Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Monday in Jerusalem against the government’s plan to limit the powers of the Supreme Court. The first texts will be debated on Wednesday in the Knesset.
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In the stations of Tel Aviv, the great liberal city on the coast, thousands of demonstrators are struggling, Monday, February 13 in the morning, to get on the crowded trains that are to take them to Jerusalem, to protest in front of Parliament. They will denounce the reform of the judicial institution carried out by the coalition of conservative, far-right and religious parties of Benyamin Netanyahu, in power since December 2022.
« Changement de régime », « coup d’Etat » : from the slogans launched in the trains of the trains to the warnings of the highest officials, the same words return. It is a culture war that comes to light on Monday, an existential question that divides Israel: who owns the country?
Around 10 a.m., opponents gather for a prayer under the Wailing Wall, a remnant of the Temple of Jerusalem, destroyed in the first century. Shortly before, in a cramped room of the Knesset, the first two texts of this reform were finalized in disorder. Opposition MPs begin the session of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee by clapping their hands on the round table and chanting: “I have no other country”.
Many admonish the chairman of the committee, Simcha Rothman: ” Shame ! Shame on you ! » They lie down on the carpet, force guards to drag them out. Around 10:30 a.m., two texts were voted on in committee. They will be debated in plenary during the first reading scheduled for Wednesday.
The first relates to the appointment of members of the Supreme Court. They are currently chosen by a group of judges, deputies and lawyers from the bar, under the supervision of the Minister of Justice. The reform proposes to remove the lawyers from this panel, where two citizens would sit in their place, in addition to a minister, offering the government a majority of five votes out of nine.
It is a blow to the independence of the fifteen judges of the Court, overwhelmed with work, who simultaneously assume the role of constitutional council, administrative, civil and criminal court of appeal, and who represent the only – institutional power by the elected majority. The second text deprives them of their power to invalidate the work of parliamentarians when they amend one of the country’s fundamental laws, which serve as the Constitution.
This is only a start. The coalition has broken down its reform into several projects. She plans to vote them one by one, for months. None of its 64 elected officials has expressed dissent so far, even though their reform worries a clear majority of Israelis, according to opinion polls. The Advocate General has prohibited Mr. Netanyahu from getting involved in this enterprise: she fears a conflict of interest. The balance of power he establishes with justice can disrupt his trial for corruption, opened in 2021.
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