Israeli scholars present judicial reform compromise amid mass protests

One of the authors of the proposal says he recognizes 'need' for 'a major reform,' but a compromise is needed to prevent 'constitutional chaos'; compromise includes increasing majority needed in Knesset to approve Basic Laws

AFP, Ynet|
Prominent Israeli scholars presented to the Knesset an outline for a compromise on the coalition's judicial overhaul, which critics view as a threat to democracy, fueling mass protests.
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  • Lawmakers late Monday voted and approved key provisions of the proposed reform, which would overhaul the justice system and give politicians greater power over the courts.
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    ועדת החוקה, חוק ומשפט
    ועדת החוקה, חוק ומשפט
    Law professor Yuval Elbashan
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevich)
    Law professor Yuval Elbashan, one of the authors of the proposal, said Monday he recognized the "need" for "a major reform", as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government advocates.
    The compromise aims at "preventing constitutional chaos", its text said.
    Ten consecutive weeks of nationwide demonstrations have followed Justice Minister Yariv Levin's announcement in January that the coalition would pursue judicial reforms, with petitions and protests by various professional sectors in Israel.
    Elbashan, who had penned the proposal along with former justice minister Daniel Friedmann and Tel Aviv University chair Giora Yaron, urged parliament's law committee to begin working on a compromise to address growing social tensions.
    "The judicial system and especially the Supreme Court need a major reform," Elbashan said. "Every day that passes increases anxiety," he told lawmakers during a heated debate. "You have to do something."
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    פעילים נגד ההפיכה המשטרית חוסמים את הכביש המוביל לכניסה למשרדי הממשלה
    פעילים נגד ההפיכה המשטרית חוסמים את הכביש המוביל לכניסה למשרדי הממשלה
    Anti-government rally in Jerusalem on Tuesday
    (Photo: Block the Revolution )
    Committee chairman, Simcha Rothman, said that while the gaps remained substantial, the outline could constitute "a basis for negotiations" with opponents of the government plan.
    Rothman met on Sunday with President Isaac Herzog, who has been trying to mediate between the coalition and opposition as well as other stakeholders.
    The bills being advanced by the coalition, which took office in December, would hand more powers to the ruling coalition in appointing judges, enable parliament to override court rulings with a simple majority and make it difficult for courts to strike down legislation.
    Elbashan's compromise outline includes increasing the majority needed in parliament to approve Basic Laws, Israel's quasi-constitution, and altering the composition of the judicial appointments committee.
    Lawmakers, meanwhile, were set to vote at first reading on a bill that would require 12 of a full 15-judge Supreme Court bench in striking down legislation deemed in contradiction with Basic Laws.
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    מפגינים נגד ביקורו של שר האוצר בצלאל סמוטריץ' בכנס הבונדס בוושינגטון
    מפגינים נגד ביקורו של שר האוצר בצלאל סמוטריץ' בכנס הבונדס בוושינגטון
    Protesters against Netanyahu's reforms rally in New York
    (Photo: Gil Gatz)
    It would also allow parliament to override Supreme Court rulings that strike down legislation with a simple majority, and deny the court the right to review such a move. The bill would then need to return to the law committee for further discussions and votes, before being finalized in second and third plenum readings.
    Another bill set for a first-reading vote would limit the chances of a prime minister being impeached.
    Opponents say the measure is aimed at protecting Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges he denies.
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