You may have heard of protests happening across Israel. What caused these complaints? Israel has always prided itself in being a democracy surrounded by Middle Eastern countries with dictatorships. The current head of the far-right coalition, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, is widely criticized due to several charges such as fraud and breach of trust that are being looked into involving him. Earlier this year, Netanyahu proposed a significant bill in Israel’s history. It proposes weakening the country’s judiciary by allowing the Parliament to overrule the Supreme Court’s decisions by only a simple majority. A bill needs to be voted on and passed three times by the Knesset in order to be made into a law. Because Israel lacks a formal constitution, this bill is legal, despite its potential harm to democracy.
Reactions to this bill have varied wildly. Those who support the bill feel as though this gives wider representation in the judiciary and prevents non-elected judges from dramatically influencing laws. However, many feel otherwise. Critics argue that this could effectively take out an important check on the government. They feel that this unprecedented power would silence minority opinions and damage democracy irreparably.
So what is happening today? As of March 13, 2023, the bill had been passed two times and the Knesset is preparing for the final reading. Some lawmakers boycotted previous readings, but even opposition leaders are now proclaiming that they don’t plan on showing up. On the civil level, both Israelis and Jews around the world are weighing in their thoughts on this legislation. More and more Israelis are protesting, recently over half a million people. Jews in America are concerned and are sending letters to President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
One thing is clear: heated arguments are spreading throughout the world, and the judicial overhaul bill is just another part of the long discussion about democracy.