HomePoliticsIsrael's Supreme Court convenes...

Israel’s Supreme Court convenes to decide on law that could determine Netanyahu’s fate | CNN

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appears in CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-times-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories. Sign up here.


Israel’s Supreme Court has started hearing petitions against a new law making it harder to declare a prime minister unfit for office.

Eleven of the 15 Supreme Court judges were hearing Thursday’s arguments. Within two months, the court would have heard arguments on three cases that challenge laws passed by the Benjamin Netanyahu government this year.

Thursday’s petition, however, affects Netanyahu most personally.

The law states that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit, and only “due to physical or mental incapacity.” The cabinet vote would then need to be ratified by a two-thirds majority in the parliament, known as the Knesset. The amendment is a change to one of Israel’s Basic Laws, the closest thing the country has to a constitution.

The amendment was passed before legislation started on a judicial overhaul package, pushed by Netanyahu’s right-wing government, that has split the country and led to months of protests by those who argue that it chips away at Israel’s democracy and weakens its judiciary.

The petitioners in Thursday’s hearing argue the amendment was passed solely for Netanyahu’s benefit – he faces an ongoing corruption trial – making it a “misuse of constituent authority.” That’s one of the bases on which the Supreme Court can, in theory, strike down amendments to a Basic Law. However, the court has never struck down a Basic Law or an amendment to one.

Yiktzhak Burt, a lawyer arguing on behalf of the Knesset, conceded to the Supreme Court Thursday that the law in question did benefit the prime minister personally, but insisted that the legislature had the power to pass it because it has a democratic mandate and that the court should not strike it down. He acknowledged that the law had flaws, but that they did not rise to such a level that it should be struck down.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said on Thursday that the court was not discussing nullifying the law but postponing its application.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments about another law, passed in July, that took away its ability to stop government actions justices rule to be “unreasonable.” It was also an amendment to a Basic Law. (The third petition is against Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has refused to convene the committee that chooses judges, amid a dispute over its composition.)

Amir Fuchs, senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute’s Center for Democratic Values and Institutions, told CNN that never before have there been “so many challenges” in the Supreme Court to amendments to Basic Laws.

“(We’ve) never had so many hearings in the court so close together. This is a unique and unprecedented constitutional crisis,” Fuchs said.

Until this law was changed, there was no written legislation that dictated how a prime minister could be removed from office for being “unfit” to serve, although Fuchs said there was some precedent with case law that indicated the attorney general could make that ruling.

“I do believe we did have a flawed arrangement before. It was too vague. It demanded an amendment,” Fuchs said. “But it’s very clear that the motive for this law was totally personal.”

That’s because there were petitions to declare Netanyahu unfit to serve because of his ongoing corruption trial. He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.

As part of a deal with the court to continue serving as prime minister despite his ongoing trial, Netanyahu in 2020 agreed to a conflict-of-interest declaration.

The attorney general determined at the time that the declaration meant Netanyahu could not be involved in policy making that affects the judicial system – like the judicial overhaul. Certain aspects of the overhaul, Netanyahu’s opponents have argued, could make it much easier for him to get out of the corruption trial.

Earlier this year, when Justice Minister Levin announced the government’s plans for a judicial overhaul, Netanyahu said his hands were tied and he couldn’t get involved because of the conflict-of-interest declaration.

But in March, hours after the amendment making it more difficult to declare a prime minister unfit for office was passed, Netanyahu announced he was getting involved.

“Until today, my hands have been tied,” the prime minister said at the time. “We have reached an absurd situation in which if I’d intervened (in the judicial overhaul legislation) as my job required, I would have been declared unfit to serve … Tonight I inform you: Enough is enough. I will be involved.”

A preliminary hearing with three judges has already been held on this case. On Thursday, arguments were heard again, this time in front of 11 of the 15 Supreme Court justices.

Normally the attorney general would put forward the government’s case in a Supreme Court hearing, but AG Gali Bahrav-Miara did not. She agrees with petitioners that the amendment should not stand, as she did earlier this month during the hearing on the “reasonableness” law.

The justices could strike down the amendment, declaring that the parliament carried out a “misuse of constituent power,” Fuchs said. That would be for passing legislation not for general purposes but for political purposes, to benefit a specific individual: Netanyahu.

Fuchs noted that the timing of the bill – raised and passed within just a few weeks – and on the record comments made during the discussions of the bill in parliament made it clear the purpose of the law was to protect Netanyahu.

The Supreme Court could also declare that the law “is not active right now,” and would only be active once the next parliament takes over. That could be a way out of a thorny constitutional situation.

