Netanyahu faces new public trial over judicial reforms


A group of more than 2,300 North American rabbis and cantors have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of pursuing judicial reform for his own personal gain.

“There is no question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to weaken the judiciary in order to allow the passage of laws that would protect him against the multiple charges he faces for corruption and breach of trust,” T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization, said in a statement Monday.

Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust at the end of 2019 and has been entangled in an ongoing trial ever since.

“And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” Daniel 2:21

The rabbis’ stinging criticism came after Justice Minister Yariv Levin last Wednesday rolled out the “first stage” of his judicial overhaul plan, including limiting the High Court’s ability to invalidate laws and government decisions by requiring an unspecified “special majority” to do so. The reforms also include an “override clause” that would allow the Knesset to trump even the special majority’s ruling and re-legislate such laws.

Levin’s reforms also give the government more control over selecting judges, allows ministers to select their own legal advisors rather than being provided council by Justice Ministry-appointed advisors and prevents the court from using what it calls “reasonableness” to decide if legislation is legal.

The plan was met with accolades by the coalition, including Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, who had presented a similar plan during his election campaign and said Levin’s reforms were mandated by Israeli voters.

“We have a full mandate to increase the Israeli public’s faith in the judicial system, to strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Smotrich said.

But others – including the man who is arguably Israel’s most renowned legal figure – have said such an extreme level of judicial reform could put Israeli democracy at risk.

In interviews that were aired last weekend on Israeli channels, former High Court president Aharon Barak, 86, said the reforms would destroy Israel’s system of checks and balances.

“We will, in fact, have only one authority – the prime minister,” Barak said.

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