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Israel Supreme Court Begins Judicial Overhaul Hearings

230715103015 benjamin netanyahu 0316 file

Benjamin Netanyahu

The Supreme Court of Israel has began hearing the first case examining the legitimacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disputed judicial overhaul.

In a reflection of the case’s importance, all 15 of Israel’s Supreme Court judges will hear appeals to the statute simultaneously on Tuesday for the first time in Israel’s history. A standard panel consists of three justices, though they occasionally sit on larger panels. The proceedings were also being livestreamed. 

“It’s a historic day,” said Susie Navot, vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank that has been critical of the overhaul. “This is the first time we’ve had this kind of hearing.” 

Netanyahu’s government made up of ultranationalist and ultrareligious politicians, began the overhaul early this year, shortly after assuming office. The plan’s supporters argue that the country’s unelected judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, exercises far too much power.

According to critics, the plan to weaken the Supreme Court eliminates a critical safeguard and concentrates power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies.

“We stand here today with millions of citizens to stop the government’s coup,” said Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which filed a petition along with a handful of other civil society groups.

“Together we will preserve Israeli democracy.”

The hearing on Tuesday puts the country’s top justices in an unprecedented position of having to decide whether to accept constraints on their own powers. It concentrates on the first bill passed by parliament in July, which eliminates the court’s jurisdiction to overturn government actions deemed “unreasonable.”

In the past, judges have utilized the legal criterion to block government decisions that were deemed unsound or corrupt.

The judicial overhaul, which opponents see as a grave threat to Israeli democracy, has infuriated Israelis from all walks of life, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in protest after demonstration for the past 36 weeks.

Also Read: Israel Opposition Party Supports Deal To End Netanyahu Rule

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