This week saw high-stakes political drama unfolding both within the walls of the Knesset and on the streets of Israel.
The coalition majority in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, under the guidance of Judicial Coup architect MK Simcha Rothman, pushed forward a controversial anti-democratic constitutional amendment, steamrolling opposition voices and turning a deaf ear to public outrage.
This proposed legislation aims to abolish the "reasonableness criterion," which would mean that the judiciary would lose its power to consider any challenges to the decisions of elected officials — such as a minister or even a mayor — based on the premise of extreme unreasonableness.
Contrary to assurances by coalition members that the proposed legislation's scope would be refined to limit the unchecked power granted to public officials, no such modifications have been made.
The Attorney General, alongside a panel of legal experts, has expressed grave concerns, warning that this change would create significant gaps — “black holes” — in the judiciary's capacity to scrutinize government actions. Further adding to the chorus of concerns, lawyers from the private sector cautioned that such a severe restriction on challenging government decisions could deter foreign investments in Israel.
Contrary to assurances by coalition members that the proposed legislation's scope would be refined to limit the unchecked power granted to public officials, no such modifications have been made. The Knesset is set to vote on this anti-democratic amendment within the week, requiring two further affirmations for ratification. Given the current majority held by the coalition, there is a strong possibility that this law could pass before the Knesset concludes its summer session at the end of July.
In addition, the coalition is accelerating other pieces of legislation tied to the Judicial Coup. In a defiant move after a pro-democracy candidate was elected chair of the Israel Bar Association, which controls the selection of two representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee, a new bill has been introduced to disband the Bar altogether.
Architects of the Judicial Coup have openly declared their intention to promote legislation to reshape the structure of the Judicial Appointments Committee and dominate the judiciary following the Knesset's summer recess.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assertion in a recent US media interview that he has discarded the "Override Clause," it has become evident that his coalition members hold a different view. The ultra-Orthodox parties, in particular, have maintained that this component of the Judicial Coup's legislation is very much active.
Compounding these troubling political developments, the right to protest is also under threat. Following the resignation of Ami Eshed, the Tel Aviv District Chief of Police, thousands of Israelis thronged the streets in protest. Eshed cited his refusal to enforce National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir's order to adopt a harsher approach towards protesters as the reason behind his departure. As legislation related to the Judicial Coup gains more traction, these protests are expected to intensify. With Ben Gvir set to appoint a new national Chief of Police by the end of the year, there are fears that potential candidates may comply with the minister's demand to take an aggressive stand.
Dr. Ido Baum is the legal commentator of the daily newspaper TheMarker. He is an associate professor of law at the Haim Striks Law Faculty at the College of Management in Israel and heads the Louis Brandeis Institute for Society, Economy, and Democracy. He is also a contributor to USA for Israeli Democracy.