Israel Grapples with Internal Upheaval Following Passage of Controversial Supreme Court Weakening Bill
27 July, 2023 | Don Tomslee
Several last-minute attempts in the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) to change the legislation
A quiet upheaval in the nation has replaced angry protests after Israel’s Parliament passed a contentious bill this week that could limit the Supreme Court’s authority. This upheaval includes threats of mass emigration, resignations in high positions, army desertions, strikes, and capital flight.
After weeks of extraordinary protests that have paralysed the Jewish state, the Israeli Parliament adopted the divisive measure that limits judicial checks on political authority and is a crucial component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambition to restructure the nation’s justice system.
The opposition boycotted the bill’s final vote in protest, and the law passed on Monday with 64 votes in support and 0 votes against it.
It was the first significant piece of legislation in the government’s much-debated judicial reform proposals to pass.
Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) set to change legislation
There were several last-minute attempts in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) to change the legislation or reach a wider procedural agreement with the opposition, but all of them failed.
Following the passing of the first law, credit rating firm Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday issued a warning about “negative consequences” and “significant risk” for Israel’s economic and security situation.
In April, Moody’s changed the outlook for Israel’s credit from “positive” to “stable,” noting a “deterioration of Israel’s governance” and unrest related to the government’s attempt to fundamentally alter the court.
The wide-ranging breadth of the administration’s measures, according to Moody’s, “in particular, we believe could materially weaken the independence of the judiciary and disrupt effective checks and balances between the various branches of government, which are important aspects of strong institutions.”
It said that “The executive and legislative institutions have become less predictable and more willing to create significant risks to economic and social stability” since Israel has a codified constitution and heavily relies on judicial scrutiny and review.
David Barnea, the director of Mossad, was extensively cited in the foreign media as claiming that his organisation would prevail in history even if the government made a mistake.
According to media, Barnea stated on Monday that the agency had not yet crossed the line into a legal predicament as a result of the government’s revocation of the reasonableness criteria, but if it did, it would always put the rule of law first.
The abolition of the reasonableness requirement has received the unambiguous opposition of all six still-alive former heads of the espionage agency, with five of them blaming Netanyahu for dividing the country.