Israeli Supreme Court Invalidates Controversial Law Limiting Judicial Review, Reinforces Democratic Principles

The Israeli Supreme Court has invalidated a controversial law that restricted the review of government policies for “reasonableness.” The law, which aimed to weaken the independence of the judiciary and other gatekeepers, was met with significant opposition and protests throughout the country. The court’s decision marks a landmark ruling on the limits of the Knesset as a constituent assembly and its authority to enact basic laws.

Israel has experienced a tumultuous year, with internal and external conflicts pushing the country to its limits. The October 7 attack by Hamas, which targeted Israel as a Jewish state, brought back painful memories of the Holocaust. Prior to this horrific event, the government proposed a “governmentality reform” that aimed to strengthen Israel’s democracy. However, critics argued that the proposed amendments would undermine democratic principles and grant the government unchecked power.

One of the key components of the reform was the Unreasonableness Amendment, which prevented judicial review of government decisions on grounds of unreasonableness. Critics warned that this would weaken the power of legal advisers to curb illegal and politically-motivated decisions. Despite mass public protests and opposition from legal, economic, and military experts, the amendment passed in the Knesset and became law.

The immediate danger of the Unreasonableness Amendment lies in the field of corruption, particularly in the misuse of public funds and government appointments. There are concerns that the government may dismiss the Attorney General, who heads the state public prosecution, and replace them with a lawyer favorable to halting the prosecution of Prime Minister Netanyahu on corruption charges. The Amendment also limits the Court’s ability to intervene in the selection of judges and curbs its power to strike down unreasonable government actions.

The Supreme Court’s decision, delivered by all 15 justices, determined that the Unreasonableness Amendment is an unconstitutional constitutional amendment. While some justices found alternative interpretations to avoid annulling the basic law, the majority ruled that the Amendment cannot be reconciled with the principles of separation of powers and the rule of law. This decision declares the limits of the Knesset as a constituent assembly and establishes the Court’s authority to deem basic laws unconstitutional and void.

The ruling raises questions about Israel’s democracy and the need to establish a joint mechanism involving members of both the coalition and opposition. This mechanism would prepare a basic law that sets out the process for enacting constitutional norms. It is seen as a necessary step in strengthening Israel’s democracy and addressing the long-standing failure to establish institutions that safeguard democratic principles.

In conclusion, the Israeli Supreme Court has invalidated a law that restricted the review of government policies for “reasonableness.” The decision establishes the Court’s authority to declare basic laws unconstitutional and void, while also highlighting the importance of creating a joint mechanism to strengthen Israel’s democracy.