Restructuring of the judiciary: Israel does not come to rest

As of: 07/25/2023 6:54 p.m

After the Knesset said yes to a core element of the judicial reform, the protests in Israel continue. Ex-Prime Minister Olmert therefore made serious allegations against the government. Doctors and soldiers went on strike.

In Israel, opposition to the government’s plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system continues. Yesterday the Knesset approved a key issue weakening the Supreme Court’s influence. Against this background, Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke of a “serious threat”. The government has decided to undermine the foundations of democracy. “And that’s not something that we can accept or tolerate,” Olmert said in an interview with Channel 4 News. There has never been anything like it, he warned. “We’re going into a civil war.”

strikes in healthcare sector

Thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical workers went on strike today in response to the vote in the Knesset. Israel’s Medical Association and the Medical Association called for this yesterday. The walkout began in the morning. In parts of the country, the shift system switched to holiday mode, and according to the media, hospitals only treated emergencies. Emergency rooms continued to run normally.

The walkout was actually supposed to last 24 hours, but later in the day a labor court declared it inadmissible. It ordered an injunction and called for an end to the strikes. The judges granted the government’s request. According to media reports, she had called for the end of the strike.

Penalties for reservists

In the past week, there had already been a two-hour warning strike in several medical facilities in the country. After the Labor Court’s decision, Israel’s umbrella organization for trade unions (Histadrut) announced that it would discuss a possible general strike in the next few days.

At the same time, the military took action against reservists who refused to carry weapons in protest. One reservist was fined 1,000 shekels ($300) for ignoring the call-up order, and another received a 15-day suspended prison sentence. Opposition leader Jair Lapid called on the soldiers not to refuse service.

Israel has no written constitution

With the new law, the Supreme Court will no longer be able to judge a decision by the government or individual ministers as “inappropriate”. The law is part of a larger package and one of the most controversial parts of judicial reform. The State of Israel does not have a written constitution and is instead based on a set of fundamental laws. Therefore, the Supreme Court is of particular importance in upholding the rule of law and human rights.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court received several petitions – including from the Bar Association, which represents more than 70,000 lawyers. The chamber justified the petition by saying that the bill was part of a broader effort to fundamentally change the legal system. The rule of law and separation of powers could then no longer be guaranteed, according to reports, in the justification.

How will the Supreme Court decide?

It was initially unclear how the Supreme Court would react. President Esther Chajut broke off a visit to Germany to deal with it in Israel. The highest judges in Israel would therefore have to decide for themselves on the agreed cuts in their competences. According to media reports, however, the petitions could take several months to be examined.

According to Tel Aviv University legal expert Aejal Gross, the Supreme Court would be breaking new ground. In Israel, no basic law has ever been repealed, only regular laws that violate the basic law, writes Gross. Should the court nevertheless take action against it, he warned of possible consequences. “Should that be the case and the government refuse to comply with the ruling, it could lead to a real constitutional crisis.”

Water cannons against demonstrators

There have been mass protests against the reform plans for months. Critics of the government see the reform project as an attempt to undermine the democratic separation of powers and allow the government to make arbitrary decisions. The government argues that elected representatives of the people must be strengthened against an intrusive judiciary.

Even after the vote on Monday, there were demonstrations across the country. Hundreds of thousands protested in Tel Aviv. They burned tires, set off firecrackers and waved national flags. In Jerusalem, mounted police officers used water cannon and foul-smelling spray against demonstrators. Almost 40 people were arrested.

According to police, at least ten officers were attacked and injured. According to organizers, 32 people were injured across the country, 19 of whom had to be hospitalized.

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