Israel Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Limiting Their Power

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jan 01, 2024 - 07:35 PM

The Supreme Court of Israel has struck down a controversial judicial overhaul law enacted last year by the Netanyahu administration which would limit the high court's power.

The judicial overhaul, passed last July and resembling a constitutional amendment, sought to restrict the Supreme Court's authority to nullify government decisions deemed "unreasonable in the extreme." However, the court - unsurprisingly, has ruled against the law, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The ruling could revive the deep political and social strife generated by the judicial reform last year, just as the country reels from the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel and is embroiled in a devastating war in Gaza.

Before the Oct. 7 attack, hundreds of thousands of Israelis came out weekly to protest against Netanyahu’s push to limit the powers of the court and give more control to the elected government.

Eight justices ruled in favor of striking down the law, with seven against.

According to the report, analysts say the decision could have substantial consequences for postwar politics when Israel's ongoing war with Hamas militants in the Gaza strip eventually comes to a close - including any inquiry into intelligence failures leading up to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which left 1,200 people dead (and which has drawn a disproportionately deadly response).

The law, passed last summer by the Knesset, was a component of a broad package aimed at limiting the court's power and giving lawmakers more control. According to Netanyahu, activist, liberal judges control the court - and the legislation seeks to restore the proper balance of power (so, what Democrats want to do to the US Supreme Court). Opponents have argued that the legislation would undermine the court's power as a check on executive and legislative power, and would erode the country's liberal democracy.

Israel’s Supreme Court has struck down a law passed in July that would have taken away the court’s powers to abrogate government decisions it deems to be ‘unreasonable in the extreme.’ Photo: POOL/via REUTERS

"This is really an unprecedented decision because it is the first time in the history of the state where the court strikes down a basic law," said Yaniv Roznai, a law professor at Reichman University in central Israel, who likened the law to a constitutional amendment.

The court also ruled 12-3 that it has the right to strike down a basic law in "unusual and extreme cases" when it runs counter to the core principles of Israel (in their opinions, of course).

Netanyahu's Likud party slammed the ruling, saying "it is unfortunate that the Supreme Court chose to issue a decision at the heart of Israel’s social divisions, precisely when [Israeli] soldiers" are "fighting and risking their lives."

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, considered the judicial overhaul’s chief architect, said the court’s ruling “takes away from millions of citizens their vote and the basic right to be equal partners in decision-making.” Levin has long argued that elected leaders should have more influence over the courts and their authority.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid praised the decision as protecting Israeli democracy. “If the Israeli government again starts the fight over the Supreme Court,” Lapid said, then “they learned nothing on Oct. 7.” -WSJ

Now, Netanyahu's options are limited - but could include passing a more nuanced version of the amendment, or passing basic legislation that would limit the court's ability to strike down basic laws.