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March 4, 2024

Israel’s Supreme Court Deals Blow to Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul Amid Ongoing Gaza Conflict

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Jan 4, 2024

Israel’s Supreme Court has struck down a key component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial overhaul, just as the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza continues to rage. The court ruled that a law preventing it from striking down “Basic Laws” passed by parliament would not go into effect for months, allowing challenges to proceed.

Background on Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul

Earlier this year, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government approved a plan to weaken the Supreme Court by allowing parliament to override its rulings with a simple majority vote. This would have prevented the court from striking down laws it deems unconstitutional.

The judicial overhaul has been hugely controversial domestically and internationally. Supporters argue it is necessary to curb overreach by unelected judges. Critics contend it would severely damage Israel’s democratic checks and balances by allowing a bare parliamentary majority to run roughshod over minorities.

Passage of the overhaul last month led to large protests in Tel Aviv and condemnation abroad. Former Israeli officials warned it could undermine relations with American Jews and Israel’s standing in the U.S. Congress.

Key Components of Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul
Allow parliament to override Supreme Court rulings with 61/120 vote
Increase government influence over selection of judges
Prevent court from ruling on “Basic Laws” determining rights

Supreme Court Delays Core Element of Overhaul

In a landmark ruling on January 1st, the Supreme Court decided that the section preventing it from striking down Basic Laws would only take effect in three months. This allows opponents to continue challenging the law’s constitutionality in the interim period.

The court decided an element limiting its powers could not be immediately imposed before allowing it to rule on the matter. While not striking down the overhaul entirely, it has clearly asserted its authority for now.

Ruling Deals Political Blow to Netanyahu

The decision is a setback for Netanyahu’s Likud party and its ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies, who lack the 80/120 supermajority needed to override a court veto. It comes after the government also suffered recent parliamentary defeats over the overhaul and use of private investigators against protest leaders.

Netanyahu is now boxed in between his coalition, which insists on implementing the full overhaul to curb liberal judicial influence, and domestic and international critics alarmed over threats to democracy and minority rights. Meanwhile, he continues to face legal jeopardy in his ongoing corruption trial.

With elections looming in November, political divisions have deepened tremendously around both the overhaul and the Gaza conflict. Netanyahu’s plans for the judiciary will likely be a central campaign issue.

Impact on Israel’s Ongoing Conflict with Hamas

The Supreme Court ruling landed amidst Israel’s fierce aerial offensive on Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Hamas and other militants. Speculation has risen that the turmoil around Netanyahu’s overhaul and personalized leadership style may have emboldened Hamas.

While the ruling does not directly affect security matters, it adds pressure given criticism of the Gaza campaign’s rising civilian toll. A budget crisis also looms if consensus cannot be reached.

Ultimately Netanyahu retains broad public support for a forceful response to Hamas. But there are growing calls for a exit strategy and renewed peace efforts from across the political spectrum.

With the Supreme Court able to maintain review powers over new legislation for now, the judicial overhaul’s future remains uncertain. Regardless, it is clear the issue will continue exacerbating Israel’s domestic divides for months and years to come.

What Happens Next?

In the near term, opponents of the judicial overhaul are expected to file challenges to the law within weeks. With the court empowered to issue rulings contradicting the government, an institutional showdown appears inevitable by the spring.

Parliament still retains the option of re-legislating elements of the overhaul with a 80/120 supermajority. However, building consensus seems doubtful amidst the acrimony around both the Gaza conflict and Netanyahu’s legal cases.

Meanwhile in Gaza, neither side seems close to backing down militarily despite international ceasefire efforts. But with limited long-term strategic objectives achievable there, domestic political pressures may eventually force de-escalation on both Netanyahu and Hamas.

Timeline of Key Upcoming Events
January: Anti-overhaul petitions filed with Supreme Court
February: Court begins hearing cases on overhaul
March: Further Gaza ceasefire negotiations
April: Possible Supreme Court rulings against overhaul
May: Budget crisis without consensus
November: Israeli general elections

So in summary, Israel faces a period of unprecedented domestic unrest around Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul ambitions, even as the Gaza war continues exacerbating national divisions. With Supreme Court authority preserved for now, the overhaul’s future depends heavily on electoral politics. But the issue seems likely to intensify Israel’s ideological fights regardless of who ultimately prevails.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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