TEL AVIV, Israel – Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Israel to protest the new law that passed on Monday.
Nineteen of the protesters at the time of writing had been arrested as police turned water cannons on them.
“It’s a very dark day for Israel. In its 75-year history, it hasn’t faced this kind of threat to its unity caused by an extremist government that’s pushing an anti-democratic legislative agenda that’s generating huge oppositionit’s very dangerous not only for Israel’s internal cohesion but for the message it sends its enemies,” former United States Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told CNN Monday.
The dramatic move by Israel’s government has put the country on the front page of the major newspapers around the world. Television, cable TV, radio and online media have also propelled the story to No. 1 – except in the case of Fox News which currently is not covering the story at all on its website. AIPAC too has notably at this point not issued a statement.
Its rival J Street however has opposed the measure.
“Today’s vote by the Netanyahu government to curtail the Israeli Supreme Court’s authority to overturn the government’s administrative decisions through its “reasonableness standard” is a terrible blow to Israeli democracy and to the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians,” the pro-Israel NGO said in a statement.
“The decision to unilaterally ram through this key piece of the judicial overhaul, in the face of historic opposition and unprecedented protest from so many corners of Israeli society, now plunges Israel into an alarming new phase of its civic turmoil and constitutional crisis.”
“With the ‘reasonableness standard’ repealed with respect to a critical range of government decisions, the Supreme Court has lost a major piece of its ability to act as a balance on the actions of the executive. This extreme-right government will have an increasingly unrestricted hand to carry out major appointments, dismissals and policies without fear that they could be halted and overturned by the court. Their agenda will almost certainly include deeply harmful new acts of annexation and expropriation in the West Bank, where they continue to pursue a one-state nightmare of permanent occupation and exclusive sovereignty between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It will continue to chip away at the rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, Palestinians (both Israeli citizens and those in the occupied territory), non-Orthodox Jews and many others,” J Street said.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset on Monday passed the”Reasonableness” bill, 64 votes to nine, which is the Netanyahu government’s first step to bring the judiciary under its control.
All members of the governing coalition voted in favor of the bill. All members of the opposition walked out as the roll call vote was taking place.
Legislators have enacted the bill despite months of public outrage and protests, opposition from Jewish groups around the world, and international condemnation.
Benjamin Netanyahu checked himself out of hospital where he had a pacemaker installed over the weekend, to attend the vote.
The “reasonableness” bill strips Israel’s Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable.
It is the first major piece of the judicial overhaul planned by the Netanyahu government.
The planned legislation will deliver control over the appointment of judges on the Supreme Court, which Mr Netanyahu and his allies say has become insular and elitist group.
They say Israel’s highest court is intervening on issues is should not be involving itself in.
Netanyahu claims what is proposed is not unique as in the United States, Supreme Court judges are appointed as part of a political process.
His opponents argue the overhaul will allow him to extricate himself from the corruption charges he is currently facing.