The Judicial Overhaul

In January 2023, Israel's Minister of Justice introduced a legislative package aimed at overhauling the judicial system.

 

The Standard of Reasonableness. The reasonableness doctrine is used where a level of vagueness exists within legislation and allows the courts to oversee cases where the government’s decision “disproportionately focuses on political interests without sufficient consideration for public trust and its protection.”

 

The Judicial Selection Committee. In Israel, the judge selection committee is composed of elected politicians, justices, and Bar Association members. Selection of a Supreme Court justice requires a majority of 7 of the nine members, which means neither politicians nor justices can unilaterally control of the selection process.

 

The Override Clause. The proposed 'Override Clause' would grant the Knesset the authority to override judicial decision with a simple majority of 61 Members of Knesset. In Israel, any coalition government has by default 61 members. 

 

The Transformation of Legal Advisors into Political Appointees. Ministerial legal advisors have a dual role: they help the ministry implement its policies while serving as gatekeepers that ensure the ministry complies with the law. 

Today, they are civil servants appointed by tender and report to the Attorney General. Under the proposed overhaul, the legal advisors will become political appointees, subordinated to the ministers and potentially transformed into yes-men, diminishing their ability to perform their duty and defend the law. 

 

 

 

Explainer: The Standard of Unreasonableness by Prof. Amichai Cohen

Survey: Unreasonableness and the Judicial Overhaul

How are Israeli Judges Appointed? Q & A

Explainer: The Override Clause

How Often Does the Supreme Court Invalidate Legislation?

Explainer: The Role of Legal Advisors

The Frequent Changes to Israel’s Basic Laws

How Often Does the Supreme Court Invalidate Legislation?

 

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Publications Regarding The Judicial Overhaul

Articles

Article

“Unity” as a Means to Weaken the Judicial System

While the Israeli public has been focusing on the war and on the hostages in Gaza, the government—led by the minister of justice—has been preparing an assault on the independence of the judicial system.

Israeli Voice Index

Netanyahu Government Gets Low Grades Across Various Wartime Issues

Across the issues of US-relations, the war in Gaza, evacuees from the south and the north, fighting Hezbollah, and public diplomacy efforts abroad—both Jewish and Arab Israelis give the government low grades.

Play
Research Reel

Economic Implications of Drafting Ultra-Orthodox in Israel

In new research, IDI experts Shlomit Ravitsky Tur-Paz and Gabi Gordon find that conscripting even a small percentage of eligible Haredi men would save the Israeli economy billions of shekels annually. They found that drafting even 20% of Haredi men would significantly reduce the number of days necessary for reserve duty and save 2.5 billion shekels in budgetary expenses by 2050. Full conscription of the ultra-Orthodox men would eliminate the need for reserve duty by 2045 and save the Israeli economy between 8-10 billion shekels.

Special Project

The Judicial Overhaul and Anti-Democratic Initiatives

Judicial overhaul initiatives, along with other anti-democratic measures, have continued to be promoted by the government and the coalition in the Knesset. This document outlines the various actions taken in government that weaken the Israeli judiciary and democracy at large.

Article

The HCJ Strikes Back: Israel’s Supreme Court Pulls the Plug on “Judicial Reform”

Two judgments issued by the Supreme Court in the first week of 2024 deal a decisive blow to the Netanyahu government’s efforts to radically rebalance the branches of government.

Op-ed

Can a unified Israel rise from the ashes of the Hamas war?

While we entered this war more divided than ever – and with large numbers even saying that they believed civil war to be a possibility – Israelis today are united in their determination to win.

Explainer

What Was the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Revocation of the Reasonableness Doctrine? Eight Key Points

The Supreme Court's ruling to strike down the amendment made to the Basic Law: The Judiciary and reinstate the Standard of Reasonableness is a landmark decision on an issue that has been exceptionally divisive within Israeli society. Will this lead to a constitutional crisis? 8 Key points from IDI's experts examining the court's decision.

Op-ed

The Verdict is in: Checks and Balances are Here to Stay

This decision refocused our attention not only on the specific law it struck down but also on the unfinished business of completing our country’s constitutional framework

Explainer

The Supreme Court Ruling on Canceling the Reasonableness Clause—Implications

The Supreme Court ruled that the Court has authority to perform judicial review on Basic Laws, and that an intervention was necessary in the case of the amendment to the Basic Law: The Judiciary revoking the Standard of Reasonableness. What are the implications?

Press Release

Israel Democracy Institute Statement on Israel's Supreme Court Ruling

The Israel Democracy Institute issued the following statement on the High Court of Justice’s decision to strike down the amendment passed in July to the Basic Law: The Judiciary, eliminating the Court’s use of the Reasonableness Standard.

