Netanyahu and the Courts
Israel’s Supreme Court has long been a solid pillar of the Jewish state’s democracy, holding to account governments of all political stripes. But as the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, puts the finishing touches to his fourth coalition after an election in March, he is preparing for an unprecedented fight to muzzle the court. The outcome of the contest—between politicians and judges, and between nationalist and universal values—could tear his government apart, and determine the future character of Israeli politics.
A new coalition is likely to be agreed on in the next few days. Five of its six parties are committed to vote for new legislation that would fulfil the long-held aspiration of right-wing and religious parties to limit the Supreme Court’s power to strike down laws passed by the Knesset.
Mr Netanyahu favours an “override clause”, under which the court could overturn laws only if eight or more judges vote to do so (currently a simple majority of the bench, for big cases usually 11 judges from a total of 15, is needed). Even then the Knesset would be able to push the law through with another vote. He also plans to expand the judicial appointments committee, which chooses all of Israel’s judges. By adding a minister and an additional Knesset member to the existing nine-strong committee, politicians would gain the upper hand; the legal profession currently has a majority, with three Supreme Court justices and two members of the bar association. The change could open the way for the government to pack the court.