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Israel's justice minister concedes that the original judicial appointments bill threatened democracy

However, he presents the judicial overhaul as 'good for all citizens of Israel'

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks during a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Jan. 11, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the driving force behind the government’s judicial overhaul, recently admitted that the original judicial appointments bill threatened democracy. 

Levin made his comments in an interview with Israel’s Channel 14 news two weeks ago but the video began circulating on social media on Monday.

Levin said that the judicial appointments bill could “lead to a situation in which all three branches of government become one branch.” 

Since Israel lacks a formal constitution, it is argued that the judicial branch led by the Supreme Court is currently the only factor that prevents any government from seizing complete political power of the country. 

“This claim, that [the blurring of branches] could ultimately lead to a constitutional crisis, is a claim that can’t be ignored – this cannot happen in a democratic country,” Levin noted. “I think it should have been heard. So what we did was simply come and say, 'Gentlemen, this valid concern is what we are responding to.'” 

The justice minister, who previously pushed for the judicial overhaul’s implementation even before a national consensus, appeared to embrace a dialogue with the political opposition. 

“I don’t hesitate to stand up and take a look [at the bills], and say, OK, on this matter … there is wisdom in what is being said [by critics], and therefore it is right to correct it,” said Levin. 

However, Levin presented the judicial overhaul as “good for all citizens of Israel.”

“It will create a Supreme Court that will give everyone a voice and everyone a place, with judges from every color of the rainbow,” he said.

According to media reports, Levin previously threatened to resign if the judicial overhaul plan were to be halted. However, in late March, he said he would respect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s final decision about the reforms, which have divided Israeli society in recent months. 

“I will respect any decision made by Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the legal reform legislation,” Levin said

Many proponents of the judicial overhaul, including Netanyahu, criticize the Supreme Court for being too powerful, which they argue harms Israeli democracy. 

Furthermore, right-wing, religious and Mizrahi (Jews of Middle Eastern origin) critics of the Israeli Supreme Court complain that the judicial system is dominated by judges with a secular, left-wing and Ashkenazi (European Jewish) background. 

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