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High Court justices cut trip short to study petitions against reform law

The Movement for Quality Government claims the new law de facto abolishes the Israeli judiciary.

Supreme Court president Esther Hayut in Nazareth, March 31, 2022. Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS.
Supreme Court president Esther Hayut in Nazareth, March 31, 2022. Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS.

Several Israeli Supreme Court Justices visiting Germany cut their trip short and are returning to Jerusalem to study petitions opposition groups filed against the “reasonableness law” the Knesset passed on Monday.

All 64 members of the coalition voted in favor of the bill. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the third and final vote.

The amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary limits the Supreme Court’s use of the so-called reasonableness standard. It bars “reasonableness” as a legal justification for judges to reverse decisions made by the Cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as set by law.”

The justices, including Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, were in the Central European country as guests of the Germany-Israel Friendship Association in honor of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

On Monday afternoon, all 64 members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition voted in favor of the key judicial reform legislation. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the third and final vote.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel said it has already requested an injunction from the Supreme Court.

The organization claims the law should be canceled as it “fundamentally changes the basic structure of Israeli parliamentary democracy and the nature of the regime, while de facto abolishing the judiciary and seriously damaging the delicate fabric of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in the State of Israel.”

Israeli opposition and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said on Monday he would also petition the High Court “against the unilateral abrogation of the democratic character of the State of Israel and the anti-democratic and predatory nature in which discussions in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee were conducted.”

On Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again called for broad agreement on his government’s plans in an address to the nation.

“Today, we performed a necessary democratic step,” Netanyahu opened his speech, explaining that realizing the will of the voters “is not the end of democracy …, it is the essence of democracy.

“Because of the importance of the issue, the coalition worked to reach agreements with the opposition,” the prime minister continued. “We agreed to stop the legislation and stopped it for three months. We agreed to significant changes.”

However, “no compromise of ours was ever accepted, not even one,” he said. “Even today in the plenary, in the middle of voting, until the last minute, we tried to reach agreements, but the other side refused.”

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