Jerusalem, July 11 (EFE).- Israel’s parliament early Tuesday approved a contentious bill that restricts the Supreme Court’s oversight powers, triggering widespread protests.
The controversial reform abolishes the doctrine of reasonability, which allowed the Supreme Court to review and overturn government decisions.
The bill is part of the judicial reform agenda promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right-wing government.
During the parliamentary session, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, with some attempting to breach the premises.
With 64 votes in favor (all members of the ruling coalition) and 56 against, the bill passed after a tumultuous plenary session that extended beyond midnight.
Following the vote, opposition lawmakers expressed their disapproval, while coalition members celebrated the victory.
Simcha Rothman, the head of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee and a prominent figure driving the reform, is preparing the final version of the bill for the second and decisive reading, expected to take place before the parliament’s summer recess begins on July 31.
This marks the first approval of a bill related to judicial reform since Netanyahu suspended it in March due to protests and a general strike. The suspension aimed to facilitate a dialogue with the opposition, which ultimately failed in June.
In response to the bill, the protest movement has organized strikes and demonstrations across the country. The protests have already commenced with street and road blockades.
Protesters have planned major demonstrations at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. The demonstrations will culminate in a large nighttime gathering on Kaplan Avenue in central Tel Aviv.
Before the vote, Netanyahu assured that the rights of the courts and Israeli citizens would not be harmed in any way. “The courts will continue to scrutinize the legality of decisions and official appointments.”
Although the Supreme Court will still have the power to overturn government decisions based on other grounds such as disproportionality, discrimination, and illegality, many jurists consider reasonability as a vital safeguard for the separation of powers in a country where the executive and legislative branches overlap.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid accused the coalition of eliminating the provision to pursue “corrupt and self-serving objectives.”
Lapid argued that the reform enables “a convicted criminal to be appointed as a minister,” referring to ultra-Orthodox leader Aryeh Deri, whose appointment as Minister of the Interior and Health was revoked by the Supreme Court in January. Deri had been disqualified a year earlier for alleged tax evasion.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the reform, maintained that the law “does not place the government above the law” but allowed legislators to implement policies that have received popular support.
Hours before the vote, President Isaac Herzog called on the parties to return to the negotiating table, as he believed that “an agreement is possible,” despite the failure of the facilitated dialogue.
Another opposition leader, Benny Gantz, who currently leads the electoral polls, expressed readiness to resume negotiations and cautioned that the law could be the “start of a dangerous process to eliminate judicial review and governmental checks.” EFE