The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has taken a significant step towards passing a controversial bill that would grant lawmakers the power to pass laws that the Supreme Court would be unable to overturn. This proposed legislation, a cornerstone of Benjamin Netanyahu’s and his supporters’ plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary system, has created division in Israel.
Despite calls for compromise and demonstrations by tens of thousands of Israelis over the past two months, Netanyahu’s governing coalition of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties has continued with its legislative blitz. In a marathon overnight session, the Knesset gave initial approval to various bills, including one that would protect the prime minister from being declared unfit or incapacitated, and another that would permit settlements in the northern West Bank.
One more piece of legislation that received approval would enable parliament to pass laws that are immune to judicial review, with a mere majority of 61 members in the 120-seat Knesset. These bills will require further votes before they become law. These measures are part of a broader effort by Netanyahu’s coalition to reform Israel’s legal system.
Supporters of the prime minister argue that this move aims to rein in a court that is too active. However, opponents claim that the plan would upset the country’s democratic checks and balances, render the Supreme Court powerless, and centralize authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his majority in parliament. Business leaders, legal experts, and retired military officials have joined the protests against the judicial overhaul, and Israeli reservists have threatened to stop showing up for duty if the overhaul is passed.
In December, Netanyahu was re-elected to power after Israel’s fifth election in less than four years, leading the country’s most ultranationalist and religious government yet. Despite being on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, which he denies, he has continued to serve as prime minister while his legal proceedings continue.