Israel: why are there protests against Benjamin Netanyahu - Knesset's judicial overhaul explained

Protests have broken out against reforms to Israeli judicial system. (Credit: Getty Images)Protests have broken out against reforms to Israeli judicial system. (Credit: Getty Images)
Protests have broken out against reforms to Israeli judicial system. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to Israeli street to demonstrate against the proposed judicial changes

Unrest has continued to break out on the streets of Israel as demonstrators voice their opposition to the Israeli government’s plans to overhaul the country’s justice system. 

Police have attempted to resist protesters on the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities. Those taking part in the demonstrations have blocked highways, while army reservists have also threatened to not to train in protest of the changes. 

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism domestically and internationally for the new judicial overhaul. The US has criticised the plan, while he also reversed the firing of his own defence minister after criticism of the move. 

Israeli justice minister Yariv Levin announced the plans on 3 January 2023. However, the unrest has led to the pausing of the process, with Netanyahu 

But what changes is the government trying to introduce, and why has it been met with resistance? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What changes to the judicial system is the Israeli government trying to introduce? 

The new changes to the judicial system in Israel would dampen the court’s influence over political legislation and public policy. Under the plan, the Supreme Court would be limited in its power to exercise a judicial review of policy or legislation as well as having limitations put on the authority of its legal advisers. 

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The Israeli government would have control over appointments to the Supreme Court, while also having the power to override rulings that would class legislation as unconstitutional. Crucially, this means that the Supreme Court in Israel would not be able to rule that a Prime Minister is unfit to rule, leading to their removal from the position. 

Benjamin Netanyahu has staged a comeback as Prime Minister of Israel following the election results. (Credit: Getty Images)Benjamin Netanyahu has staged a comeback as Prime Minister of Israel following the election results. (Credit: Getty Images)
Benjamin Netanyahu has staged a comeback as Prime Minister of Israel following the election results. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

What are the criticisms of the judicial overhaul?

Netanyahu has been forced to remove himself from the process of introducing the reforms as he is currently on trial for corruption, an accusation he continues to deny. 

If found guilty, under the old judicial system, the PM could be declared unfit for office and removed from the highest role in government. However, under the new rules Netanyahu would not be forced to give up the role of PM if found guilty. 

The Prime Minister was re-elected in December 2022, while he was on trial for the corruption charge. Following his win, the most right-wing government in Israeli history was installed.

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Critics have also said that the proposed changes would grant the government unchecked power and undermine the courts. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said of the plans: “If this legislation passes, the democratic chapter in the life of the state will end.”

US President Joe Biden is among the international figures to criticise the judicial overhaul. He urged Netanyahu to call off the plans, saying: “They cannot continue down this road.”

He added: "Like many strong supporters of Israel I'm very concerned, and I'm concerned that they get this straight. Hopefully, the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen."

Netanyahu has so far resisted calls to cancel pushing ahead with the reforms. He said in response to Biden's call, he said that Israel would not base its decisions on "pressures from abroad".

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