Special Survey

Unreasonableness and the Judicial Overhaul - Survey Analysis

Data indicates that less than a third of the public supports barring the Supreme Court from intervening in decisions by politicians or public officials.

Explainer

Doing Away with the Standard of Extreme Unreasonableness

The coalition has voted to amend Basic Law: The Judiciary and repeal the Standard of Reasonableness used to review government decisions that are deemed to be extremely unreasonable. On September 12th, the Supreme Court will hear petitions against the constitutionality of this move.

Article

Israel's War Cabinet: A Brief History of War Powers and Institutional Ambiguity

Israel’s decision-making in the current conflict must be understood in the context of its government’s complex institutional structure related to war.

Explainer

The Justice Minister’s Decision to Convene the Judicial Selection Committee

On November 5, 2023, Minister of Justice Yariv Levin notified the High Court of Justice that he will convene the Judicial Selection Committee within 15 days. Selecting judges is not possible in such a short time frame, so we will have to wait and see whether this decision leads to the completion of judge appointments to the vacant positions.

Op-ed

Israel needs a strong supreme court now more than ever

Justice Hayut's retirement from the presidency of the Supreme Court was well-known in advance, however, the Minister of Justice's refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee leaves Israel with a temporary replacement during a national emergency.

Israeli Voice Index

30 years after the Oslo Accords: A large share of Israelis think it was wrong for Israel to enter the process

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords this month, a larger share of Jewish respondents think it was incorrect to enter into that process, while the percentage of respondents who selected "don't know" was exceptionally large. 

Op-ed

The Supreme Court Hearing on Reasonableness: Law without Enforcement

On the question of Unreasonableness, it appears that the dispute is not only between the Knesset and the Supreme Court, but also among the justices themselves. There are many possibilities, but only one ruling, which will be handed down no later than mid-January 2024.

Play
Webinar

Following the Supreme Court Reasonableness Hearing: Where are we Now?

Yohanan Plesner, president of IDI and Prof. Yuval Shany, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Democratic Values and Institutions met with reporters to discuss the historic Supreme Court hearing on the repeal of the reasonableness doctrine.

Article

Three Big Cases in Israel's September to Remember

Three petitions before the Israeli Supreme Court are transforming the usually slow month of September into a pivotal one in Israel’s ongoing judicial crisis.

Israeli Voice Index

Israelis are deeply divided on the upcoming Supreme Court hearings

41.5% of coalition voters and 6% of opposition voters said that the Court lacks the authority to perform judicial review over Basic Laws passed by Knesset. 73% of Israelis agree that in order to bridge the divisions between the political camps, attempts should be made to reach a compromise. 

Explainer

The Supreme Court Hearing on the Revocation of the Reasonableness Doctrine

On September 12, 2023, an unprecedented panel of 15 Supreme Court Justices will convene to hear petitions requesting to strike down the recent amendment to the "Basic Law: The Judiciary."

Op-ed

The Judicial Selection Committee must be convened now

The Judicial Selection Committee has not met for more than a year, and during this period, various positions held by judges have been vacated.

Podcast

Judicial Reform – What Comes Next?

In the second part of this two-part episode, Jack Omer-Jackman speaks to renowned Israeli legal scholar and IDI expert Professor Yuval Shany to discuss the Supreme Court’s upcoming deliberations on the legislation annulling reasonability; the significance of basic laws; the impact of reservists’ protests on Israel’s military preparedness and the role of a citizen army in a democracy.

Podcast

Judicial Reform – What Comes Next?

In the first part of this two-part episode, Jack Omer-Jackman speaks to renowned Israeli legal scholar and IDI expert Professor Yuval Shany to discuss the Supreme Court’s upcoming deliberations on the legislation annulling reasonability; the significance of basic laws; the impact of reservists’ protests on Israel’s military preparedness and the role of a citizen army in a democracy.

Op-ed

The government must stop the judicial legislation to prevent further damage to the economy

Earlier this year, we published an article warning against the dangers of the judicial reforms, to our regret, many of the negative developments about which we warned at the beginning of the year have already come to pass.

Podcast

Different Laws for Courts & Knesset Would Spell Disaster

Israel’s political system remains in turmoil as the Supreme Court prepares to hear appeals concerning the refusal of the Justice Minister to convene the Judicial Selection Committee and the constitutionality of the unreasonableness amendment at the beginning of September.

Op-ed

Populism as an Existential Threat in Israel

In an effort to create uniformity, populists are ready to destroy the state.

Israeli Voice Index

A majority of Israelis think that Israel is currently in a state of emergency

The July 2023 edition of the Israeli Voice Index finds that 58% of Israelis believe the country is in a "state of emergency." Only a small minority of Israelis believe that IDF reservists, who fail to report for duty in protest of the judicial overhaul, should be dismissed.

