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Current Affairs 2023

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul Bills

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul bills have triggered unprecedented protests, forcing him to suspend them. Let's looks into the crisis and its implications.

Mar 30, 2023

4 min read

The election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel Prime Minister in December last year has seen the country’s polity shift towards the extreme right. His government’s single-minded focus on passing judicial overhaul Bills in the Knesset, however, has triggered unprecedented protests and a paralysing general strike. In the face of growing resistance from different sections, Mr. Netanyahu was forced to suspend the Bills, not wanting to push Israel into a civil war.


The proposed judicial reforms, which would give Parliament control over judicial appointments and the powers to override Supreme Court rulings, are a part of the push to realise the country’s true Jewish identity. But the move to consolidate more power has been met with widespread resistance from different sections, including from the defence establishment.


By suspending the Bills, Mr. Netanyahu has only delayed, and not resolved, the impact of the crisis. It remains unclear how there will be nationwide consensus on such a polarising issue that has seen even diplomats on strike. Mr. Netanyahu should convince his allies of the crisis their government is in, abandon the plan to weaken the judiciary altogether, and focus on the more pressing challenges Israel faces. This tactical retreat is a reminder that, despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Prime Minister cannot deliver on his agenda without alienating large sections.


Reference source: TH


About the Judicial Appointments Law


The Judicial Appointments Law is a proposed amendment to Israel's judicial system, which would give the ruling coalition more control over the selection of judges in the country. Under the current system, the Judicial Appointments Committee consists of nine members, with a majority of seven needed to elect judges, including at least one Supreme Court justice. The proposed amendment, authored by Simcha Rothman, Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, would increase the number of committee members to 11, including three Supreme Court judges, three ministers from three different coalition parties, three lawmakers from the coalition, and two lawmakers from the opposition.


If the bill passes, it would allow the governing coalition to select two Supreme Court judges on its own, while any further appointments would be subject to the approval of at least one opposition member and at least one judge. This would give the coalition more control over the selection of judges and could result in the replacement of liberal Supreme Court justices with more conservative ones.


Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to temporarily freeze the legislation, Rothman insisted on pushing the bill through the committee on Monday. The bill was passed by the committee ahead of the announcement, and is now ready for a final vote in the Knesset at any moment. In response, opposition parties Yesh Atid and National Unity issued a joint statement, saying that they would not allow the legislation to progress while negotiations are ongoing.


The proposed amendment has been a subject of controversy, with many arguing that it would undermine the independence of the judiciary and politicize the selection of judges. Others argue that it is necessary to ensure that judges are appointed in line with the country's Jewish identity. The passage of the bill would have significant implications for Israel's judicial system and its democracy, and its fate remains uncertain.


Main Exam Question


1. Discuss the implications of the proposed judicial overhaul Bills in Israel and the resulting protests and general strike. How can the government ensure nationwide consensus on such a polarising issue and balance their political agenda with the needs and demands of various sections of the society?


Image : Benjamin Netanyahu/Twitter

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