Israeli parliament approves contentious legal overhaul

Israeli lawmakers on Monday approved a key portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to reshape the country’s justice system despite massive protests that have exposed unprecedented fissures in Israeli society.

The vote came after a stormy session in which opposition lawmakers chanted “shame” and then stormed out of the chamber.

The vote reflected the determination of Netanyahu and his far-right allies to move ahead with the plan, which has tested the delicate social ties that bind the country, rattled the cohesion of its powerful military and repeatedly drawn concern from its closest ally, the United States.

In Monday’s vote, lawmakers approved a measure that prevents judges from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are “unreasonable.”

Proponents say the current “reasonability” standard gives unelected judges excessive powers over decision-making by elected officials. But critics of the government says it removes a key element of the court's oversight powers and opens the way for corruption and improper appointments.

With the opposition out of the hall, the measure passed by a 64-0 margin.

After the vote, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the plan, said parliament had taken “first step in an important historic process” of overhauling the judiciary.

More mass protests were expected after the vote.

Earlier, demonstrators, many of whom feel the very foundations of their country are being eroded by the government’s plan, block ed a road leading up to the parliament, and big mall chains and some gas stations shuttered their doors in protest.

Further ratcheting up the pressure on Netanyahu, thousands of military reservists have declared their refusal to serve under a government taking steps that they see as setting the country on a path to dictatorship.

Those moves have prompted fears that the military’s preparedness could be compromised.

“These are dangerous cracks,” military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi wrote in a letter to soldiers on Sunday meant to address the tensions.

"If we will not be a strong and cohesive military, if the best do not serve in the IDF, we will no longer be able to exist as a country in the region.”

Ahead of Monday’s vote, opposition leader Yair Lapid had declared: “We are headed for disaster.”

The vote came only hours after Netanyahu was released from the hospital, where he had a pacemaker implanted.

His sudden hospitalisation added another dizzying twist to an already dramatic series of events, which were watched closely in Washington.

The Biden administration has frequently spoken out against Netanyahu's government and its overhaul plan.

In a statement to the news site Axios late Sunday, President Joe Biden warned against pushing ahead with the legal changes that were sparking so much division.

“Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus,” he told the site.

Biden has also been critical of the government's steps to deepen Israel's occupation of the West Bank.


Source: TRT