Podcast

What Matters Now to former Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug: The economy, stupid

Prof. Karnit Flug, IDI's VP of Research, William Davidson Senior Fellow and a former governor of the bank of Israel offers data on the current effects of the controversial judicial overhaul and projections for more ripples as the high tech industry begins to unravel. 

Podcast

The Supreme Court of Israel: A Professional or Political Institution?

Comparing Israel's Supreme Court to America's Supreme Court. 64 Israeli legislators, a slim majority of the Knesset, voted on Monday, July 24, to amend one of Israel's Basic Laws, and in so doing, they took away the Israeli Supreme Court's ability to strike down decisions that it finds "unreasonable in the extreme.

Explainer

Explainer: Israel's High Court of Justice and the Incapacitation Law

The term "incapacitation" refers to a situation in which a government official is unable to perform their duty. The previous version of the law did not detail what constitutes incapacitation, nor who is authorized to declare incapacitation. The current version is accused of being personal and political.  

Op-ed

Protests are Necessary—But So Is Decentralization

When Israeli liberals depend solely on the Supreme Court for checks and balances, they are taking a big risk. It is essential to add veto points as human rights in Israel should not depend on the Supreme Court alone - decentralization of government is key. 

Podcast

Haaretz Weekly: What Comes Next?

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, joins Haaretz Weekly host Allison Kaplan Sommer to discuss what comes next, after the Knesset passed the first law in its planned judicial overhaul. 

Research

The Economic Implications of the Coalition’s Legislative Initiatives

This paper seeks to elucidate the economic consequences of the judicial overhaul. It approaches the topic through the lens of the new institutional literature in economics, which has extensively addressed the link between democratic institutions and the economy in recent decades.

Greetings

Message from President of IDI, Yohanan Plesner, Following the Repeal of the Standard of Unreasonableness

On Monday, the Knesset voted 64-0 to amend the Basic Law governing Israel’s judiciary and strip the Supreme Court of its power to block government decisions on the basis of the standard of “extreme unreasonableness.”  The decision has potentially fateful consequences because of its immediate implications,

Op-ed

The Day After Reasonableness

The coalition launched the first stage in its judicial overhaul. The process by which the amendment to the Basic Law: The Judiciary was passed, releasing the government and its ministers from the duty to act with reasonableness, is the best possible evidence for what we can now expect.

Podcast

The Lawfare Podcast: The Judicial Revolution Is Here

The first phase of Israel's judicial overhaul is now law. Huge numbers of people are in the streets, reservists are resigning, the stock market is tanking, and Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes assembled an all-star panel to talk about it, including IDI's Prof. Amichai Cohen and Prof. Yuval Shany. 

Explainer

The IDF Reservists Protest against the Judicial Overhaul – Explainer

The protest by reserve soldiers has sparked a fierce political and public debate in Israel. Who are these reservists, what are their motivations and what are the implications of their choice? Find the answers here. 

Article

From All-Out Assault to Salami Slicing Tactics: Israel’s Crisis Continues

The Israeli governing coalition is now “only” trying to strip the Supreme Court of its power to conduct reasonableness review of cabinet decisions.

Play
Webinar

In Anticipation of the Knesset’s Vote on the “Reasonableness Standard” – What Happens Next?

With the Knesset set to hold its final vote on curtailing the “reasonableness standard,” what happens next? What are the implications of removing this type of oversight on governmental decisions, and is there still a possibility for compromise ahead of the vote?

Podcast

Reasonableness in the Crosshairs

Tel Aviv-based journalist and Israel Policy Forum Policy Advisor Neri Zilber hosts Prof. Suzie Navot, the vice president for research at the Israel Democracy Institute, to analyze the renewed push by the Netanyahu government to overhaul Israel's judicial system.

Op-ed

Not Unreasonable - Irresponsible

The law is clear. The Minister is obligated to convene the committee when judicial vacancies appear. By evading this responsibility, he is failing in his duty.

Op-ed

On Protest and Enforcement: An International Perspective

The protest against the government legislation is clearly covered by the protections granted by international law to the right to assembly. The position of the Attorney General of Israel strikes an appropriate balance between exercising the right to demonstrate and protecting competing rights and interests. 

Special Survey

Flash Survey: Most Israelis Assess that the Protest Movement Has Delayed Progression of the Judicial Overhaul

Almost a quarter of Israelis have participated in some form of protest, a majority assess that the protest movement has delayed the progress of the judicial overhaul and Likud voters are divided on the question of continuing its implementation. 

Op-ed

The Reasonableness Issue Requires Serious, Informed, and Consensual Discussion

Only a government that wishes to make extremist and corrupt decisions would be afraid of the reasonableness test. While the test would certainly benefit from discussion of the framing of its boundaries and application, the legislation currently on the table hands the government unrestrained power.

