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The Judicial Reform: A Comprehensive Overview




The topic of judicial reform has been making headlines lately, with protests occurring across the country and debates raging regarding the merits and drawbacks of the proposed changes. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the judicial reform, the vote that sparked the controversy, and the reasons behind the protests.

 

What are the Judicial Reforms?

The Israeli government is currently pushing for a set of reforms aimed at changing the way the country's judiciary operates. Dubbed the "Judicial Reforms," these changes would have a significant impact on the functioning of the Supreme Court and the selection of judges. The Judicial Reform is predominantly made up of the following four components:


  • Override clause:

The Knesset, Israel's legislative body, would have the ability to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of the 120-seat Knesset. In Israel's current judicial form, the Supreme Court can repel any law it deems unconstitutional. The override clause would allow the Knesset to overrule a judicial rejection and pass said law with a simple majority.


  • Test of reasonability:

The Supreme Court would no longer be able to judge Knesset legislation, appointments, or other government decisions based on the "reasonability" standard. This measure has been utilized by the Supreme Court in recent years to strike down government decisions that it determined were unreasonable.

For example, in January 2023 the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of Aryeh Deri as a minister was "highly unreasonable" due to his past criminal convictions. Another example is the 2007 ruling when the court determined that the government's decision to not reinforce classrooms in Sderot against missile attacks was "unreasonable," as it took too long for students to reach a bomb shelter.


  • Appointing judges:

The reforms would also change the way Supreme Court justices are selected. The bottom line being the ruling coalition's overwhelming control over the appointment process. Currently, judges are chosen by a committee of nine members. The makeup is three Supreme Court judges, two representatives of the Israel Bar Association, and four elected representatives.

Under the reforms, the two representatives from the Israel Bar Association would be replaced by two "public representatives" chosen by the justice minister, giving the sitting government a majority of the votes for selecting judges.


  • Legal advisers:

The plan would also allow government ministers to appoint their legal advisers, who would no longer have the ability to make binding decisions. Instead, they would only be able to provide advice.

 

Reform status:


Gold - The final status of the bill Orange - Current status of the bill


The second and third reading are the final stages of the legislative process in the Knesset. Once a committee approves a bill for its second and third readings, the plenum holds another debate on the bill and then votes, separately, on the second and third readings of the bill. The votes on the second and third readings usually take place in succession.

The second reading is a vote on the bill as a whole, after it has been amended by the committee. The plenum can propose further amendments to the bill, but they need to be approved by the committee before they can be voted on. If the bill passes the second reading, it moves to the third reading.

The third reading is a vote on the final version of the bill, which includes all the amendments that have been approved by the committee and the plenum. No further amendments can be proposed at this stage. If the bill passes the third reading, it becomes a law in the Book of Laws of the State of Israel.

 

Why are People Protesting?

The reform plan has sparked widespread opposition and criticism from various sectors of Israeli society, including lawyers, civil rights groups, business leaders, opposition parties and ordinary citizens. They fear that the reform will undermine democracy, human rights, minority rights and the rule of law in Israel.


One of the main reasons why people are protesting against the judicial reform is that they see it as a threat to the checks and balances that the Supreme Court provides on the government and the parliament. The Supreme Court has the authority to strike down laws that violate the Basic Laws, which are Israel's quasi-constitutional framework, and to review government decisions that affect individual rights or public interests. The protesters argue that this authority is essential to protect democracy and prevent tyranny of the majority or corruption. They also claim that the Supreme Court is not biased or activist, but rather acts as a guardian of Israel's core values and principles.


Another reason why people are protesting against the judicial reform is that they believe it will politicize the judiciary and compromise its independence and professionalism. The reform would give more power to the government and its allies in the Judicial Appointments Committee, which selects judges for all levels of courts, including the Supreme Court. The protesters contend that this would enable political interference and pressure on judicial decisions and appointments, and erode public trust and confidence in the justice system. They also warn that this would affect the quality and diversity of judges, who should be chosen based on merit and not on political affiliation or ideology.


The protests against the judicial reform have been growing in size and intensity since they began in January 2023. They have taken various forms, such as rallies, marches, strikes, petitions and civil disobedience. Some of the largest protests have taken place in Tel Aviv, where tens of thousands of people have gathered to voice their opposition and demand that the government withdraw its plan. The protesters have also expressed their solidarity with other groups that are affected by or oppose the government's policies, such as Arab citizens, LGBTQ+ community, women's rights activists and anti-corruption campaigners.


The judicial reform in Israel has become a major source of conflict and division in Israeli politics and society. It has also drawn international attention and criticism from some of Israel's allies, such as the United States and the European Union. The government has defended its plan as necessary and democratic, while accusing its opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-Israeli. The fate of the reform is still uncertain, as it faces legal challenges and parliamentary hurdles. However, the protesters have vowed to continue their struggle until they stop what they see as an assault on Israeli democracy.


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