Israeli parliament advances bill that may override top court

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s parliament advanced a bill Wednesday that would enable lawmakers to overturn a Supreme Court decision with a simple majority, a law that critics say would severely erode the country’s democratic checks and balances.

The “Supreme Court override” bill’s approval in a preliminary vote in the Knesset was the latest step by Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition toward realizing the judicial overhaul that is steaming ahead despite calls for dialogue and consensus from American Jews and Israel’s president, and weekly protest by tens of thousands of Israelis.

Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies seek to enact a series of laws that would severely restrict the authority of the Supreme Court, which they believe has had unchecked power for years. Critics say they will erode democratic norms, concentrate power with the ruling coalition in parliament, and make Israel an illiberal democracy.

The Netanyahu administration’s proposed judicial overhaul have drawn fierce opposition and vocal protest in Israel and abroad.

Earlier this week parliament approved a first reading of bills to give the governing coalition control over judicial appointments and strip the court of judicial review over Basic Laws — Israel’s quasi-constitutional legislation.

A draft bill brought before parliament Wednesday would require a unanimous Supreme Court decision to amend or strike down a law for violating a Basic Law, and that parliament would be able to pass laws impervious to Supreme Court review even if it violates a Basic Law. The preliminary vote passed 61-52.

Each of these bills now faces committee approval before final votes in parliament to pass them into law.

Netanyahu returned to power as prime minister in December at the head of the country’s most hardline and religious government in its almost 75-year history following Israel’s fifth election in less than four years. The longtime leader’s trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes has dragged on for nearly three years.

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