Israel's Supreme Court struck down a key element of Netanyahu's polarizing judicial overhaul

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Supreme Court has overturned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's impeachment. Controversial judicial reform Monday offers a key decision that could reopen Divisions in Israeli society That predates the country's current war against Hamas.

The planned overhaul sparked months of mass protests, threatening to spark a constitutional crisis between the judicial and legislative branches of government. Disrupted the coordination of Israel's powerful military.

Those divisions were largely put aside after Hamas militants launched a bloody cross-border attack in southern Israel on October 7. A battle It raged in Gaza for almost three months. But Monday's court ruling could rekindle those tensions even while the country is still in the country is at war.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally and architect of the restructuring, criticized the court's decision, saying it “goes against the spirit of unity that is needed these days for the victory of our soldiers on the frontline.”

Levin said the ruling “doesn't discourage us,” without specifying whether the government would try to renew its program in the short term. “As the campaigns continue on different fronts, we will continue to act with restraint and responsibility,” he said.

In Monday's ruling, the court narrowly voted to strike down a law Passed in July It prevents judges from striking down government decisions they deem “unfair.” Opponents have argued that Netanyahu's efforts to remove standards of legitimacy open the door to corruption and the improper appointment of unqualified allies to key positions.

The law is the first in a planned overhaul of the Israeli justice system. Reconstruction was halted after Hamas militants launched their October 7 attack, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 240 others. Israel immediately declared war and launched an offensive in Gaza that Palestinian health officials say has killed nearly 22,000 people.

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In an 8-7 ruling, the Supreme Court justices struck down the law because it “causes severe and unprecedented harm to the essential character of the State of Israel as a democratic state.”

The justices ruled 12-3 that they have the power to revoke the so-called “Basic Laws,” key laws that serve as a kind of constitution for Israel.

It was a significant blow to Netanyahu and his hard-line allies who claimed the National Assembly. High Court, should have the final word on the legality of legislation and other important decisions. The judges said neither the Knesset nor the parliament had “omnipotent” powers.

Netanyahu's government may decide to ignore Monday's ruling, which sets the stage for a constitutional showdown over which branch of government has final authority.

The court issued its decision because its outgoing president, Esther Hayot, is retiring, and Monday was her last day on the job.

Netanyahu and his allies announced their sweeping plan to reshape the judiciary shortly after taking office a year ago. It calls Limits the power of judgesincluding limiting the Supreme Court's ability to review parliamentary decisions and changing the way judges are appointed.

Supporters said the changes were intended to strengthen democracy by circumscribing the power of unelected judges and giving more powers to elected officials. But the opponents change a Netanyahu's takeover of powerHe is on trial for corruption charges, and an attack on a key watchdog.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good government group that opposed the law, called the Supreme Court ruling “an enormous public victory for those who love democracy.”

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“An unjust government, acting unjustly, making unjust moves, destroys the standard of justice,” said the group's president, Eliot Shraga.

Before the Israel-Hamas war, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets Weekly struggles Against Govt. Demonstrators included military security personnel, including fighter pilots and members of other elite units. Stop reporting for duty If the reorganization is accomplished. There are those who form the backbone of the Israeli army.

Detachments quickly returned to duty after the October 7 attack. It is not clear what will happen if restoration efforts are revived as an expression of solidarity. A resumption of protests will undermine national unity and affect the readiness of the army if soldiers refuse to report for duty.

Under the Israeli system, the prime minister rules through a majority coalition in parliament—in effect, giving him control over the executive and legislative branches of government.

Consequently, the Supreme Court plays an important supervisory role. By seeking to weaken the judiciary, critics say Netanyahu and his allies are undermining the country's checks and balances and consolidating power over a third, independent government.

Netanyahu's allies include an array of radical nationalist and religious parties List of defects against the court.

His allies have called for an increase West Bank settlement construction, annexation of occupied territory, perpetuating military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men, and restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and Palestinians.

The US had previously urged Netanyahu to seek a broad consensus across the political spectrum to put the plans on hold.

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