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Yair Lapid Demands 18 Month Halt to Judicial Reform Plan

Yair Lapid

Then PM Yair Lapid sends letter to world leaders (photo by Israel Government Press Office)

For the thirtieth straight week, Israel saw Massive demonstrations against the controversial judicial reforms planned by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and after a week in which his government passed the first stage of its program through the Knesset. And opposition leader Yair Lapid is now demanding an 18 month halt to any further passage of new judicial legislation.

This is significant because, while the coalition has the needed absolute majority in the Knesset to pass any new legislation that would alter Israel’s form of government – such as curtailing the authority of its Supreme Court – news reports in Israel suggest that there are enough members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party refusing to support further such legislation in the absence of a broad agreement with the opposition. This would mean that he will not be able to achieve even a simple majority for any such vote in the Knesset, let alone the needed absolute majority of 61 or more of the body’s 120 members.

And what is more, the opposition in the Knesset has been saying for a week that even Benjamin Netanyahu himself was ready for some sort of compromise deal, but caved at the last minute to extremists in his coalition just before last Monday’s vote passed the new “Reasonableness” clause into law.

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The leader of the opposition in the Knesset Yair Lapid – a former Prime Minister who heads the “Yesh Atid” (There is a Future) Party in the Knesset – stated of this, “On [last] Monday, both the president and I thought that there was already an agreement ready to be signed. But then [Justice Minister from the Likud] Yariv Levin and [Minister of National security Itamar] Ben Gvir knocked on the table and threatened to dissolve the government.

Yair Lapid went on to accuse Benjamin Netanyahu of panicking, saying he “surrendered to them, and the law of reasonableness was passed in the most extreme form possible.”

“The only possible solution, and the only thing that will allow a return to negotiations, is a freeze in the legislation,” he said. “The government and the opposition should jointly enact an 18-month moratorium.”

“As long as there is no freeze in legislation, there is no point and no sense in talking about other laws or other agreements, because it is quite clear that the government will run away again at the last minute,” added Yair Lapid.

Basically, the “reasonableness” clause placed limits on when the courts can intervene and decide on whether a law passed by the Knesset should be allowed to stand. This is even so in cases when an independent group appeals a law based solely on its opposition to the policies the law sets and not whether it in any way violates the rights of Israeli citizens or other laws of government.

The new law will also block the courts from interfering with actions made by government ministers based solely on their own beliefs of what is reckless, unethical, or incompletely considered, and not based on what the law says.

Israel’s Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a petition made by an independent group to overturn the new law as being in contradiction to Israel’s democratic principles.

Massive protests have rocked Israel since January when Justice Minister Yariv Levin revealed the government’s plans to alter the nature of Israel’s judicial system. The government’s judicial reform plan would greatly curtail the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify legislation passed by the Knesset and also limit the authority of Israel’s attorney general. The opposition charges this would harm Israel’s democracy, eroding foreign confidence in the country and hurting its economy. And this is why the country is now on the brink of what some are describing as the biggest societal clash in Israel’s history.

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