 

Op-ed

No professionalism, no expertise – and no women

The Authority for the Advancement of Women's Status and agencies like it are being gutted along with protections for women

Op-ed

Massive Protests Show Israelis Understand Democracies Die Gradually

In Israel, the equivalent of 70 million Americans have gone out to protest the Netanyahu government's attempt to break the country's constitutional order. Populist politics is at war with the mainstream public opinion that it claims to represent.

Op-ed

Eliminating the Standard of Reasonableness Would be Another Step towards Giving the Government Unlimited Power

Abolishment of the standard of unreasonableness would lead to a further concentration of power in the hands of the executive – a power that is already greater in Israel than in many other democracies.

Israeli Voice Index

Six Months In, Government Gets Low Grades in All Areas

As the government completes its first six months in office respondents were asked to rate its performance in various fields.

Podcast

The Courts Use Reasonability in Moderation

Dr. Guy Lurie, IDI expert discusses the court's use of the Standard of (Extreme) Unreasonableness and current status of the judicial overhaul.

Op-ed

Nationalism and Liberalism: How Reality Surprises Theory

While nationalism and liberalism appear to contradict, under certain conditions, nationalistic loyalty strengthens the commitment to liberal and democratic values. 

Podcast

The Complexities of the Judicial Overhaul in Israel

Dr. Jesse Ferris with New York Times' Bret Stephens and Prof. Avi Bell discuss the complexities of the judicial overhaul and its significance on the future of Israel on Sapir Conversations podcast. 

Research

Religiosity Major Influence on Attitude Toward Judicial Overhaul

The reform proposal and the resulting protests brought to light and to a large extent also created conflicts on religious and ethnic grounds. The findings of this research reveal a strong relation between levels of religiosity and support or opposition to the judicial overhaul.

Israeli Voice Index

Two States for One People? Israelis Want to Stay United

Trust in the Supreme Court remains steady, while the share of Israelis who trust the Knesset has almost doubled since last year. Opinions on the likelihood of the government completing its term are fairly evenly divided in the Jewish public.

Podcast

Overhauling the Supreme Court

Dr. Guy Lurie in an in-depth interview with The Jewish Time podcast's Jeff Silberblatt on the attempted judicial overhaul and its implications on Israel's future.

Israeli Voice Index

Low Prospects for a Compromise Between Opposition and Coalition

This month we found a slight rise in optimism regarding both the future of democratic rule in Israel and the future of national security. However, almost two-thirds of Arab Israeli respondents replied they are worried that they or family members will be victims of violent crime.

Op-ed

After the judicial reform, the electoral process is next

When there are no restraints on what the government can do, the road will be open to “adjustments” (tricks) and “reforms” (schemes and conspiracies) in the electoral process.

Op-ed

Israel Is Dangerously Polarized

Is Israel’s split into pro-and anti-Bibi camps a healthy manifestation of exuberant pluralism—or the symptom of a dangerous and potentially unbridgeable polarization?

Article

Judicial Overhaul and Israeli Households

The impact of the proposed changes to the judicial system on the financial balance of Israeli households: analysis of the M.O.F risk scenarios by income deciles

Article

Let’s heed the prophets of Israel

The Declaration of Independence expresses a deep commitment to freedom, justice and peace in the spirit of the vision of the Biblical prophets, those semi-tragic figures who rebuked the people and their leaders for their behavior. Or in other words, the gatekeepers.

Play
Webinar

Three Supreme Court Justices on Israel's Judicial Overhaul

Three former supreme court justices from Israel, the United States, and Canada—Dorit Beinisch (Israel), Stephen Breyer (US), and Rosalie Abella (Canada)— assembled at the 92nd Street Y in New York for a timely conversation on the complex legal and political drama unfolding in Israel.

Research

Appointment of Judges to High Courts in Democratic Countries: A Comparative Study

The research examined 42 countries included all the OECD member states along with other leading democratic countries.

Article

The Role of Legal Advisors - Explainer

Transforming legal advisors into political appointees will thwart the dual purpose of their role- helping the ministry implement its policy, while maintaining the rule of law.

Israeli Voice Index

National Mood Unrestful

This month saw a decline in optimism regarding both the future of democratic rule in Israel and the future of national security. 21% of Israelis have participated in at least one act of protest against the judicial reforms.

Play
Webinar

Briefing by IDI President Yohanan Plesner Following the Suspension of the Judicial Overhaul

Briefing by IDI President Yohanan Plesner Following the Suspension of the Judicial Overhaul.

