What is driving the players behind Israel’s legal review?

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TEL AVIV, Israel – In Israel’s divisive debate over the government’s proposed legal overhaul, advocates claim that reducing the power of judges and courts is good for the country.

But, as their opponents often counter, there could be other issues: Some of the main politicians clamoring for these changes are either suffer from legal problems or believe that the courts are interfering with their ideological agendas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies say the review will involve unelected judges. Critics warn that it will destroy Israel’s system of checks and balances, give too much power to the prime minister and lead the country towards authoritarianism.

Here’s a look at the key players pushing ahead with the review, despite major protests and protests from business leaders, security chiefs and legal officials, as well as concern from Israel’s international allies.

Netanyahu is on trial for corruption, accused of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving media moguls and wealthy associates.

While he was once seen as a defender of the courts, since his indictment, he has blasted the system for carrying out what he says is a witch hunt against him.

His detractors say that Netanyahu is looking for an escape from his trial. One part of the review would give the government control over the appointment of judges. If that passes, Netanyahu, through his government, could send sympathetic judges who could decide his fate. Netanyahu denies that the review is connected to his trial.

Israel’s attorney general has barred Netanyahu from addressing the review, citing a conflict of interest. But that is not expected to slow his progress.

Netanyahu’s justice minister, Yariv Levin, is on the move. Levin has even said that the accusations against Netanyahu have helped raise the need for the review.

Netanyahu’s ally in his coalition government is also facing criminal charges. Aryeh Deri was convicted and put on probation last year in a plea bargain for tax crimes. He also served 22 months in prison in the early 2000s for bribery, fraud and breach of trust for crimes committed while he was interior minister in the 1990s.

Deri was at the fulcrum of the country’s battle over the power of the courts earlier this year when Netanyahu was forced to fire him after the Supreme Court ruled it was unfit for the repeat offender to serve as a Cabinet minister.

After the suspension, the coalition doubled down on bringing Deri back into government. In the meantime, he is still a force in parliament.

“Deri is driven by his own interests and vendettas,” said Yohanan Plesner of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank. “There’s no way he can serve the government unless the court’s authorities are cut down or greatly reduced.”

A spokesman for Deri denied the accusation, saying that the politician believes that the review is necessary to restore balance between the executive and judicial branches.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have a strong voice in the current government, have long felt that the courts threaten their way of life.

Their main political goal is to continue with the liberation of religious men from military conscription. Under a decades-old system, ultra-Orthodox men were allowed to avoid the country’s mandatory military service to study Jewish religious texts. That has sparked outrage from secular Israelis who have challenged the system at the Supreme Court, which has called on the government to establish a fairer framework.

Successive governments have tried to meet the standards of the high court, which has struck down laws that are seen as favoring the ultra-Orthodox and have emerged as a threat to the community.

The ultra-Orthodox consider religious observance – and evasion of military service – essential to protecting their remote communities. Experts see military service as a way to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the workforce. Many men in the community, who make up 13% of the country’s population, are not working, putting a burden on the economy.

Secular Israelis and groups that promote Jewish pluralism have expressed concern that once legal control is eased, the ultra-Orthodox will use their political position to make the country’s character more religious. They point to efforts by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to restrict business and public work on the Jewish Sabbath as examples of what could lie ahead.


Pro-settlement parties are an integral part of Netanyahu’s government. Simcha Rothman, a West Bank settler, is in charge of the renovation as head of a parliamentary committee.

The courts have both sided with and against settlers in previous decisions, involving unauthorized outposts built on private land. Palestine. Many settlers nevertheless see the justice system as hostile to their desire to expand settlements and eventually annex the West Bank.

Much of the settlers’ anger towards the court dates back to Israel’s withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, when the judges sided with the government. . At the time, a large number of settlers and their supporters were against the withdrawal, which they felt was unfairly imposed on them. The withdrawal often appears in the current heated debate, with settlement leaders claiming that large sections of Israeli society that support the current protests did not support them during their says it was a very difficult time.

“Where were you when you were going apart,” firebrand settler leader and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told bank chiefs earlier this year when they warned of the dire consequences at the review of the economy.

Reporter Raviv Drucker said that this indicates the true motivation of the settlers. “The text was clear: the media and the judges rode over opposition to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005,” he wrote in the Haaretz daily. “And this is the subtext: A- now, we avenge you.”

Smotrich’s harsh views against the Israeli establishment came during the separation. He was arrested before the incident for his involvement in a plot to damage infrastructure and block major roads.

Smotrich’s managing partner, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has a long list of complaints. He believes that the courts have been unfair to religious Jews and settlers and that they have too often sided with Palestinians.

For years, Ben-Gvir, a far-right settlement leader, was confined to the fringes of Israeli politics. He was arrested several times and found guilty of encouraging and supporting a Jewish terrorist group.

In Netanyahu’s new government, he is the minister of national security and now heads the country’s police force.

Associate reporter Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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