Conflicts & War

Thousands protest Israeli gov’t plan to overhaul judiciary

Jerusalem, Jan 7 (EFE).- More than 10,000 people, according to organizers, turned out Saturday in Tel Aviv to oppose the plans of Israel’s new right-wing government to limit the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians the biggest say in choosing judges.

The proposal was announced Wednesday by Yariv Levin, justice minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, who returned to power last week after spending 18 months on the outside looking in.

At the heart of the initiative is a provision that would allow a simple majority of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to annul Supreme Court rulings.

Critics say the implementation of that measure would effectively negate the notions of judicial independence and the separation of powers, especially in the present circumstances, as Netanyahu’s coalition is fully in control of the Knesset.

Some have expressed concern that the government might try to use the mechanism to halt the ongoing trial of Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Levin also wants to revamp the Judicial Designation Committee by filling most of the seats with lawmakers from the ruling coalition. Until now, the panel has been a non-partisan body comprising attorneys.

Among the groups behind Saturday’s march was the Black Flag movement, which describes the proposed judicial reforms as a “coup d’etat” that “will encounter a nation of Israel determined to guard our democracy.”

“A unilateral revolution against the system of government in Israel” was how former Prime Minister Yair Lapid – who lost the November election to Netanyahu – described the Levin program.

Several opposition lawmakers, including Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, took part in the march in Tel Aviv.

“Together with thousands of amazing demonstrators we went out to protest and to yell with a clear voice: we won’t allow the destruction of our country! We will continue to fight for our democracy,” Michaeli wrote afterward on Twitter.

Netanyahu, who governed Israel from 1996-1999 and again from 2009-2021, now heads the most right-wing government in the country’s history. EFE jma/dr

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