Press Release

Statement by the Israel Democracy Institute on the Prime Minister’s Decision to Suspend the Judicial Overhaul

The temporary suspension of the judicial overhaul provides an opportunity for the Prime Minister, as well as the leaders of the coalition and the opposition, to turn this crisis into a historic constitutional opportunity.

Press Release

No Other Democracy in the World

"“In Ireland we have a judicial appointment commission which is mixed, but there are no politicians on the commission and there never has been.” Alan Shatter, Former Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense (Ireland)

Op-ed

How a once-cautious Benjamin Netanyahu came to lead the most radical coalition in Israel’s history

How can Netanyahu — a U.S.-educated and respected world leader who was cautious in his approach to building previous coalitions, and was once respectful of Israeli democratic institutions — support such a dangerous plan? Was the “writing on the wall” earlier on in his lengthy tenure?

Op-ed

There’s no ‘compromise’ in the coalition’s play for unlimited power

Slowing the overhaul is a sham. It’s still a hostile takeover of the Supreme Court and its ability to restrain the coalition

Op-ed

How is this the “End of Democracy?"

Precisely what legal clause Levin and company will choose to achieve their goals isn’t really important, but the larger implications certainly are.

Op-ed

Israel is Still a Free Country – But Now With a Warning Sign

A top democracy index hasn't yet ranked Israel with Hungary. That will change if the majority becomes all powerful

Op-ed

Everyone’s Talking from a “Position”—Except for Us

The concepts of a “position” and “conflict of interest” crop up frequently in the discussion of the judicial revolution - that is why the facts are so important

Press Release

Statement by the Israel Democracy Institute on President Herzog’s Proposal

The Israel Democracy Institute congratulates President Isaac Herzog on his extraordinary efforts. While the President’s plan contains some problematic elements, if it were to be adopted in its entirety as a package, we would support it because it safeguards our democracy and bolsters key elements of our constitutional foundations. 

Op-ed

Government of the people means government of ALL the people

The current battle in Israel is not between left and right. It is being waged between those who embrace democracy and those who want to make one last use of democracy to institute majority rule. 

Op-ed

Fighting the Judicial Reform for Zionism

The battle against the judicial overhaul is not being waged only to safeguard democracy, it is also a fight to preserve Zionism itself.

Article

The Judicial Revolution and Arab Society in Israel

Reducing the possibility of invalidating legislation and the rest of the initiatives will further undermine the protection of the rights of the Arab minority in Israel, whose trust in the judicial system has steadily decreased in recent years - but is still high in relation to trust in other institutions.

Op-ed

Israel's Death Penalty, Haredi Ideology and Yisrael Beytenu's Role

The death penalty for terrorists bill may pass the Knesset in what may be a dream come true for some and a horrific nightmare for others.

Op-ed

The Levin-Rothman plan 101 (yes, this will be on the test)

Some actual facts for college and university students whose teachers are under attack for teaching actual facts

Article

The Ramifications of the Judicial Reform for the Status of Women in Israel

A professional opinion by the Israel Democracy Institute presented in advance of the session of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality on February 20, 2023

Article

What is “Incapacity” and what are the Implications of a Prime Minister’s Incapacity?

When is the Attorney General empowered to declare that the Prime Minister is incapable of fulfilling his duties? When does temporary incapacity become permanent? What has the Court ruled in the past about a declaration of incapacity concerning Benjamin Netanyahu?

Op-ed

Making Ministry Legal Advisors Political Appointees Goes Against Jewish Law

The question of how much power the government should wield was one that generations of halakhic decisors (poskim) worked to curtail.

Op-ed

The Judicial Reforms Implications on Israel's Standing in the International Courts

The Israeli judicial system’s independence and professionalism protect IDF commanders from prosecution in international courts. A close look at the planned judicial overhaul leads to the conclusion that if implemented it would increase the risk to Israeli citizens and make it harder for the country to protect them in the future.

Article

Death Penalty for Terrorists Bill is Not Constitutional and Will Deal Grievous Harm to Israel

The proposed bill contravenes the basic values of the State of Israel, flouts international treaties Israel has signed and will limit its moral superiority over terrorists. The bill will expose Israel to harsh international condemnation, and it will hamper, rather than alleviate efforts in the war against terror.

Article

How Often Does the Supreme Court Invalidate Legislation?

In recent years, there have been attempts to enact the “override clause” in Israel, a legal provision that would enable the Knesset to override the Supreme Court’s rulings in cases in which it strikes down legislation. This week the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is discussing a draft of such a law.

Op-ed

Why are Liberal Israelis so Terrified of Bibi’s Judicial Reforms?

The proposed legislation evicerates the only check on executive and legislative power in Israel.

