Israel-Hamas war, Gaza humanitarian crisis

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An aerial view shows Israel’s Supreme Court on the morning it is set to discuss petitions against new legislation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition passed as part of a plan to overhaul the judiciary, in Jerusalem, on September 12, 2023. Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday struck down a controversial government plan to limit the powers of the judiciary, in an unprecedented move that reignited fierce tensions in the country as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wages war against Hamas in Gaza.

The court ruled, by eight votes to seven, that a government amendment to the so-called reasonableness law should not stand. The bill had stripped the Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable, and was the first major piece of a multipronged effort to weaken the judiciary to be passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, last year.

The verdict reopened an emotional and heated debate that had raged in Israel throughout 2023 but was sidelined following Hamas’ attacks on October 7. And it could cause splits within Israel’s war cabinet, made up of Netanyahu and two prominent critics of his efforts to overhaul the courts.

Netanyahu’s next moves will be watched closely by all sides, with the threat of a constitutional crisis looming should he attempt to push ahead with the controversial change.

In its ruling, the court said it rejected the amendment because it would deal a “severe and unprecedented blow to the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state.”

The law, which came into effect after it was passed in July, took away the court’s power to veto government decisions based on them being “unreasonable.” Vast swathes of Israel’s population opposed the change, according to opinion polls, which critics said would erode the independence of the courts and harm Israel’s democracy.

Among those opposing the plans were the two fellow members of Netanyahu’s war cabinet. Yoav Gallant, the minister of defense, became the first member of Netanyahu’s pre-war cabinet to publicly oppose his plans in March, leading to his temporary dismissal before he was reinstated. And Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel’s opposition National Unity party, led protests against the efforts earlier in the year.

Following the verdict Monday, Gantz said the court’s decision “must be respected.”

“These are not days for political arguments, there are no winners and losers today. Today we have only one common goal — to win the war together,” he said.
“After the war, we will be required to regulate the relationship between the authorities and enact a basic law that will also anchor the status of the basic laws.”

Read more reaction to the ruling.


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