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This is the controversial judicial reform in Israel that has led to massive protests
For months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets across the country to protest far-reaching changes to the legal system that some say threaten the country’s democratic foundations.
Tensions escalated further this weekend when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over his opposition to the planned reform, sparking massive street protests and widespread strikes.
What changes are expected in the Israeli judiciary?
Judicial reform consists of a group of bills that must pass three votes in the Knesset before becoming law.
One of the most important provisions for Netanyahu’s government is the bill that changes the make-up of the nine-member committee that selects the judges, in order to give the government a majority of seats on the committee.
Netanyahu and his supporters argue that the Supreme Court has become an elite, closed group that does not represent the Israeli people. They contend that the Supreme Court has overstepped its mandate and is intervening in matters it should not rule on.
In defense of his plans, the prime minister pointed to countries like the United States, where politicians control the appointment of federal judges.
How do these amendments affect Netanyahu?
While there are many bills that could affect Netanyahu, the law on how a prime minister can be declared “unfit for office” has the greatest ramifications for the Israeli prime minister.
Critics say Netanyahu is pushing the review because of his own corruption trial, in which he faces charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He denies committing any crime.
Opposition leaders see the bill as a way to protect Netanyahu from being declared unfit for office as a result of the trial.
As part of a deal with the court to serve as prime minister despite his trial, Netanyahu agreed to declare a conflict of interest. The attorney general determined that the statement meant that Netanyahu could not participate in judicial reform policy-making. There is currently a petition before the Israeli Supreme Court to declare Netanyahu unfit for office on the grounds that he violated the declaration of conflict of interest, and the attorney general has written an open letter to Netanyahu saying he has broken the agreement and the law. ..
Critics also argue that if the government had a greater role in appointing judges, Netanyahu’s allies would appoint judges they know will rule in his favour.
What do the changes mean for the Palestinians?
A weakening of the judiciary could limit Israelis and Palestinians’ access to court to defend their rights if they believe the government is endangering them.
What do opponents say?
The reform sparked anxiety in the financial, business, academic and security sectors in Israel.
Critics say the reform goes too far and will completely destroy the only avenue available to provide checks and balances to the Israeli legislature.
They warn that this will undermine the independence of the judiciary and violate rights not enshrined in Israel’s quasi-constitutional basic laws, such as minority rights and freedom of expression.
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