Op-ed

No More Legal ‘Gatekeepers’? Plans to Downgrade the Status of Government Legal Advisers in Israel

Downgrading the independence of government legal advisers is not among the highest-profile proposals to reform the Israeli legal system being advanced by Israel’s new right-wing government, but weakening the status of government legal advisers is actually an important and troubling part of the government’s package of proposed reforms.

Press Release

Only a Minority of Israelis Support the Proposed Judicial Overhaul

66% of Israelis: Supreme Court should have power to strike down laws that are incompatible with Israel’s Basic Laws | On Judicial Selection Committee: 63% Support Current Principle Requiring Agreement between Politicians and Justices.

Op-ed

We Already Know the Future of Israel’s Courts. It’s Not Good.

Rabbinical courts, where appointments are based on political loyalty, offer a cautionary model of a judicial nightmare

Article

Checks and Balances, Public Corruption, and Economic Development

Increased corruption and damage to Israel's economy - four simple figures with important lessons for Israel’s judicial overhaul

Op-ed

Israeli Gov't Depends on Citizens Voluntarily Cooperating

Coercive regulations and enforcement, especially in democratic countries, have a more limited reach than governments are prepared to admit.

Op-ed

The Fight Over Judicial Appointments in Israel

Since 1953, judicial appointments in Israel have been made through a Judicial Selection Committee in which legal professionalsjudges and lawyersare in the majority and politicians in the minority. The new Israeli government’s plans for legal reform turn this system on its head and allow the coalition to fully control appointments to all parts of the judiciary, thus consolidating its dominant position in all three branches of government. 

Op-ed

Reversing the ‘Constitutional Revolution’

The second article in this series describes in depth how the Supreme Court used its authority, why it encountered a backlash, and what current proposals to limit the power of the Court to exercise judicial review over Knesset legislation look like.

Op-ed

The New Israeli Government’s ‘Constitutional Law Reforms’: Why now? What do they mean? And what will happen next?

Political discontent with the power relationship between the judiciary and the political branches has been percolating since the 1990s, often in connection with criminal proceedings against senior politicians. Prof. Amichai Cohen and Dr. Yuval Shany provide context for the ongoing debate concerning recent legal developments in Israel, so that outside observers can follow them more closely.

Op-ed

Does Israel Really Need Judicial Reform? 5 Better Ways to Fix Judiciary

5 other ideas for upgrading Israel's judicial system – without destroying democracy, doing away with the mechanisms for oversight of the government or harming our basic rights.

Op-ed

It’s Just about Unlimited Power – and Nothing Else

The recently published opinion by the Attorney General, Adv. Gali Baharav-Miara, makes clear that the proposal "reform" makes no attempt to enhance the balance among the branches of government: It is quite simply a demand for unlimited government power.

Op-ed

The Coalition Agreements of Israel's 37th Government: The Appointment of Legal Advisors in Government Ministries

Turning ministry legal advisors into political appointees will deprive them of their ability to protect the rule of law and will reduce public trust in the ministries.

Op-ed

The Proposed “Reform” of the Judicial System Poses Risk to the Israeli Economy

Debilitating the judicial system would deal a blow to overseas investors’ motivation to invest in Israel and lead to a sharp drop in its credit rating. We need only look at the precedents of Turkey, Hungary, and Poland, to understand just how serious the threat is.

Book Summary

The High Court Wars: The Constitutional Revolution and the Counter-Revolution

The appointment of conservative judges to the court, and even the enactment of a certain version of the override clause, will not bring about the destruction of the Supreme Court, and will certainly not turn Israel into a totalitarian state. However, the continued attacks on the Court, and the potential passage of the most extreme proposals pose a serious challenge to Israeli democracy.

Book Summary

Checks and Balances: The Override Clause and Its Effect on the Three Branches of Government

The debate surrounding the Override Clause should really focus on the disproportionate power of the Knesset and not on the power of the Supreme Court. All other democracies have structural mechanisms that limit the concentration of power in the hands of one institutions - we must create such a mechanism in Israel as well.

Play
Explainer

Prof. Amichai Cohen on the importance of protecting the Israeli Supreme Court

Why is the Supreme Court's independence so important to Israeli democracy and what are the proposed reforms attempting to achieve? Listen to a short explanation by Prof. Amichai Cohen, senior fellow at IDI.

Op-ed

The Case for a ‘Constitutional Truce’ in Israel

There’s a need for judicial reform, but the Supreme Court plays a crucial role in safeguarding democracy.

Play
Webinar

JFNA-IDI Webinar - Israel's New Government

Eric Fingerhut, CEO and President of the JFNA with Yohanan Plesner, President of IDI and Prof. Suzie Navot, VP of IDI discuss the new government's legislation proposals and the future of Israeli democracy. January 2023.

Op-ed

Why Does Ben-Gvir Crave the Position of the Vice-Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation?

