Israeli Supreme Court leak claims to overturn Netanyahu's reforms

 December 29, 2023

Israel's Supreme Court is reportedly set to reverse one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reforms in a razor-thin 8-7 decision, as revealed in a leaked version scheduled for formal release on January 12.

The reform in question alters one of Israel's Basic Laws, aiming to remove the judiciary's authority to nullify legislation or state actions based on the criterion of "reasonableness."

The leak

Critics argue that the "reasonableness" standard is subjective, enabling unelected judges to make rulings based on personal views.

Among the various reforms pursued by Netanyahu's conservative government, eliminating the "reasonableness" standard was considered the most moderate and garnered widespread acceptance.

It secured passage in the Knesset, the legislature, via a party-line vote after months of opposition protests.

The change

A left-wing group, backed by funding from the U.S. State Department, spearheaded legal challenges against the reform. Netanyahu's government countered, asserting that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to overturn Basic Laws, which serve as the foundation for the court's authority.

In September, the Supreme Court convened with a full panel of 15 justices for the first time to hear oral arguments in the case, lasting 13 hours, as reported by the Times of Israel.

The leaked draft opinion of the majority rested on the argument that supporters of judicial reform should have secured a more substantial majority.

The arguments

Former Chief Justice Esther Hayut, who retired a month after the hearing, contended in her written opinion that the law "represents a deviation from the 'outline constitution' and therefore should have been passed with broad agreement, and not with an insubstantial coalition majority."

In the Israeli Supreme Court, there is no requirement for a supermajority in amending a Basic Law.

Similar to the leaked Dobbs decision on abortion rights in the United States, the premature disclosure of the Israeli Supreme Court's decision drew widespread condemnation.

Left-wing groups accused conservatives of attempting to undermine the decision before its official release. The source of the leak is unknown, likely leading to an investigation over who was involved in originally making the information public two weeks ahead of the expected decision.

The acceptance and implications of the Supreme Court's decision remain uncertain. There is a possibility of a constitutional crisis, with different branches of government asserting ultimate authority as the nation also deals with the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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