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Sabra Express | Jury's Out

Israel’s New Government Unveils Plan to Weaken Supreme Court

Isabel Debre and Josef Federman, AP, January 4th 2023


Recap:

Justice minister Yariv Levin proposed an overhaul to the judicial system following campaign promises to increase the power of elected officials.


The Context:

· The proposal includes restricting the High Court’s capacity to strike down government decisions, requiring just a simple Knesset majority to override Supreme Court rulings and changing the process for choosing judges [1]. Supreme Court judges are currently appointed and dismissed by a committee made up of professionals, justices and select lawmakers.

· Proponents of the overhaul say the move will “strengthen democracy, rehabilitate governance, restore faith in the judicial system, and rebalance the three branches of government.”

· Critics say the plan will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances and undermine its democratic institutions by giving absolute power to lawmakers. “What Yariv Levin presented today is not a legal reform, it is a threat. They threaten to destroy the entire constitutional structure of the State of Israel,” said Opposition Leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid [2].

· Levin presented the proposal less than 24 hours before the High Court was set to hear the case against Shas MK Aryeh Deri’s ministerial appointment [3]. Deri was chosen to serve half a term as the minister of health and interior affairs, before becoming finance minister. He will also hold the post of deputy prime minister. Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara wrote a 77-page dissenting argument declaring Deri's selection "extremely unreasonable [4] since it comes less than a year after he was convicted and given a suspended jail sentence [5].


Conversation Points:

· Why did Levin release his proposed changes so close to Deri’s confirmation hearings?

· What is the proper balance between court and state?

· Should lawmakers have the ability to override Supreme Court decisions?


Notes:

1. Justice minister unveils plan to shackle the High Court, overhaul Israel’s judiciary, JEREMY SHARON, Jerusalem Post, January 4th, 2023

2. Under threat, High Court hears petitions against Deri’s ministerial appointment, Times of Israel, January 5th, 2023

3. Israel's new gov't proposes controversial reforms to justice system, Jerusalem Post, January 4th, 2023

4. Supreme Court deliberates convicted Deri appointment as minister, Gilad Morag, Ynetnews, January 5th, 2023

5. Under threat, High Court hears petitions against Deri’s ministerial appointment, Times of Israel, January 5th, 2023


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