What Israel’s New Law Means and What Comes Next

On Monday, the Israeli Knesset passed the Reasonableness Standard Law, part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s set of proposals to limit the Supreme Court’s power. The bill “prevents judges from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are ‘unreasonable.’” The bill passed 64-0, approved solely by the governing coalition members, while opposition members abstained.

The bill’s passage has caused an uproar, including protests in the street and polarized reactions both in Israel and throughout the world. Opposition lawmakers jeered the bill during the session and stormed out of the chamber. The United States has condemned the bill, as the White House considers the vote “unfortunate.” Rallies within Israel have ranged from supportive to combatant. 

Netanyahu aims to curb the Court’s power. The next bill, which might present an even larger battle than the Reasonable Standard Law, concerns Netanyahu’s desire to address the Court’s ability to choose its judges without the voice of the people being heard, adding checks to a Supreme Court with an imbalance of power. 

Critics say Netanyahu will gain too much power if his plans fully succeed, as he will not only have influence over the legislative and executive branches of government but also gain power by weakening the judiciary, the third branch. Supporters point to former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak’s overreach of power in 1990, when he gave the high court the right to overturn any laws set by the Knesset, as the reason Netanyahu’s overhaul is necessary.

It seems that both sides desire, at least publicly, a balanced government. Each side fears either the executive or judiciary branch will hold too much power depending on the outcome of Netanyahu’s proposals, and these feelings have sparked demonstrations. Regardless, the unrest Israel faces right now is unsettling, especially as other countries set their sights on the nation and try to influence its decision. Whether Israelis like it or not, this bill is now law, and they must get used to this new reality, as lawmakers prepare to continue voting on the rest of Netanyahu’s proposals.