In defiance of protests and pressure from the White House, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed the first in a series of judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The newly approved law prevents courts from using their interpretation of “reasonableness” to obstruct government policies.
Critics have long contended that the “reasonableness” doctrine was susceptible to abuse by the left-leaning judiciary, mainly when dealing with conservative governments in Israel.
On Monday morning, Netanyahu emerged from the hospital, where he had received a pacemaker fitting over the weekend, to participate in the crucial vote.
The nation witnessed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, both in support and opposition of the reform, with some attempting to block the entrance to the Knesset, leading to the use of water cannons by the police to disperse the crowds.
U.S. President Joe Biden, whose administration publicly disapproved of Israel’s internal reforms, warned Netanyahu against proceeding with the reform. Biden’s administration had also explored the idea of “packing” the Supreme Court.
In a statement, the White House expressed its disappointment with the narrow majority that led to the vote’s passage. As a staunch ally of Israel, President Biden has consistently conveyed his belief that significant changes in a democracy should ideally be based on a broad consensus, both publicly and in private, according to the White House.
The Biden administration has consistently voiced concerns about the actions of Netanyahu’s government and its comprehensive reform plan. President Biden has particularly criticized the government’s efforts to further Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
The outcome of the other proposed reforms remains uncertain. Netanyahu had temporarily halted the comprehensive reform package in response to springtime protests, seeking time to negotiate with opposition parties.
However, those negotiations fell through, prompting him to pursue the reforms incrementally.
It’s worth noting that many of the proposed reforms align with existing practices in democratic countries, including the United States. Israel’s judiciary gradually gained extensive powers starting in the 1990s.
Despite the opposition’s boycott of the final vote, Netanyahu’s coalition stood united and secured a party-line vote, resulting in 64 votes in favor and none against.
CNN inaccurately portrayed the new reform as blocking the courts from reviewing all government policies, which is inaccurate.