Since January 2023, Israel witnessed widespread protests against the right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu government. The demonstrations, the largest in the history of Israel, were against the government's now paused plans to completely overhaul the country's judiciary.
Protestors and political analysts claim that the far-reaching changes if brought into effect, can shake the very democratic foundations of the country.
The proposed reforms have sparked protests from all quarters of the country, with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as well as ex-Prime Minister and current opposition leader Yair Lapid and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, joining the demonstrations.
The overhaul will give the Israeli government more control over the judiciary. These proposed reforms come in a package of bills, which just need to pass three votes in the Israel parliament or Knesset before they become law.
Adding to the complications is the fact that Israel does not have a written Constitution but rather just a set of rulings passed as basic laws.
According to a recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, '66 percent of Israelis think the Supreme Court should have the power to strike down a law if its incompatible with the Basic Laws.'
WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED CHANGES?
From giving the Knesset power to override Supreme Court rulings to restricting Supreme Court's ability to overturn laws and most important of all, the selection of judges majorly constitutes part of the changes.
Presently, a nine-member committee consisting of justices and lawmakers select judges to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
Netanyahu plans to bring about a change that will give the government a majority in the committee, thus effectively choosing who it wants to make a judge.
According to the Prime Minister, the country's Supreme Court no longer represents the Israeli citizens and has instead become an insular, elitist group, the CNN reported.
Netanyahu has cited the USA's example where lawmakers have a say in the appointment and approval of federal judges.
The second change troubling protestors is called the override clause. This allows the Israeli parliament to override Supreme Court rulings.
Third proposed change on the list restricts the Supreme Court's ability to overturn laws that it deems unfit or unnecessary.
The fourth reform which has been voted to law by the Knesset gives immunity to the sitting Prime Minister. The new law protects the Prime Minister from being deemed unfit to rule by limiting the reasons to physical or mental incapacity. It also makes it mandatory for the prime minister or two-thirds of the cabinet pass such an order.
Netanyahu, who is in the midst of his own corruption trial facing fraud, bribery charges as well as breach of trust, will be protected through the new bill, according to critics.
Opposition leaders also believe that the bill is a way to safeguard Netanyahu from being deemed unfit for office due to the trial.
Critics are also of the opinion that if the government has more power in choosing who is elected as judge, Netanyahu's supporters and allies will appoint those who will rule in the Prime Minister's favour in his ongoing trial.
Netanyahu's corruption trial is also a reason, experts suggest, why the prime minister is hurrying to pass the bills.
WHAT DO THE PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY?
According to critics, the proposed changes will completely destroy the only agency that can question the country's legislative branch, cautioning that it will vastly affect the judiciary's independence.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog had called for a halt to the reforms, 'For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of the necessary responsibility, I call on you to halt the legislative process immediately.'
The overhaul has sparked uproar in the country's business, financial, security and academic sectors.
The Israel Democracy Institute survey has also revealed that the reforms are supported by only a minority of Israelis while the vast majority want a compromise to be reached.
While 66% believe that the Supreme Court should hold the power to strike down laws almost 63% are okay with the current method of appointing judges.