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is a powerful force behind legislation in Israel – therefore it isn’t surprising that Ben-Gvir is vying for the position of Vice-Chairman.

Overview

The Operational Independence of the Police: A Fundamental Principle in Foreign Legal Systems and Should Apply in Israel as Well

The bill to amend the Police Ordinance has been compared to practices in other countries - however it ignores the fact that other countries have in place procedures that guarantee the operational independence of the police when it implements the policies laid down to guide its actions

Op-ed

Israel Heading Toward a Silenced, Paralyzed Society

The blow would be hardest for organizations whose role is to defend vulnerable groups, including; those living below the poverty line, the elderly, women, and people with disabilities.

Op-ed

Overriding the People of Israel

If Netanyahu's new government implements its plans, human rights may soon depend on majorities. Israel's delicate political structure makes this possible.

Play
Overview

Prof. Amichai Cohen: a historical overview of Israel's current constitutional crisis

Prof. Amichai Cohen, Senior Fellow at IDI, the Center for Security and Democracy, provides an in-depth historical overview of Israel's constitutional crisis and the background to the currently proposed judicial review reforms, particularly, the "override clause".

Op-ed

Splitting Up Ministries will Undermine Effective Governance and Public Service

Moving units from one ministry to the next, to satisfy political needs, has a negative impact on the Ministries' ability to provide the necessary service at a high level.

Op-ed

Changing the System for Judicial Appointments—Only with a Broad Consensus

Despite controversy, changes to the Judicial Selection Committee, must be made with broad consensus - and not by slimmest of majorities.

Play
Speech

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin Speaking at the Judicial Reform Conference 2022

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin speaking at the Fix It Don't Destroy It Judicial Reform Conference at the Israel Democracy Institute, December 2022.

Play
Conversation

Prof. Alan Dershowitz in conversation with Dr. Jesse Ferris at IDI’s Judicial Reform Conference

Prof. Alan Dershowitz in conversation with Dr. Jesse Ferris at IDI’s Judicial Reform Conference 2022.

Press Release

#Fix It, Don’t Destroy It

The Israel Democracy Institute’s special conference today (December 12th) focused on the implications of the proposed judicial reforms that have been proposed by members of the incoming coalition. 

 

Article

How Israeli Judges Are Appointed: Questions and Answers

Why it is a bad idea to allow the coalition the deciding voice in the appointment of Supreme Court justices? Is it true that in Israel, judges appoint themselves? The complete guide to the impending constitutional reform.

Op-ed

What Are the Challenges to Israel’s Democracy?

Israel still has no constitution, and the separation of powers seems fragile. What challenges will Israel’s democracy face in the next government?

Play
Explainer

Prof. Suzie Navot Explains the Override Clause

Why is the override clause at the heart of the forthcoming coalition's agenda and how does this relate to civil rights in Israel? Prof. Suzie Navot, Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute explains the role of the Supreme Court in Israel's democratic system in just over two minutes.

Israeli Voice Index

Supreme Court Should Retain Power – Survey

The majority of Israelis think that the Supreme Court should retain its ability to strike down legislation that contravenes the country’s Basic Laws – and only 16% said that the Judicial Selection Committee that appoints justices should be politicized by increasing the number of elected officials serving on it.

Op-ed

61 Cats Guarding the Cream

The optimistic hope that the majority will not take advantage of its power to perpetuate its rule is akin to leaving the cream to be guarded by 61 cats. The temptation is just too strong.

Op-ed

The Proposed High Court Override Clause Will Reverse Gender Equality Gains

The new coalition's shortage of women and its proposed High Court override clause are a danger to the struggle for gender equality in Israel.

Article

Judicial Reform in Israel

In this edited transcript of her conversation with BICOM Director Richard Pater, Vice-President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute Professor Suzie Navot argues that judicial reforms proposed by the right-wing bloc – to Knesset override of the Supreme Court, executive immunity, and the appointment of judges – threaten Israeli democracy and the already fragile separation of powers.

Podcast

Judicial Reform

Prof. Suzie Navot sits down with Richard Pater of Bicom, to discuss judicial reform. Prof. Navot explains the background of Israel’s legal system, its uniqueness among other parliamentary democracies and the significance of potentially implementing an override clause.

Explainer

The Override Clause Explainer

Turning court rulings into a “recommendation” that the Knesset could override, is likely to exacerbate tensions that already exists between the Supreme Court and the Knesset.

Op-ed

The Destruction of the Rule of Law

The proposal to abolish the Judicial Selections Committee would lead to politicization of the judiciary, undermine judges’ independence, and shift the careful balance reached through it between the branches of government.

