Israeli Parliament on Monday passed a controversial bill that removes the Supreme Court’s power to overrule government actions deemed unreasonable. The law is the first in a series of reforms to limit judicial authority and has sparked significant protests in Israel’s history.

Critics argue that the reforms threaten Israel’s democracy. They say that the Supreme Court is a vital check on the power of the government and that limiting its powers will lead to a more authoritarian state.

The government justifies the measures as necessary to address an imbalance of power, with courts increasingly intervening in political decisions. They say reforms will restore power balance between government branches.

Prior to the final vote, police used water cannons and arrested protesters outside the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem. The vote marks the climax of months of turmoil, with the country’s president warning of a “state of national emergency.”

The bill’s passage is a major victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who long sought to limit Supreme Court power. The proposed reforms equip the government with power to control the appointment of judges, including those in the Supreme Court, by increasing its representation on the appointing committee. The proposed changes would also absolve ministers of the legal obligation to follow the counsel of their legal advisers, who are presently guided by the attorney general as mandated by law.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid expressed his concern about Israeli democracy, stating that it was a sombre day. He emphasised the crucial role of the Supreme Court as the protector of rights and freedoms and accused Netanyahu of depriving the court of its authority. Lapid warned that such a move was perilous and could lead to a more authoritarian state.

The bill’s passage is likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen whether the court will uphold the law or strike it down.

The law, which was passed by a vote of 64-0, removes the Supreme Court’s power to strike down government decisions that it deems unreasonable. This means that the government will now have the final say on all policy matters, without worrying about judicial interference.
The vote on the bill marks the climax of months of turmoil in Israel. The country has been deeply divided over the reforms, with protests occurring throughout the country.
Since the beginning of the year, massive weekly protests have taken place, expressing opposition to the government’s reform plans. The protests have grown in scale, with hundreds of thousands of people gathering in Tel Aviv and other towns and cities throughout Israel.