Netanyahu Defies Biden, Opposition Protests; Passes First Judicial Reform

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JOEL B. POLLAK 24 Jul 2023

Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, passed the first of several judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Monday, defying protests and pressure from the White House.

The new law prevents courts from using their own idea of “reasonableness” in blocking government policies. Critics had long argued that the “reasonableness” doctrine allowed the left-leaning judiciary to abuse its power, and that it tended to do so more often against Israel’s conservative governments.

Israeli flag protest (Ohad Zwigenberg / Associated Press)
Demonstrators wave a large Israeli flag during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. The demonstration came hours before parliament is expected to vote on a key part of the plan. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Netanyahu came out of hospital on Monday morning, where he had been fitted with a pacemaker over the weekend, to attend the vote.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters — both for and against the reform — demonstrated around the country. Police used water cannons to deter some demonstrators who wanted to block the entrance to the Knesset.

Water cannon Israel protest (Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)
Israeli police disperse demonstrators blocking the road leading to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. The demonstration came hours before parliament is expected to vote on a key part of the plan. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

U.S. President Joe Biden, whose administration publicly opposes Israel’s internal reforms, issued a last-minute warning to Netanyahu not to proceed. (Biden’s own administration has mulled “packing” the Supreme Court.)

The fate of remaining reforms is unclear. Netanyahu paused the overall reform package after protests in the spring, allowing time to negotiate with opposition parties. But those talks collapsed. He then decided to move ahead with the reforms, albeit in piecemeal fashion.

Many of the reforms closely parallel existing practice in the U.S. and other democratic countries; Israel’s judiciary began amassing extraordinary powers in the 1990s.

Last-ditch efforts by the country’s largest labor union, and by ceremonial president Isaac Herzog, to propose compromises failed on Monday, and Netanyahu held his coalition together in a party-line vote on the bill.

The opposition parties boycotted the final vote, so the total count was 64 votes in favor and zero against.

CNN inaccurately described the new reform as blocking the courts from reviewing all government policy.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

 

 

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