Israel: Supreme Court considers appeals against judicial reform
– Supreme Court considers appeals against judicial reform
The controversial judicial reform, passed in July, restricts the powers of the Supreme Court to invalidate a law or decision of the Israeli government.
The Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday examined appeals filed against a measure of judicial reform, a very controversial project of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. She gave the government 21 days to make its case and did not set a date for a decision.
The 15 judges of the highest court in the country held a hearing lasting more than 13 hours to hear arguments against a law aimed at canceling the possibility for the judiciary to rule on “the reasonableness” of decisions of the government or the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
The controversial law, passed in July by the Knesset, restricts the Supreme Court’s powers to invalidate a law or government decision. Before the hearing, dozens of pro and anti-government people demonstrated in front of the Court’s headquarters in Jerusalem.
The President of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, declared at the start of the hearing that eight appeals would be heard, during a session partly broadcast live on television channels. “Of course you think that the government and its ministers must act reasonably,” she told a lawyer representing Parliament, “but who makes sure that they do it well?”
The MP behind the amendment, Simcha Rothman, criticized the principle of the hearing. “For years, little by little, through convoluted legal procedures, the Court has been granting itself unprecedented powers,” said Simcha Rothman, arguing that there was no “reason” for this body to intervene. on the functioning of government.
Lawyer Ilan Bombach, who represents the government, told reporters that if the court intervened on “basic laws,” Israel would no longer be “the same democratic country as before.” On the contrary, Batia Cohen, a 63-year-old demonstrator from Haifa (north), believed that “the only thing that protects us (from the government, editor’s note) is the Supreme Court.”
Inside the room, lawyer Aner Helman, representing the State Prosecutor, regretted the absence of a Constitution in Israel which, according to him, was “an anomaly”. Responding to Judge Hayut’s question whether this law would “deal a fatal blow to the values of the Jewish and democratic state,” he said that this amendment to a fundamental law “would cause a black hole in the Israeli judicial system “.
The judges’ decision must be rendered later, on an unspecified date and it is not known when the next hearing will be held. Since the announcement of the judicial reform in January, the project has been contested in the streets. He was at the origin of one of the most important popular mobilization movements in the history of Israel. Yaïr Lapid, the leader of the opposition, considered the amendment “irresponsible”.
The main architect of the reform, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, said the current hearing was a “fatal blow” to democracy, since, according to him, for the first time, the Supreme Court is considering invalidate a fundamental law, a type of law that acts as a Constitution. “The Court, whose judges choose among themselves and behind closed doors, places itself above the government, Parliament, the people, and the law,” he said in a press release.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party issued a statement during the hearing saying that “the most important foundation of democracy is that the people are sovereign.” Israel has no Constitution, nor the equivalent of an upper house of Parliament, and the doctrine of “reasonableness” has been used precisely to allow judges to determine whether a government is overstepping its prerogatives.
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