Israel’s judicial reforms approved in first parliamentary hearing

Jerusalem, Mar 13 (EFE).- The Israeli parliament on Tuesday approved in an initial hearing a controversial bill that would allow a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, a key element of a broader judicial overhaul that has sparked the country’s largest protests in decades.

The so-called annulment clause was approved by 61 votes to 52 in the first of three hearings in the Knesset, within the framework of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reforms that would limit the Supreme Court’s ability from reviewing and changing “Basic Laws.”

The new measure, which still needs to return to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Commission for a second and third reading, would also grant immunity to new laws even if these contradict Israel’s Basic Laws, the country’s quasi-constitution.

The approval of the annulment clause could pave the way for parliament to legislate with a simple majority. It would also make it harder for the Supreme Court to strike down laws by raising the voting threshold from a simple majority to a minimum of 12 of its 15 judges.

Another key element of the reforms would give the coalition government, led by right-wing PM Netanyahu and his hardline religious and far-right allies, five of the nine seats on the Judicial Selection Committee, with just a simple majority needed to appoint judges for all Israeli courts.

The approval of the first reading came after several hours of a heated debate in the Knesset amid fierce criticism from members of the opposition, who have dubbed the reforms a threat to democracy and judicial independence.

As well as backing key elements of Netanyahu’s reforms, lawmakers also approved in its first reading another bill that would seriously limit the ability of the Supreme Court to remove a prime minister from office.

According to the bill, a prime minister would only be suspended in the event of physical or mental incapacity.

Critics of this bill have accused Netanyahu of trying to protect his position amid concerns he could be impeached by Israel’s top judge over his ongoing corruption trials and his government’s judicial overhaul.

Shortly after the vote, Israeli protesters blocked access to government offices in Jerusalem by forming a human chain. Police dispersed the demonstrators and arrested 10 of them.

Netanyahu’s reforms have polarized Israeli society and sparked the largest protests in years.EFE


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