Israel: Protesters reject government’s softening of judiciary bill


Protesters in Israel have rejected the government’s attempt to water down the controversial legislation to reform the judiciary, describing it as a “declaration of war”.

The government said on Monday it was accepting an amendment from Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman that would limit the government’s power to override Supreme Court decisions.

The bill originally proposed shaking up the selection panel for judges, expanding the number to 11 and including three cabinet ministers, two coalition lawmakers and two public figures chosen by the government, spelling out a majority vote 7-4.

This amendment changes to three cabinet ministers, three coalition legislators, three judges and two opposition legislators, making government vetoes less certain.

The relaxation of the bill came after a phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, who urged a compromise on the bill.

In its statement, the government said the changes represent “extending a hand to anyone who has a genuine interest in national unity and wants to reach an agreement”.

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However, leaders of the Israeli protest movement against the bill rejected the move, saying the government had decided to “divide our nation and carry out a hostile takeover of the Supreme Court”.

“This is not a softer proposal, but a declaration of war by the Israeli government against its people and Israeli democracy,” they said in a statement to Haaretz on Monday.

They also said that the legislation was “the first chapter in turning Israel into a dictatorship. This is a transparent attempt to numb the protest movement”.

Haaretz reported that the coalition plans to pass this proposal before the Knesset recess in early April, and that the rest of the judicial reform legislation will be delayed until the summer.

Later on Monday, IsraelThe political opposition also said that they will file a challenge in the Supreme Court against the legislation.

“When the change in the Judicial Appointments Committee is over, we will appeal against it at the Supreme Court,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid to his faction.

Israel is currently suffering from a political crisis that has pitted Netanyahu’s far-right government against civil society, academia and the country’s business elite, as well as former government ministers and military figures.

The prime minister is currently on trial for corruption, and the amendments could enable him to avoid conviction or have his case dismissed.

Since his indictment in 2019, Netanyahu has publicly railed against the justice system, saying it is biased against him.

Nadav Argaman, former director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, hit out at the reforms on Thursday evening, warning that they were “turning Israel into a legal dictatorship”.

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