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Backlash Against New Israel Judicial Reform Bill

By: Ray Zhao

After a bill limiting the power of Israel’s judicial branch was introduced, many thousands of Israelis marched on the capital Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. There, at the end of the five-day journey through scorching-hot roads, nearly 20,000 people amassed with Israeli flags and anti-government signs.

The march was strongly anti-government, as most protestors joined due to the judicial reform bill that is scheduled to pass though Israel’s parliament soon. The bill, painted by some as a power grab by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would significantly decrease the judicial branch’s power.

The bill, supported by Netanyahu, would not allow courts to use the concept of “unreasonableness” to deal with petitions and cases. Opponents of the Netanyahu government and right-wing majority coalition claim that reasonableness is a crucial protection against government overreach.

In defending the bill, Netanyahu said that “Israel will continue to be a democratic state… [and a ] liberal state.”

Daniel Friedmann, a law professor who was formally a justice minister, agrees. He views the concept of “reasonableness” as something that will allow judges and courts “to replace all other authorities.”

Natan Sharansky, a former deputy prime minister, said that the concept of reasonableness was too broad and supported the government’s attempts to reform it. But he also emphasized the need for national unity in the end result of how much courts can use “reasonableness” and the exact legal definitions of the phrase.

Others, however, believe that the bill is merely an attempt by the ruling coalition to rein in disobedient judges, who have already ruled more than thrice against Netanyahu’s cabinet appointments. Military reservists even announced that they would stop serving if the law was passed, though only a few hundred have kept that promise.

The bill is deeply unpopular with the Israeli public. Many are concerned that the government is trying to morph into a dictatorship. Already, protests have already worked their magic: others this March led to the suspension of other planned judicial changes that would have further weakened the court system.

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