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Politics as usual? Dramatic High Court ruling slammed by coalition, praised by opposition

Israel’s High Court struck down judicial reform legislation in historic verdict

Israeli Minister of Justice Yariv Levin seen during a government conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Following the Israeli High Court’s historic ruling that nixed the Reasonableness Standard Law, politicians on both sides of the political divide fell back into their pre-war default settings.

The Reasonableness Law holds the status of a quasi-constitutional Basic Law,

The leaders of the groups that organized the months-long protests against the judicial reform, including politicians from the opposition, celebrated the court decision as a victory for democracy.

However, representatives of the government, and several ministers, blasted the court for its decision and especially for its timing in the middle of Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet commented on the matter so far.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the main petitioners against the reform legislation, hailed the “tremendous public victory for those who seek democracy.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), in his reaction, stressed that the source of strength of Israel is “the fact that we are a Jewish, democratic, liberal, law-abiding state.”

“Today the Supreme Court faithfully fulfilled its role in protecting the citizens of Israel We give the Supreme Court full backing. If the Israeli government again starts the quarrel over the Supreme Court then they have learned nothing. They didn’t learn anything on October 7,” he added.

Despite no official statement by Netanyahu, his Likud party did release a statement shortly after the verdict.

“It is saddening that the High Court chose to bring a verdict regarding the heart of the societal controversy in Israel precisely when IDF soldiers from the right and the left are fighting and risking their lives in the ground campaign.”

“The court’s decision is against the will of the people for unity, especially during wartime,” the party added.

Many of the coalition members slammed the decision in no uncertain terms but added a cautionary note because of the ongoing war.

Israeli Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana reiterated his stance that the High Court lacks the authority to cancel basic laws but added: “What is even more obvious is that we cannot engage in this as long as the war is in progress.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, one of the reform's main architects, said the timing of the verdict was “the opposite of the spirit of unity required these days for the success of our fighters on the front,” and called it “unparalleled in any Western democracy.”

He added that the verdict that no basic law could be enacted without the court’s approval takes away the basic rights and the voices of millions of Israeli citizens.

Levin stressed that even though the decision won’t stay in the coalition’s hands, “we will continue to act with restraint and responsibility.”

Levin's main partner in the judicial reform, Simcha Rothman of the Religious Zionism party and the chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, attacked the court verdict.

“At a time when our fighters are giving their lives for the people of Israel in Gaza every day, the judges of the High Court decided to weaken their spirit and hurt them first and foremost.”

“I hoped that the judges of the High Court would come to their senses and connect with the spirit of the fighters and the entire public. Unfortunately, this did not happen, but we will continue to act in national unity,” Rothman added.

The Shas party, whose leader Aryeh Deri struck a conciliatory tone since Oct. 7 warned that the High Court's ruling “weakens the war effort and brings back the rift in the nation that we experienced before October 7.”

Deri was one of the main mediators leading to the establishment of the unity government with Benny Gantz.

National Unity party chairman and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, called to accept the court ruling. “The lesson from conduct in the past year must be learned. We are brothers, and have a shared fate,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“These are not days for political arguments, there are no winners and losers today. Today, we have only one common goal – to win the war, together. After the war, we will be required to regulate the relationship between the authorities and enact a basic law that will also anchor the status of the basic laws. We will do this with broad agreement,” Gantz added.

Former Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (National Unity) urged both sides to “take a deep breath and keep things in proportion.”

“There is nothing more important than to keep the unity… a High Court verdict must be respected,” Kahana said, adding that he saw both the legislating of a Basic Law, as well as its cancellation based on small majorities, as unreasonable.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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