Bill concentrating power in Netanyahu coalition advances, Israeli legal reform proceeds

Streaming HUBMarch 14, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political allies pushed ahead Monday with their plan to overhaul the judiciary, pushing a bill that would shield the long-serving leader from calls to remove him from office on corruption charges. To be given

The moves were the latest in a series of legislation seen by critics as concentrating power in the hands of the ruling coalition. Despite widespread opposition, the government has vowed to press ahead with the legal changes.

Since taking office in December, Netanyahu and his far-right coalition have pushed through a series of legislation to overhaul the country’s judicial system and further strengthen the power of the executive. This has prompted widespread protests by a large section of Israeli society, with thousands attending weekly for the past two months.

Israel presses ahead with judicial reform despite massive protests

Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and religious coalition allies say the judicial overhaul aims to rein in a functioning Supreme Court. Critics say the measures will erode the country’s fragile system of checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of a majority in parliament.

Despite the outcry and calls for compromise on these issues, the government is pressing ahead with its metamorphosis. A Knesset committee approved a bill on Monday that would only allow parliament to declare a person unfit to rule for physical or mental reasons. Such a measure would require three-quarters of the government’s approval, and could be overridden by the prime minister.

The law currently opens the door for a leader to be removed in other circumstances and the bill moving through parliament appears aimed at preventing Netanyahu from being forced from office because of his ongoing trial. Good governance groups and other critics have called on the country’s attorney general to declare Netanyahu unfit for office.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press ahead with a sweeping overhaul of the country's judicial system.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press ahead with a sweeping overhaul of the country’s judicial system. (AP Photo/Ohd Zwiegenberg)

Netanyahu returned to power late last year after Israel’s fifth election in less than four years. The campaign, like the previous four, focused on Netanyahu’s fitness to govern while facing serious legal problems. Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a hunt by biased media and law enforcement.

Speaking to members of his Likud party on Monday, Netanyahu lashed out at Israeli media, saying they are broadcasting a “never-ending tsunami of fake news” against him. He reiterated his claim that the legal change would strengthen Israeli democracy.

Opposition legislator Orna Barbivai said the bill was “an affront, which says the prime minister is above the law.”

Israeli protesters take to streets against Netanyahu’s ‘judicial reform’, PM calls for unity

The bill was to be brought before Parliament late on Monday for an initial vote and an additional vote was needed before it could become law.

Parliament is also set to vote on another bill that would give parliament the ability to overrule Supreme Court rulings and overrule legislation. That bill would also need an additional vote before it could be established into law.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in the past two months to protest Netanyahu’s program. They say Netanyahu has a conflict of interest during the trial and is motivated by personal grudges against the justice system. Business leaders, legal experts and retired military leaders have joined the demonstrations, and Israeli reservists have threatened to stop reporting for duty if the program is passed.

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Israel’s Palestinian minority, which makes up about 20% of the population, has been largely absent, in part because of the discrimination they suffer in Israel and because of Israel’s treatment of their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza.


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