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Israel-Hamas Conflict Update: High Court Ruling Strikes Down Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul

In a landmark decision, Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated a government plan to curtail the judiciary’s powers, intensifying an already heated debate within the country. 

The ruling, with a slim majority of eight votes to seven, declared the government’s amendment to the “reasonableness law” unacceptable. 

Amendment Undermines Supreme Court Authority

This amendment had stripped the Supreme Court of its authority to declare government decisions unreasonable, marking a significant blow to the judiciary’s independence.

The contentious law, passed by the Knesset last year, sparked widespread protests and drew opposition from a considerable portion of the population. The court’s decision to reject the amendment emphasized its potential to inflict a “severe and unprecedented blow to the core characteristics of the State of Israel as a democratic state.”

The ruling has the potential to reignite the debate that dominated Israeli discourse throughout 2023, which had been momentarily set aside following Hamas’ attacks on October 7. 

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Israel’s Supreme Court Invalidates Controversial Judicial Restrictions

In a landmark decision, Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated a government plan to curtail the judiciary’s powers, intensifying an already heated debate within the country.

The decision could also create divisions within Israel’s war cabinet, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with two prominent critics of his judicial reform efforts, navigate the implications of this development.

Netanyahu’s future actions will be closely scrutinized, as any attempt to proceed with the controversial change might lead to a constitutional crisis. The court’s rejection is seen as a significant victory for those opposing the amendment, as it underscores the importance of preserving democratic principles.

The “reasonableness doctrine,” now reinstated after the ruling, holds significance globally and is not unique to Israel. Used in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, it ensures that decisions made by public officials align with principles of reasonableness, constitutionality, and lawfulness.

Critics argue that Netanyahu’s push for judicial reform is driven by personal motives, particularly to shield himself from corruption charges he faces. The Supreme Court’s decision marks the first time it has nullified a Basic Law or its amendment, signifying the gravity of the situation.

While Netanyahu’s allies criticized the ruling, citing the need for unity during wartime, opposition leader Yair Lapid expressed full support for the Supreme Court, acknowledging its role in protecting the citizens of Israel. The ongoing debate over the judiciary’s role and power dynamics within the country adds another layer of complexity to Israel’s political landscape.

The leak of a draft document on December 29 reignited the issue, prompting the Supreme Court to release its ruling by January 12, with two retiring justices obligated to submit their final rulings within three months of stepping down. The potential implications of this decision extend beyond the courtroom, influencing the broader political and democratic fabric of Israel.

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