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A Push Towards Unreasonableness

A Knesset committee advances a law that would ban courts from striking down laws and appointments even when the courts find them extremely unreasonable; the coalition is moving to prevent the Israeli Bar Association from participating in the Judicial Appointments Committee because the new democratically-elected chair of the Bar opposes the judicial overhaul; Tel Aviv Chief of Police resigns in protest of Internal Security Minister demands more violence towards protesters.  

By Dr. Ido Baum

This week saw high-stakes political drama unfolding both within the walls of the Knesset and on the streets of Israel. 

The coalition majority in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, under the guidance of Judicial Coup architect MK Simcha Rothman, pushed forward a controversial anti-democratic constitutional amendment, steamrolling opposition voices and turning a deaf ear to public outrage.

This proposed legislation aims to abolish the “reasonableness criterion,” which would mean that the judiciary would lose its power to consider any challenges to the decisions of elected officials — such as a minister or even a mayor — based on the premise of extreme unreasonableness.

The Attorney General and a panel of legal experts have expressed grave concerns, warning that this change would create significant gaps — “black holes” — in the judiciary’s capacity to scrutinize government actions. Further adding to the chorus of concerns, lawyers from the private sector cautioned that such a severe restriction on challenging government decisions could deter foreign investments in Israel.

Contrary to assurances by coalition members that the proposed legislation’s scope would be refined to limit the unchecked power granted to public officials, no such modifications have been made. The Knesset is set to vote on this anti-democratic amendment within the week, requiring two further affirmations for ratification. Given the current majority held by the coalition, there is a strong possibility that this law could pass before the Knesset concludes its summer session at the end of July.

In addition, the coalition is accelerating other pieces of legislation tied to the Judicial Coup. In a defiant move after a pro-democracy candidate was elected chair of the Israel Bar Association, which controls the selection of two representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee, a new bill has been introduced to disband the Bar altogether. 

Architects of the Judicial Coup have openly declared their intention to promote legislation to reshape the structure of the Judicial Appointments Committee and dominate the judiciary following the Knesset’s summer recess. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent US media interview assertion that he has discarded the “Override Clause,” it has become evident that his coalition members hold a different view. The ultra-Orthodox parties, in particular, have maintained that this component of the Judicial Coup’s legislation is very active.

Compounding these troubling political developments, the right to protest is also under threat. Following the resignation of Ami Eshed, the Tel Aviv District Chief of Police,  thousands of Israelis thronged the streets in protest. Eshed cited his refusal to enforce National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s order to adopt a harsher approach towards protesters as the reason behind his departure.

As legislation related to the Judicial Coup gains more traction, these protests are expected to intensify. With Ben Gvir set to appoint a new national Chief of  Police by the end of the year, there are fears that potential candidates may comply with the minister’s demand to take an aggressive stand.

Ido Baum is an associate professor of law at the Haim Striks Faculty of Law at the College of Management (COLMAN) in Israel. He is also the director of the Louis Brandeis Institute for Society, Economy and Democracy. Dr. Baum has a wealth of experience in academia, having served as vice dean of the law faculty and visiting professor at several prestigious institutions, including Peking University, Georgetown Law Center, Hamburg University, and the Warsaw School of Economics.
Dr. Baum’s research interests include corporate governance, securities regulation, civil procedure, law and economics, media law, and antitrust. He is the author of numerous articles and books on these topics. Dr. Baum is also a frequent commentator on legal and economic issues in the Israeli media.



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