The decried judicial reform passes a first stage in the Israeli Parliament

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 Much-maligned judicial reform passes first stage in Israeli parliament

Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg Associated Press The government says the reform is needed to restore a balance of power between elected officials and an “independent” but not “omnipotent” justice, in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli Parliament adopted on Tuesday in first reading the derogation clause, one of the most contested provisions of the reform of the judicial system which divides the country, its detractors denouncing an anti-democratic drift.

The text was adopted shortly before 3 a.m. local time by a vote of 61 to 52 and must still pass second and third readings to become law.

The bill adopted at first reading gives the possibility Parliament to overturn certain decisions of the Supreme Court by a simple majority (61 deputies out of 120): this is the derogation clause, which makes it possible to avoid the control of the highest Israeli court.

Earlier, Parliament had passed in first reading another bill considerably reducing the possibility that a Prime Minister in office could be declared unable to exercise his office.

Since the presentation at the beginning of January of the bill, carried by the cabinet formed at the end of December by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most right-wing governments in the history of Israel made up of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties, the demonstrations take place every week across the country.

The protesters denounce the reform as a whole, but also the general policy of the government, and accuse the Prime Minister, charged with corruption in a series of cases, of wanting to use the law to quash a possible judgment coming to condemn him. /p>

On Tuesday morning, a handful of demonstrators formed a line and sat outside the entrance to a building housing several ministries in Jerusalem, temporarily blocking employees from entering.

“Stop the race towards a messianic dictatorship and start working for democracy”, they said.

“Foundations of democracy”

From Generally speaking, the reform, as it stands, would considerably limit the prerogatives of the Supreme Court and would in fact give the majority political coalition the power to appoint judges.

The government says it is necessary to restore a balance of power between elected officials and an “independent” but not “omnipotent” judiciary, in the words of Mr. Netanyahu, who accuses the Supreme Court of being politicized.< /p>

According to its detractors, the project on the contrary carries the risk of a drift towards a model of democracy in Hungary.

Thursday, the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, had called for a halt the current legislative process, calling the bill “a threat to the foundations of democracy”.

Mr. Herzog, who plays an essentially ceremonial role, has begun mediation between the opposition and the government with a view to arriving at a more consensual text likely to be adopted by Parliament and to allay the concerns expressed by opponents of the reform .

On Monday, a compromise proposal was presented to the Law Commission by a former justice minister, a university director and a law professor.

The president of this Commission, Simcha Rothman, felt that it could “be a basis for negotiations”.