Israeli Knesset to vote on bill that will 'abolish' Supreme Court's power to nix gov't decisions
Commanding 64 of the Knesset's 120 seats, Netanyahu's coalition appeared on course to win the vote, the first of three required for the new bill to be written into law, with protests likely to intensify should that happen.
The far-right ruling coalition wants the Supreme Court to stay out of government decisions, specifically the ability to void decisions made by the government, ministers and elected officials, including ministerial appointments.
Monday's vote is aimed at preventing the judiciary's right to rule on the "reasonableness" clause of government decisions.
One of its potential effects would be on the appointment of ministers.
The Likud has signed agreements with other ruling coalition members to implement judicial "reforms", including diminishing the court's powers to review statutes and amendments. Members of the coalition also want to muster enough majority on the judicial selection committee to control the appointment and removal of judges.
Now, the government wants to "abolish" the court's power to review the "reasonableness" of decisions by the executive branch.
The government says there are no grounds for the court's use of the "reasonableness" doctrine and no statutory authority to review executive action and argues that the court has made up the doctrine out of thin air to intervene in government business.
Netanyahu, in January, was forced to dismiss cabinet member Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Shas after intervention by the Supreme Court over a previous tax evasion conviction.
The proposals would also give the government a more significant say in appointing judges.
Netanyahu - on trial on graft charges he denies - says the changes are meant to restore balance among branches of government. He has played down the economic fallout from the campaign, which has spooked investors and weakened the Israeli currency, the shekel.
Opponents of the judicial overhaul in Israel say a robust supreme court is paramount in the current system where the separation of powers is "weak".
Israel, says critics of the government, does not have two houses of legislatures that would open the way for laws to be scrutinised appropriately. It is also not a federal system that allows locales to enact their own rules.
At present, "all matters can be decided by the courts [including] review of appointments and removing from office. This protects the integrity of the private sector", Prof. Rivka Weill of the Harry Radzyner Law School at Reichman University said in a briefing to journalists.
"It is the only way to counterforce the government which has the broad support of the legislatures", Weill added.
The prime minister usually enjoys a parliamentary majority in Israel's parliamentary system. Therefore a solid supreme court to review decisions by the executive branch is necessary to preserve a balance between the different parts of the government.
In a presidential system, there are generally rivalries between the president and the legislators, creating a balance of power.
A poll released Sunday by Israel's public Kan television channel showed 31 per cent of Israelis were in favour of the changes, while 43 per cent opposed them.
Palestinian citizens of Israel largely stayed out of the months-long anti-government rallies that have brought civil war speculation centre stage.