The Supreme Court of Israel struck down Monday a key component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform law, which sought to stop judges from nullifying government decisions that they deemed to be unreasonable.
In July 2023, Netanyahu’s government passed a bill, after seven months of debate and widespread protests, abolishing the “reasonableness” clause, which had allowed the Supreme Court and other courts in Israel to overrule the government if they believed that the government’s decisions were “extremely unreasonable.” The passing of the law was met with fierce demonstrations, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis turning out to protest, as well as the military threatening to refuse to serve. It also led to international condemnation, including from the US and several European allies, who expressed concerns over the law.
In the judgment, the fifteen justice panel voted in a slim majority of 8 to 7, to strike down the law, stating that it would damage Israel’s standing as a democratic state. Justice Minister, and the main architect of the law, Yariv Levin accused the court of “taking into their hands, with the ruling, all the authorities that in a democracy are divided between the three branches of government.” While ministers had previously threatened to ignore a negative ruling by the court, 12 of the justices stated that the Supreme Court had the power to overturn basic laws.
The Israeli Civil Rights Association, which represented 38 human rights organizations who were challenging the law, said in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter) that they would:
…stand against any attempt to harm the independence of the court and the independence of the judges, since there is no democracy without human rights and no democracy without an independent judicial system that can protect the individual from the tyranny of the government.
[T]he coup that is taking place these days in the territories, the damage to Arab society, the politicization that the police is going through – all of these are part of the anti-democratic coup, and it is the next challenge that the court will have to face.