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What does the Israeli Supreme Court decision mean for Netanyahu’s government – and its adversaries? | World News


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Even before the attacks on 7 October, which could yet redefine the shape and balance of the Middle East, 2023 was already one of the most consequential in Israel’s 75-year history.

Benjamin Netanyahu, beholden to far-right elements in his coalition and running from court cases lingering over him, had begun pushing through major controversial reforms to the country’s judiciary with the aim of rebalancing legislative power in favour of the government.

In a nation that has no written constitution and no upper chamber of parliament, the Supreme Court is seen as the one check on executive power.

Over months, protests against the government grew in size to the point where hundreds of thousands of people were turning out on Saturday evenings across Israel in opposition to what they feared was a move towards dictatorship.

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Why are there protests about the judiciary in Israel?

The Israeli economy took a major hit, the Shekel collapsed against the dollar, investment was deferred and foreign companies waited to see how things would play out. Thousands of reserve soldiers and air crew went on strike, putting the security of Israel in jeopardy.

Undeterred, Netanyahu and his government ploughed on, finally passing the first major reform in July.

The Reasonableness Bill removed the power of the Supreme Court to strike down government bills if they were deemed “unreasonable”, severely weakening the power of the judiciary to scrutinise government policy.

A challenge, in the courts, was inevitable and so the Supreme Court was asked to rule on a case with direct bearing on its own power.

Such was the importance that it was the first time in the country’s history that all 15 justices sat together on the one case.

For months they have quietly considered a case that has seismic potential, and now we have the ruling. Having decided against the government, the Supreme Court has set down a marker: the judiciary has ultimate say.

If the ruling is rejected by the government, key arms of the state such as the military and police might be forced to decide whose rule of law they obey: the government or the courts?

People take part in a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition government's judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 30, 2023. The banner reads "Don?t separate us". REUTERS/Ilan Rosenberg
A banner reads “don’t separate us” in a protest against the legislation in September in Tel Aviv

Events since 7 October have completely changed the mood and future of Israel, to the extent that it’s not clear how significant this ruling now is and what the consequences will be.

But Netanyahu’s popularity took a direct and severe hit as a result of the controversial judicial reforms.

He has been weakened further and many Israelis hold him responsible for not preventing the Hamas attacks.

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If Netanyahu accepts the ruling, he faces rebellion from within his own coalition and possibly the resignation of the extreme right – and thus the collapse of the government.

All this while Israel is still at war and being challenged by foreign adversaries on multiple fronts.

Those very adversaries will be watching for the fallout from this decision, hoping to take advantage of a divided Israel.

However, the attacks on 7 October pulled a bickering, warring society back together, to unite in the cause of defeating Hamas and returning the hostages – we’ll see whether that unity can hold firm.

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Written by: radioroxi

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