The advancing judicial overhaul plans in Israel

Judicial overhaul update from Kalela Lancaster, NCJW Israel Program Manager

For more than half-a-year now, protestors have taken to the streets of Israel to push back against the Israeli government’s proposed judicial overhaul, something National Council of Jewish Women has expressed concern with since its introduction.

This weekend, these protests were among the biggest the country has seen — and today, I represented NCJW alongside thousands at a rally outside of the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Protests are intensifying because the judicial overhaul, previously paused after protests brought the country to a virtual standstill back in March, is now back on the agenda in the Knesset. Yesterday, a key component of the overhaul gathered steam — a bill to block Israel’s courts from applying the “reasonableness doctrine,” to decisions made by elected officials. Historically, the concept of reasonableness has guarded against the politicization of state appointments and prevented extreme government actions. As the Israel Democracy Institute puts it: “canceling this judicial tool would lift yet another barrier to unlimited power and open the door for rampant corruption.”

The first of three votes to repeal the reasonableness doctrine has already passed and the remaining two are due to take place over the coming days.

Meanwhile, under the radar, a particularly troubling legislative proposal is also advancing through the Knesset: a private member’s bill to disband and reorganize the national authority for advancing the status of women, an independently run body, into a politicized authority beholden to the government. The new authority would be stripped of its powers of review, and per the Israel Women’s Network, “will be absolutely subordinated to the policy of the political echelon — without giving authority and real influence to the positions of women and professionals.” (Read more about this in the Times of Israel.)

These legislative developments are happening against a backdrop of troubling events. Last week, in a damning resignation speech, Tel Aviv District Police Commander Ami Eshed claimed that the Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, had placed pressure on him to direct the police to violate its own rules and protocols and disperse protestors with violent means. Of further concern, a key gatekeeper, Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, is being subjected to personal attacks by senior government ministers seeking to limit the rights of Israelis to peacefully protest.

In response to this complicated landscape, National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz issued the following statement:

“NCJW believes in an Israel where women, children and families of all backgrounds and communities can thrive — and we fear particularly for the rights and protections of Israeli women being dismantled from multiple channels. The proposal to disband and politicize a key professional body committed to advancing the status of women is appalling, clearly illustrating the direct threats to Israeli women.

“Democracy is the heart of a nation and attempts to dismantle the checks and balances of Israel undermine the State of Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the protestors aiming to safeguard Israeli democracy with great tenacity — and we urge the Israeli government to ensure vital democratic protections and abandon its judicial overhaul plans entirely.”

If you haven’t yet, please check out NCJW’s action resource to help understand the crisis in Israel through a gender, justice and equity lens.

We will continue to monitor developments and share insights, resources and statements as relevant.

B’solidariut, in solidarity,

Kalela Lancaster
NCJW Israel Program Manager

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