Netanyahu softens judicial overhaul but showdown with top court looms – Middle East Monitor


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that he would scale back his judicial reform plan but an unrelenting opposition said he would still challenge key Supreme Court rulings, setting the stage for a constitutional meltdown. Reuters reports.

The reform package sought by Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition has sparked weeks of unprecedented street demonstrations and raised concerns among Western allies who see a threat to the independence of Israel’s justice system.

After discussing the crisis with the President of the United States Joe Biden, Netanyahu said that he would postpone most of the bills, rather than shake up the legislation ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​of the Israeli system for choosing judges, which has he wants to confirm it before the break of Parliament on April 2.

Netanyahu and the judicial reform – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Amendments to that Bill were made in a Knesset review panel on Sunday that would reduce the likely majority of coalition figures on a panel that reviews appointments to the bench.

Netanyahu, in a statement to coalition partners, described his revised overhaul as “extending a hand to anyone who really cares about national unity and wants to reach an agreement.”

The centre-left opposition canceled that.

“This is a blueprint for a hostile takeover of the justice system,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said in televised remarks. “When the change to the Judicial Appointments Committee comes through, we will appeal against it at the Supreme Court.”

Legal scholars worry that the rift within Israeli society over the overhaul – which Netanyahu says will balance the branches of government – will become catastrophic if the supreme court is asked to overturn legislation that limits its powers.

Biden, in a phone conversation Sunday, said he would support a compromise on judicial overhaul and encouraged checks and balances as well as broad consensus building, according to the White House. Netanyahu reassured Biden about the health of Israeli democracy, according to the Prime Minister’s office.

Previously, the Bill envisioned the panel including three cabinet ministers, two coalition lawmakers and two public figures chosen by the government – spelling a 7-4 majority vote.

READ: Netanyahu tells Biden Israel’s democracy is safe for judicial plans

In its amended form, the bill envisages that the panel will consist of three cabinet ministers, three coalition legislators, three judges and two opposition legislators. That 6-5 majority could be slimmer and less certain for the government.

The amended Bill also states that no more than two Supreme Court judges can be appointed by regular panel voting in a given Knesset session. Any appointments beyond that would have to be approved by a majority vote, including one judge and one opposition lawmaker among the members of the selection panel.

The Black Flag activist group said it would intensify the demonstrations that have already rocked the country and are linked to its usually apolitical military. He accused Netanyahu of trying to “put the opposition to sleep with nice words.”

Netanyahu also faced coalition criticism.

“I woke up to the morning of capitalism,” said Tally Gotliv, a lawmaker in his conservative Likud party. Radio Inet. “We surrendered the amendments.”

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