Netanyahu’s judicial reform destabilizes Israel’s powers, which fears the end of democracy

Parliamentary approved this week, in the first vote, a law that limits the capabilities of the Supreme Court; for ten weeks, the country has been experiencing waves of demonstrations that reject the project, claiming it to be the beginning of a dictatorship

ODD ANDERSEN / AFPProtesters demonstrate in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting the German capital and meeting the German Chancellor and German President on March 16, 2023

Ten weeks ago, Israel experiences waves of demonstrations that fight against the judicial reform defended by the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This week, Parliament approved in the first vote a law that limits the capabilities of the Supreme Court, a crucial element of the controversial project of the prime minister who was re-elected at the end of 2022 for his sixth term. The text received 61 votes in favor and 52 against, however, to be implemented, it needs to be approved in second and third ballots. If adopted, the change would allow lawmakers to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 of the 120-member Chamber. It will also make it harder for the country’s top court to overturn laws it deems contrary to the Basic Laws, Israel’s equivalent of a constitution, by requiring the support of 12 of the 15 judges.

In an interview with Portal Jovem Pan, doctor in international relations and project coordinator at the Brazil-Israel Institute Karina Calandrin explains that two situations justify the current scenario in the country. The first of these is the desire to increase the power of Parliament and facilitate government decision-making. The second relates to the desire of some members of the Knesset [Assembleia Legislativa de Israel] who have problems with justice, such as Netanyahu himself and ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Aryeh Deri, from blocking decisions that could lead them to jail. However, if the reform is approved, minorities will be harmed. “The rights of minorities will be reduced. If the reform takes place, they can revoke the interpretations and what will count is Parliament”, he explains, relating to the rights conquered by the LGBT+, such as civil marriage and stable union, and the possibility for women to pray at the wailing wall and read the parchment , attitudes designated only to men. Another point of attention concerns the Arabs who live in Israel, a community that the far-right parties are against and have already left shouting “death to the Arabs!” and “Death to terrorists!” through the streets of the country.

demonstrations in Israel

Israeli demonstrators block a road during a demonstration against the government’s controversial judicial reform project in Tel Aviv, Israel │GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP

Samuel Feldberg, political scientist and researcher at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, explained to Jovem Pan that the consequences of this reform, which aims to reduce the power that the Supreme Court has to change laws or block them, are still speculation and it is difficult predict the impact. However, he warns that the fear is that the balance that exists between the three powers will be significantly affected, because “when you have Parliament and the Executive on the same side and you do not have the Judiciary with the capacity to balance or make a counterpoint, you have the decrease in parliamentary functional capacity”. This is the fear of the protesters. Israelis who oppose the Netanyahu government’s controversial judicial reform see it as a threat to democracy. They denounce the project defended by the premier, but also the government’s general policy, which alleges that reforms are necessary to limit judicial interference. “These are public policies that, if approved, put Israel’s democracy at risk, which may cease to exist”, says Calandrin, who believes that this is the biggest democratic crisis in Israel since it was established. “The three powers will no longer exist and control will be carried out by the executive, which already has a majority in Parliament. Without the Supreme Court with the judiciary power, it will be a dictatorship of the government in question”, because they “will be able to change laws in elections, modify the composition of the Knesset, there will be no more legal impediment to anything, they will be able to make all the decisions , and whatever the Supreme Court decides, they can overturn it, with that it will no longer exist”, he adds.

Bankers, workers in the burgeoning high-tech sector, judges, lawyers, intellectuals, scientists and even the military have expressed fears in recent months about the negative impact the reform could have on Israel’s liberal democracy. Even agreeing that the current Israeli situation is complicated, especially with the rise to power of the extreme right, which he believes to be the “greatest tragedy that Israeli society is experiencing”, Feldberg does not believe that a dictatorship will happen. “I think it’s overkill. It will not be a dictatorship because it implies the absence of elections and the suspension of rights, but we are talking about a change in the democratic character of the State, as happened in Poland and Hungary”. A point of agreement among experts and which is also the fear of demonstrators in Israel is that the prime minister, accused of corruption in a series of cases, seeks to use the law to annul an eventual judgment that could convict him. Before approving the text that limits the capabilities of the Supreme Court, the deputies also adopted in the first vote a law that limits the possibilities of dismissal proceedings against the prime minister.

In an attempt to please both sides, both the opposition and Netanyahu and his allies, Israeli President Isaac Herzog this week announced a proposed alternative judicial reform. “Total agreement is impossible, but broad agreement on legal issues is what we must aspire to at this critical time. Israeli democracy is the founding foundation of our state,” Herzog said in a televised address in which he announced his plan dubbed the “People’s Guideline for Reforms of the Judiciary System”. However, the attempt was unsuccessful. Netanyahu rejected the judicial reform project presented by Herzog. “The main sections of the proposed plan only perpetuate the existing situation and do not provide the necessary balance for the Israeli authorities. This is the unfortunate truth,” he wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, the points presented by the president were not consensual by the representatives of the coalition”, he added.

Source: Jovempan

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