The coalition of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put forward a second piece of legislation in its court reform package which, if passed, would allow the government to gut the process of judicial review. Certain bills with a special clause would be immune from being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; bills lacking this clause would require a unanimous vote to be struck down.
The Israeli Supreme Court previously axed laws that sought to curtail civil and minority rights. Critics of the proposed bill say it amounts to right-wing tyranny. In a rare comment on Israeli politics, The Jewish Federations of North America sent an open letter to Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Hapid protesting the bill, saying “concentration of power is a cause of great concern.” Amid mass demonstrations across the nation and fears of democratic erosion, opposition parties in the Knesset are apparently planning mass resignations in protest. They also don’t want proposed negotiations on its contents to begin until Netanyahu suspends its advancement.
The bill is subject to second and third votes in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. It had previously passed a tense initial reading 62-51. It’s but one bill in the aforementioned court reform package; another bill would strip the Supreme Court of its power to declare ministers unfit to serve, which was passed after the Court did just that to a minister after several criminal convictions.
According to academics Amichai Cohen and Yuval Shany, Israel has long relied on the idea of a “reasonable” governance doctrine with regards to the relationship between the judicial and legislative arms of government, which dictates that the judicial branch has a right to review government activity. They argue proposals are in defiance of this balance, as they seek to give government all but the final say of legality: “The overarching goal of the proposals is not to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down legislation but, rather, to weaken significantly—perhaps even mortally—the ability of legal institutions to review the legality of governmental action.”