Israeli Parliament Passes First Bill Of PM Benjamin Netanyahu's Judicial Overhaul Agenda Amid Nationwide Polarisation, Protests

Last-ditch efforts helmed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and the Opposition to a compromise failed and the government went ahead with the overhaul amid an Opposition boycott.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Amid widespread protests and boycott by the Opposition, the Israeli Parliament on Monday passed the first bill of Prime Minister Netanyahu's judicial overhaul agenda.

For the past 28 hours, President Isaac Herzog mounted a last-ditch effort to bring the government and the Opposition to a compromise over Netanyahu's judicial overhaul that has torn apart the country. Earlier on Monday, however, Leader of Opposition Yair Lapid said the talks had failed. 

The first bill of the proposed judicial overhaul is called the 'reasonableness law' which limits the power of the Supreme Court to rule on government actions. 

"The court is now barred from overruling the national government using the legal standard of 'reasonableness', a concept that judges previously used to block ministerial appointments and contest planning decisions, among other government measures," reported The New York Times.

The polarisation over Netanyahu's plans is such that even the famed Israeli military and security services, the most respected institution in the country, stands divided. Thousands of reservists have said they would refuse the call of duty if the plans are passed in the Parliament. For months now, Israel has been rocked by protests attended by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Just on Sunday, around 2,50,000 people participated in protests held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and other cities.

The passage of the reasonableness bill caps around two days of dramatic developments which saw Herzog hold talks with leaders across the spectrum and even Netanyahu holding discussions among his coalition partners, reported Times of Israel (ToI).

"Within the Knesset, multiple last-minute attempts to amend the bill or to come to a broader procedural compromise with the opposition failed, and two compromise frameworks floated by a union leader and the president were rejected. A series of ideas for unilaterally softening the legislation, discussed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and key coalition leaders even as the Knesset was preparing to vote, also led nowhere," reported ToI.

The bill was passed 64:0 as the Opposition had boycotted the vote. 

Lapid has said that the law would be challenged in the Supreme Court. 

Supporters of the proposed judicial overhaul say it's essential to remove the encroachment of the Judiciary into Executive's space and the critics say that it would remove safeguards and would pave way for authoritarianism and imposition of religious laws.The anxieties of the critics of the overhaul go beyond the bills. As the overhaul is helmed by far-right and religious parties in Netanyahu's coalition, the critics fear the public life would witness a takeover by the religious right and individual liberties could be curtailed. 

"Mr. Netanyahu says that individual rights will be respected. But protesters fear a religious takeover of public life, and some predict that shops might eventually be forced to close on the Jewish Sabbath, or that women and men could have to sit separately on public transport," reported NYT