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Knesset set to vote on judicial reform bill

The bill will block the courts from using "reasonableness" as a standard to overturn Cabinet decisions. Protesters plan a "day of disruption" in response.

A plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Feb. 28, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
A plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Feb. 28, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset will vote Monday evening on a bill to restrict the use of the “reasonableness” standard by the Supreme Court.

The Knesset debate on the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. local time, with a vote expected at 10:00 p.m.

The bill’s text bars the standard as a legal justification for judges to reverse decisions made by the Cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as set by law.”

In January, Israel’s High Court used the reasonableness standard to overturn the appointment of Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri as health and interior minister.

Critics say the standard is legally vague and has been used by the court to encroach upon the government’s authority. Opponents say the bill will erode Israel’s system of checks and balances and lead to an abuse of power.

Following the vote, MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee will immediately prepare the bill for the additional plenum votes necessary for the bill to pass. (Bills require three readings in the Knesset plenum to become law.)

The goal of the coalition is to pass the bill before the end of the summer session on July 29.

This bill is part of the coalition’s legislative push, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to reform the judicial branch. The opposition is firmly opposed to the changes, taking to the streets in past months for large demonstrations and engaging in contentious parliamentary debates.

Protest organizers against reform plan a “day of disruption” on Tuesday, which will include “demonstrations, marches and convoys.”

Protesters also intend to demonstrate at Ben Gurion International Airport. Police say they will prevent a repeat of the protest on July 3, when thousands of demonstrators attempted to bar traffic to the airport and succeeded in snarling movement, including at the arrival halls.

Big Shopping Stores, a chain of strip malls, backed down on Monday after initially declaring it would strike in solidarity with the protests. But shop owners in its malls said they wouldn’t go along with the plan, particularly amid growing calls for a boycott of Big chains by right-wing consumers.

The coalition’s decision to push ahead with judicial reform legislation came after compromise talks hosted by Israeli President Isaac Herzog stalled last month. (Legislation had been frozen since March to give the talks a chance to succeed.)

On Sunday, Herzog continued to insist an agreement was “attainable.” He said the decision of the sides to reject talks was “a blunder of historic proportions.”

The current bill advanced out of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on July 4 after five heated sessions.

A shouting match broke out before the committee voted with opposition lawmakers shouting that it was “an illegal vote” and “This is how a dictator behaves.”

Rothman tweeted before the vote that “reducing the cause of reasonableness is a necessity in a country that is interested in democracy, in the separation of authorities and in strengthening the connection between authority and responsibility.”

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