Israel’s Judicial Overhaul- Background, Opposition & Implications

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Israeli lawmakers’ recent approval of a significant component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious proposal to transform the country’s justice system has sparked massive protests, revealing deep divides in Israeli society.

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This topic of “Israel’s Judicial Overhaul- Background, Opposition & Implications” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.


The Justice System Overhaul Proposal

The contentious plan proposed by PM Netanyahu is aimed at reshaping the country’s judiciary, sparking heated debate within and outside the parliament. The divisive proposal is primarily geared towards restricting judicial powers, thereby causing concern about the erosion of democratic principles.

  • The overhaul includes limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions and altering the method by which judges are selected.
  • The recently approved measure prevents judges from striking down government decisions on the grounds of being “unreasonable”. Proponents argue this would curb excessive powers of unelected judges over elected officials’ decisions.

Opposition and Public Reaction

The plan’s progression has been met with widespread criticism and protest, as opposition leaders, military officials, and Israeli citizens voice their concerns.

  • Many demonstrators believe the government’s plan threatens the foundations of their country. The public has demonstrated its resistance through various forms of protest, including blocking roads leading to parliament and shutting down businesses.
  • Thousands of military reservists have declared they will not serve under a government that they perceive as leading the country towards dictatorship, raising concerns about the military’s preparedness.

Impact and Controversy

Impact on Internal Cohesion

The justice system overhaul, while popular with Netanyahu’s far-right allies, has triggered serious concerns regarding the unity and cohesion of the Israeli society and military.

  • Military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi expressed fears about “dangerous cracks” appearing in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), arguing that without a unified military, Israel’s existence could be threatened.
  • Opposition leaders have echoed these sentiments, warning of impending disaster if the overhaul proceeds.

Controversy and Criticism

Critics of the plan argue that it not only compromises the judiciary’s oversight powers but also paves the way for corruption and improper appointments.

  • The absence of opposition lawmakers in the hall during the voting resulted in the measure passing by a 64-0 margin. Critics suggest this lack of balance reflects the power dynamics within the Israeli government.
  • They see the overhaul as a power grab fueled by personal and political grievances of Mr. Netanyahu — who is on trial for corruption charges — and his allies.

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International Repercussions

The United States, one of Israel’s closest allies, has repeatedly voiced concerns over the proposed overhaul.

  • The Biden administration has frequently expressed disapproval of Netanyahu’s government and its judiciary overhaul plan. It has urged Israeli leaders not to rush the overhaul, emphasizing the need for consensus in the face of various challenges confronting Israel.
  • The Biden administration has also criticized the Israeli government’s steps to deepen the occupation of the West Bank.

The Palestinian Question

The proposed overhaul has sparked debate over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Critics argue that this occupation compromises Israel’s claim to be a liberal democracy and accuses protesters of ignoring this issue in their struggle.

  • Critics argue that the overhaul’s greatest supporters are also the greatest defenders of the occupation, implying that the far-right aims to turn Israel into an authoritarian theocracy, expanding unchecked into occupied land.

Way Forward

While the concerns raised by critics are valid and must be addressed, it is essential that any changes to Israel’s judiciary respect the balance of power and maintain democratic principles. The process should be transparent, incorporating diverse viewpoints to ensure that the measures taken truly represent the democratic will of the people. In the larger context, addressing the occupation of Palestinian territories is crucial for long-term peace and stability.


The recent approval of a critical portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary has unveiled deep-seated divides within Israeli society. The proposal has triggered widespread protests and criticism, revealing significant concerns about the erosion of democratic principles and the increasing influence of far-right ideologies. Furthermore, the overhaul has raised important questions about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. It is essential moving forward to ensure a balanced, democratic approach to any changes in the judiciary, reflecting the diverse voices within Israeli society.

Practice Question for Mains:

Discuss the significance of the recent changes made to Israel’s judicial system. (250 words)

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