Conflicts & War

Israel’s parliament approves law protecting Netanyahu from ouster

Jerusalem, Mar 23 (EFE).- The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, approved Thursday a law that protects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – under trial on corruption charges – from being declared unfit for office.

The law passed its third and final reading at 6 am with 61 votes in favor to 47 against after an all-night plenary session full of heated discussions.

The legislation is part of a controversial judicial reform proposed by the Netanyahu government, which has sparked massive protests throughout the country that lasted for almost three months.

The reform is seen as a threat to democracy by weakening the judiciary’s independence and curbing the supervisory powers of the Supreme Court.

The opposition raised several objections to the legislation, which was processed in an accelerated manner and is considered to be aimed at protecting Netanyahu, who faces serious legal problems with three cases for fraud, bribery and breach-of-trust.

The legislation explicitly blocks the Supreme Court from ordering a prime minister to take a leave of absence, seen as a reaction to fears that the court could force Netanyahu to resign over conflict of interest as the leader of a government coalition proposing sweeping judicial reforms while facing several corruption charges.

Under the new law, only a three-quarters majority vote of cabinet ministers or lawmakers can force a prime minister to step aside, and that too only on physical or psychological grounds.

Opposition leader, the centrist Yair Lapid, criticized the passage of the law and the members of the coalition, whom he accused of behaving like “thieves in the night” who “passed an obscene and corrupt personal law against an unfounded rumor about recusal.”

According to an agreement reached with the attorney general’s office in 2020, Netanyahu is barred from being involved in an overhaul of the country’s judicial system, and therefore, cannot promote or vote for judicial reform laws.

Unconfirmed reports in February, which were later denied by the attorney general’s office, indicated that Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara – a vocal critic of the judicial reform – was considering ordering the recusal of the prime minister due to a conflict of interest between the government-backed reform and the legal cases against him.

The reform seeks to give the government full control over the appointment of judges, including those of the Supreme Court, which could have a direct impact on a possible appeal of the verdict of Netanyahu’s ongoing trial.

It also includes a controversial annulment clause that would allow parliament to reverse Supreme Court rulings or even prevent laws from being submitted to a constitutionality review by the court. EFE


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