Article

Terms of Office of Supreme Court Justices

In Israel, judges sit on the bench until they reach the age of 70, while advocates for changing the current method of their appointment often support the idea of limiting Supreme Court judges’ tenure.

Article

How Many Laws Were Struck Down by the Supreme Court in Israel?

With calls to enact an 'override clause' to push back against judicial review back in the news, Dr. Amir Fuchs analyzed the twenty laws the Court has overturned since Israel's establishment

Op-ed

The Knesset and the Court: Is This Israel’s Override Election?

"This election will be less about which candidate ends up as prime minister, but rather the real possibility of radical judicial reforms that might soon pass in the Knesset and which would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to perform crucial oversight over the political system."

Op-ed

Whatever Happened to the Override Clause?

It turns out that voters actually want robust judicial oversight - which explains why the Override Clause and placing limitations on judicial review have not been prominant in the election campaign

Article

Attempts to Curtail the Supreme Court

The Israel Democracy Institute offers a look inside efforts to reduce politicization of Israel's Supreme Court.

Op-ed

Toward Tyranny of the Majority

Granting the government additional power, which will enable overriding Basic Laws in simple legislation must not be allowed, lest the defense of basic civil rights in Israel are compromised

Op-ed

The Weakest Constitution in the World

The Override Clause would not alter the balance between the branches of government – it would shift the balance of power between the government and the governed

Press Release

Strengthening the 'Rule of Law' in Coalition Agreements

The Israel Democracy Institute calls on Parties to Demand Strengthening of 'Rule of Law' and 'Separation of Power's in Coalition Agreements.

Op-ed

The Return of the Override Clause? A Dangerous and Unnecessary Step

Laws define the legal rules of our democracy and ensure the stability of the political system while guaranteeing individual rights and general public interest - enactment of the Override Clause would seriously undermine this balance.

Play
Research Reel

How Do We Choose Judges in Israel?

How are judges appointed in Israel? Who sits on the committee? And why is it so important to maintain the balance between judicial independence and democratic accountability in the appointing process? Tune in to learn more with Dr. Guy Lurie

Play
Personal Story

The Override Clause and Equality in Schools

Attorney Yoav Laloum relates how by petitioning the High Court of Justice he was able to stop ethnic separation in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions

Play
Personal Story

The Override Clause and Gender Equality in the IDF

Alice Miller describes how the High Court of Justice helped change women’s military service and improve gender equality in the IDF

Op-ed

Who will be Overridden by the “Override Clause”?

The good news is that despite the unprecedented offensive which aims at dealing a significant blow to the Supreme Court, the majority of the Israelis still have trust in this institution. In fact, the levels of trust in the court are much greater than those of the Knesset and the Government

Press Release

What is the Public’s Opinion on the Override Clause?

A special survey conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the
Israel Democracy Institute finds: The majority of the Israeli public fears that implementation of the Override Clause by the Knesset will give unlimited power to politicians and lead to an increase in political corruption

Article

Government Ministers to Vote on Bill to Override Supreme Court Decisions

The Prime Minister is currently fighting to remove the Supreme Court's power to strike down Knesset legislation, thereby turning the last protector of human rights in Israel into merely an advisory board. He is even threatening elections over the issue. 

 

Op-ed

Override: A Serious Blow to Democracy

Dr. Amir Fuchs argues that an override of Supreme Court decisions should be stoutly resisted by democrats from all parts of the political spectrum.

Op-ed

Overriding the Supreme Court: A Breach in the Wall of Democracy

Dr. Amir Fuchs discusses the proposal to add an override clause to Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom that would enable the Knesset to bypass the High Court and deal a a severe blow to the main safeguard of human rights and minorities in Israel.

Op-ed

Basic Law: Legislation – A Lethal Blow to the Supreme Court

IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Adv. Amir Fuchs analyze the proposed legislation that would allow the Knesset to reinstate laws that have been struck down by the Israeli High Court and warn of a threat to judicial review and civil liberties.

Op-ed

Israel’s Unfinished Democracy

As the international community ponders Gaza’s post-war future, Israelis are increasingly focused on what the ‘day after’ holds for their politics and society.

Explainer

The Knesset Failed to Choose Two Representatives. What Happens Now?

The Knesset voted for its representatives on the judicial selection committee. This is the first time it was not able to elect two representatives, leading to a second round of votes in the next 30 days. 

Op-ed

The Override Clause—Canada and Israel

Democracies ensrhine onstitutional rights, and give the court the power to protect them, out of concern that the legislator may act rashly, or even tyrannically - so then why should we "override" the court's authority - when we have no other constraints

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Personal Story

The Override Clause and Shielding School Classrooms

Batya Katar describes how she was able to make the state allocate the necessary budget to shield classrooms against rockets through the intervention of the High Court of Justice