The Knesset Assembly Hall, March 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
The Knesset Assembly Hall, March 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
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Analysis

What’s ahead for Israel’s judicial reform bills?

With little hope left for reaching a compromise, here are the five possible scenarios.

With only 10 days left until the Knesset recess begins on March 29, here are six possible scenarios regarding the future of the government’s judicial reform plan.

The bills pass, sparking a constitutional crisis

The first possibility is that the coalition will turn down Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s outline for a compromise, ignore the ongoing protests and calls from within the Likud Party for negotiations, and continue to promote the first cluster of the judicial reform bills, bringing them to the Knesset for second and third readings within two weeks.

While in this scenario the reform bills are likely to be voted into law, it is still unclear how the judiciary will react and whether the Supreme Court will strike them down. Theoretically, under the new legislation, the Knesset would be able to override the court’s decision if so. If that is not accepted by the judges, the country would be thrown into a constitutional crisis.

There is also a danger of increased protests should the coalition push forward with the bills as-is. The Histadrut Labor Federation, for instance, could declare that the proposed legislation will harm workers and shut down the economy.

In such a scenario, the government will need to regulate the fallout, either by changing the legislation or working to end the strike in other ways.

The bills are frozen, triggering a coalition crisis

The other scenario is that the coalition yields and pauses the legislation until after the Knesset recess, opening the door for negotiations with the opposition and as a sign of goodwill and readiness for talks.

Such a decision, however, might lead to the resignation of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is spearheading the reform, triggering a crisis within the coalition.

The ultra-Orthodox factions are not interested in pausing the legislation, either, as the conscription law is coming up for a vote in the Knesset soon, and is likely to be rejected, as its predecessors have been, by the Supreme Court.

The bills pass, but in modified form

Another possibility is that the coalition pushes forward with the judicial reform, but adjusts the bills’ wording.

Levin and the Haredi factions insist on passing the first batch of the bills before the recess begins next week, while no lawmaker in the opposition is open to negotiating unless the legislative process is frozen first.

That leaves the option of the coalition unilaterally tweaking the proposed legislation to mitigate the conflict; both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates have spoken of this option in the past few days.

The legislation is paused due to a security escalation

Another development that might get in the way of the government getting the laws passed by Passover is a security escalation.

Based on remarks by senior officials in the defense establishment, including Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant, Israel will respond soon to the bombing at the Megiddo Junction on March 13, which was carried out by an infiltrator from Lebanon.

Although state and military officials have stressed that they are not interested in an escalation, things may spiral out of control, as has happened in such cases in the past.

Such a development could potentially allow Netanyahu to put the reform on hold without Levin resigning or the Haredi factions pulling out of the coalition. In this scenario, the door would open for negotiations with the opposition.

The president’s outline is revived

And lastly, although the coalition has already rejected the president’s compromise plan, the proposal, or a version of it, might still be revived.

Herzog himself said a day after his proposal was revealed that it was not final, but rather a basis for talks that could develop if the parties are interested.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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