Israel's highest court stops judicial reform

Israel's Supreme Court has struck down a key element of the controversial judicial reform passed by Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Eight out of fifteen judges voted against an amendment to the law on the so-called reasonableness clause of July 2023, which would have removed the Supreme Court's power to categorise government decisions as "unreasonable" and overrule them. Is Israel's democracy now back on track?

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The Economist (GB) /

Lack of a constitution makes everything more complicated

The judgment has not settled the dispute, The Economist insists:

“The Supreme Court's ruling in defence of its own powers to overturn the government is a bold one given that Israel does not have a formal, written constitution defining the separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and executive. Yet the ruling will not put an end to the battle over the character of Israel's democracy - between right-wing and religious sections of Israeli society on the one hand and liberal, secular ones on the other. ... When Israel declared its independence in 1948 it postponed passing a constitution because those disagreements seemed too difficult to resolve and, in any case, it had a war to fight.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A victory for a state that is not fully constitutional

De Volkskrant is pleased, but sees a fly in the ointment:

“A liberal democracy needs checks and balances, individual fundamental rights that protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Authoritarian, populist leaders everywhere are trying to weaken this liberal element. ... It is therefore a good thing that the court in Jerusalem has blocked these deplorable plans of the Netanyahu government. And yet there is also something bitter about the judgement. While justice has prevailed in Jerusalem, violence still reigns supreme in Gaza. The court's judgement was a victory for the rule of law, but Israel can only be a constitutional state when this also applies to the Palestinians.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Government must step down after the war

Israel's judiciary has pulled the emergency brake at the last moment, writes Der Standard:

“The coalition under Netanyahu is stubbornly sticking to its guns. ... High-ranking representatives of the right-wing government are now accusing the Supreme Court of driving a wedge into Israeli society, which has been badly scarred by the Hamas attack. This is perpetrator-victim reversal in its purest form: after all, it was the government that drove a deep wedge into society with its fixation on judicial reform. ... When the war is over, this government will have to resign. Then the dark chapter of a looming reorganisation of the judiciary will also come to an end.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Brute force leads to a dead end

The shared trauma of 7 October could at least provide Israel's society with a way out of this crisis, hopes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“Voices from Netanyahu's Likud party suggest that with the war dragging on this is not the time to escalate the constitutional conflict to the max. The reasonable forces within the coalition have long since realised that the legislative brute force with which the judicial reform was pushed through has led to a dead end. ... But the ruling is not a victory for the opponents of the reform either. The extremely close vote shows that there is no clear right or wrong. ... It would be desirable for the country to take at least a small step back onto a path of balance.”