression.
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