Israel's justice minister introduces controversial judicial reform

Yariv Levin lays out moves designed to crimp judges’ power, including overhaul of judge selection panel’s makeup and law to override Supreme Court rulings

Tova Zimuki|
Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Wednesday revealed a raft of controversial reforms to Israel’s judicial system that may put the executive and judicial branches on a collision course.
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  • “We go to the polls, vote, and time after time, people we did not elect decide for us,” Levin told a press conference in the Knesset.
    2 View gallery
    בנימין נתניהו ,אסתר חיות, יריב לוין
    בנימין נתניהו ,אסתר חיות, יריב לוין
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut
    (Photo: Yair Sagi, Shalev Shalom, Marc Israel Salem)
    “Many look up to the judiciary, but their voices are not heard. This is not democracy.
    I have been dealing with this issue for over 20 years, during which I warned about the harms of ‘judicialization’ and formulated proposals and reforms. Unfortunately, the risks I warned about have materialized.
    Therefore, it is time to act. Today I am launching the first phase of the governance reform, whose purpose is to strengthen democracy, restore governance, restore trust in the judicial system and restore balance between the three branches of government."
    First, Levin announced the Israeli bar association would lose its representation in the Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints judges to Israeli courts, to two “public servants”.
    2 View gallery
    The Supreme Court in Jerusalem
    The Supreme Court in Jerusalem
    The Supreme Court in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    The minister then vowed to pass a law that would allow the legislature to override Supreme Court rulings with a 61-vote majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
    Lastly, Levin previewed moves to forbid the court from using a test of “reasonableness” against which to judge government decisions, arguing “there is no such thing as reasonableness.”
    According to Levin's approach, the Supreme Court should mainly deal with settling disputes and criminal and civil appeals, and not replace the people through their representatives in the Knesset and the government.
    Levin also supports the transparency of legal proceedings in petitions on public matters, including live broadcasts of High Court hearings.
    Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government intends to "apply reforms that will ensure the right balance between the three branches."
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