“It takes away most of the problem because once you decide it’s only active next Knesset, it means it won’t solve any personal problem for Netanyahu and it gives time for the Knesset to re-think the arrangement,” Fuchs said.

The court decision must be made no later than January 12, 2024, due to the retirements of judges hearing the case.

The court must also decide by then on the petition against the law that struck down the court’s ability to declare government actions “unreasonable.” That is considered a much bigger challenge, and one where, for the first time, all 15 of the current Supreme Court justices took the case. The ruling on that petition is expected to take longer than the one being heard on Thursday.

Additionally, the Supreme Court is due to hear a challenge to the justice minister delaying convening the committee to select new Supreme Court justices. Netanyahu’s government wishes to re-formulate how justices are selected in Israel to give politicians more sway.

The committee was supposed to meet last week, but Levin postponed the meeting.

“It’s very important even though it is [an] administrative issue, not a petition against a basic law,” Fuchs said of the challenge, since Levin could be ordered to follow a court ruling on an essential element of the judicial overhaul.

But the real crisis could come after the Supreme Court issues all three rulings, Fuchs said, if Netanyahu and his government choose to defy them. Despite repeated questions from CNN among others, he has yet to commit to following them.

“This is in the hands of the government because they can accept the decision. Even though (Netanyahu is) avoiding the question on whether he will abide by the decision, doesn’t mean he won’t,” Fuchs said.

Source link

Most Popular


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More from Author

Read Now

Team India Squad for T20 World Cup 2024 Announced: Here’s India’s official team for T20 WC – Republic World

India T20 World Cup squad announcement | Image:APTeam India's squad for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2024 has been announced. On Tuesday, the selection committee led by chief selector Ajit Agarkar convened in Ahmedabad and zeroed in on a 15-member unit, which they deem is the...

Justice Minallah says state has to protect judges, independence of judiciary

Justice Athar Minallah on Tuesday said the state had to protect the judges and the judiciary’s independence as the Supreme Court took up a suo motu case pertaining to allegations of interference in judicial affairs.A six-member bench resumed...

Stock futures slip slightly as investors look ahead to Fed decision, megacap earnings: Live updates

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on February 29, 2024 in New York City. Michael M. Santiago | Getty ImagesU.S. stock futures fell slightly Tuesday morning after a positive start to the week, as investors brace for megacap earnings,...

Europe’s Economic Laggards Have Become Its Leaders

Something extraordinary is happening to the European economy: Southern nations that nearly broke up the euro currency bloc during the financial crisis in 2012 are growing faster than Germany and other big countries that have long served as the region’s growth engines.The dynamic is bolstering the...

Trump’s Plans for the Fed Make No Sense, Even for Him

A second Trump administration might be very different from the first, and that includes how the president treats the Fed. Donald Trump complained a lot about the US Federal Reserve when he was president, jawboning for lower interest rates and questioning its competence. Yet at the...

Police to launch raids to find migrants to deport to Rwanda, Cabinet Minister claims

Police will mount raids to find missing migrants so they can be deported to Rwanda, a Cabinet minister has said.Health Secretary Victoria Atkins was commenting on reports that the Home Office has lost contact with thousands of people who are set to be removed from the...

The French #Metoo Scandal Unraveling in Weinstein’s Shadow

French actor Gérard Depardieu was ordered to stand trial for allegedly sexually assaulting two women on a film set three years ago, marking the latest legal escalation for the 75-year-old movie star who has become a central figure in France’s #MeToo movement.The announcement coincides with a...

Hong Kong Bitcoin and Ether ETFs Have Soft Debut

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired...

Customization Overview | Halo Infinite CU32

Operation: Banished Honor arrives on April 30 and you’re gonna want to look the part! After all, the Banished welcome all who pledge their service to Atriox, and your new allegiance and mindset demands a new outfit, so let’s find out more about the customization that...

T20 World Cup 2024 Squads: From India To Australia, Check Here Team-Wise Full Players List, Venues, Fixture, Timings And More

ICC T20 World Cup 2024 Cricket Matches Full Schedule: The T20 World Cup 2024 promises to be an exhilarating showcase of cricketing talent from around the globe. With teams from various nations competing for the prestigious title, fans can expect intense matches filled with thrilling moments...

How the Twins’ summer sausage celebration got made: It sparked the offense, but should they eat it?

CHICAGO — With Abe Froman unavailable, I called sausage expert Elias Cairo to address Rocco Baldelli’s concerns about a potentially hazardous pre-encased meat currently residing in the Minnesota Twins clubhouse.Nearly a week after it arrived and with the package showing visible signs of wear, tear and...