On March 22nd 2023, there was a protest outside the Eretz Israel Museum while the Knesset (Parliament) had a discussion on the judicial appointments bill. The bill will allow the Knesset to appoint judges, this means that they will be able to appoint some judges for the Supreme Court, and it has been speculated that they will be able to appoint most (if not all) judges for lower courts.
The Israeli political structure is split into a legislative, executive, and judicial branch – this separation of powers essentially means that each of these elements are able to remain distinct, and whilst there are interactions between each, this individuality isn’t infringed. Therefore, the judicial appointments bill will blur the line between the legislative and judicial branch, going against the principle of the separation of powers. Additionally, this will add a political dimension to the judicial system, something which is prevalent in the US, and is particularly controversial due to its democratic implications. Israeli journalist, Nadav Eyal, explained that the bill will go against the principle of democracy as it will allow the government to gain power which goes against the constitutional norms of Israel, and is a major “regime change”.
Additionally, Netanyahu’s government will only need a majority of 61 out of the 120 members of the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings. This again gives the legislative and judicial branch too much influence over each other to fulfil the requirement of a separation of powers.
Both Yariv Levin and Simcha Rothman are pushing in defence of the bill. Levin is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, and Rothman is the chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Since the Supreme Court made their ‘Gaza Strip decision’ in 2005, and displayed bias against the settler movement in Israel (a product of the ultra-religious ‘Land of Israel Movement’), many people, including Levin and Rothman, felt the Supreme Court was too biased against the movement which encouraged Jewish settlement. Therefore, it is felt that the bill will retrieve power from the Supreme Court which will allow it to become more democratic and less biased.
These opposing views on upholding constitutional principles and religious movements feeds the controversy around the bill.
It is important to note that Netanyahu (the Prime Minister) is has been facing potential charges of corruption since 2016. He has been accused of corruption due to claims of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges – which if he is convicted of, will lead to him facing several years in prison. It is argued by protesters that the bill is a ploy not only to disturb the sanctity of democracy in Israel, but also to help Netanyahu avoid being found guilty of corruption.