The fifteen judges of the Israeli Supreme Court rejected, Monday January 1, a key part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform. The Prime Minister’s plan has deeply divided Israeli society since the beginning of 2023. Numerous demonstrations have taken place.

In a ruling Monday, the court narrowly voted, by a majority of eight to seven, in favor of overturning. The Supreme Court has considered appeals filed against a first clause of the reform bill, which was adopted by Parliament at the end of July 2023. The measure aims to prevent Supreme Court judges from overturning government decisions in on the grounds that they are “unreasonable”, which she has done on several occasions so far.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin accused the Court of “assuming all powers” ​​after its decision. “In fact, the judges [of the Supreme Court] take into their hands, with this decision, all the powers which, in a democratic regime, are distributed in a balanced manner between the three powers”, executive, legislative and judicial, said writes the minister on Telegram. He also criticized the publication of this judgment “in the middle of the war [in the Gaza Strip], which goes against the unity necessary in these days for the success of our fighters on the front.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party criticized the timing of this decision, saying that it was “regrettable that the Supreme Court decided to publish its verdict at the heart of a social debate in Israel while the soldiers of right and left are fighting and risking their lives in the countryside.” “The Court’s decision is contrary to the people’s desire for unity, especially in times of war,” the party added.

The opposition welcomes the decision

The leader of the opposition and former prime minister, Yaïr Lapid, for his part, welcomed the decision, judging that the Court had “faithfully fulfilled its role in protecting the citizens of Israel”. This decision “ends a difficult year of conflicts that tore us apart from the inside and led to the worst catastrophe in our history,” Mr. Lapid said on X, referring to the Hamas attack.

The decision “must be respected”, reacted on X Benny Gantz, member of the war cabinet and former rival of Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for unity “to win the war, together”.

The Movement for the Probity of Power, which had filed the appeal against this clause, welcomed a “historic” decision, affirming in a press release: “The government and the ministers who wanted to do without judicial power have learned that there has judges in Jerusalem and a democracy with separation of powers.”

The association of former soldiers Ahim Laneshek (Brothers in Arms) gave its support on

Protest movement

Since its announcement in early January 2023, the government project has given rise to one of the largest protest movements that Israel has experienced since its creation in 1948.

According to the government, the reform aimed, among other things, at rebalancing powers, by reducing the prerogatives of the Supreme Court for the benefit of Parliament. Opponents of the reform, for their part, fear that the proposed changes, by breaking down safeguards on the action of the legislative and executive power, will tip Israeli democracy towards an illiberal system.

They accuse Mr. Netanyahu, on trial for several cases of corruption and conflict of interest, of wanting this reform to get out of his legal troubles. The Prime Minister has not yet reacted to the decision.

Israel has no Constitution or 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.

The Supreme Court further ruled that it had the authority to invalidate a Basic Law “in rare and exceptional cases in which Parliament exceeds its authority.” The Basic Laws serve as the Constitution in Israel.