News Roundup for July 11, 2023

July 11, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

Bill to Erase Judicial ‘Reasonableness’ Test for Politicians Passes 1st Reading, The Times of Israel
With protests bearing down on them inside and outside the Knesset’s walls, lawmakers early on Tuesday passed the first reading of a controversial bill to block judicial review over the “reasonableness” of politicians’ decisions. The vote marked the first approval of a judicial overhaul bill since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the far-reaching overhaul legislative package in late March. The bill passed by a vote of 64 to 56 after a long, stormy session at the Knesset in Jerusalem that began on Monday evening and wrapped up after midnight.

Israeli Protesters Begin ‘Day of Disruption’ Against Controversial Judicial Overhaul, CNN
Demonstrators took to the streets in Israel on Tuesday for what they are calling a day of “disruption and resistance” against the government’s moves to overhaul the country’s judicial system. Photos and videos released by protest organizers and Israel Police showed demonstrators on the streets in Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva, Beer Sheva, and Jerusalem. At least 42 people had been arrested as of 11 am local time. Organizers said they had blocked the Ayalon Highway on Tuesday, Tel Aviv’s major thoroughfare, and asserted that police would be unable to clear it due to the number of protesters. Demonstrators plan to protest at the country’s international airport, Ben Gurion, later on Tuesday.


US Ambassador Warned Israel Against ‘Going Off the Rails’ With Judicial Overhaul, The Wall Street Journal
The Biden administration is trying to stop Israel from “going off the rails” with a rushed overhaul of its judicial system, the departing US ambassador to Israel said. President Biden and his ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, had urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow down and seek a consensus with the opposition on changes to the country’s Supreme Court. It is unusual for a US administration to weigh in on matters seen as purely domestic, but Nides said the overhaul raised questions about Israel’s democratic credentials and the US-Israeli bond, which he called as close as family.

‘I Will Not Stay Quiet’: Israel Evicts Palestinian Family from Home After 45-year Legal Battle, AP
Israeli authorities on Tuesday evicted a Palestinian family from their apartment in Jerusalem’s Old City, capping a decades-long legal battle that has come to symbolize conflicting claims to the holy city. Activists say the Ghaith-Sub Laban family’s eviction is part of a wider trend of Israeli settlers, backed by the government, encroaching on Palestinian neighborhoods and cementing Israeli control by seizing property in east Jerusalem. Israel describes it as a simple battle over real estate, with settlers claiming the family are squatters in an apartment formerly owned by Jews.

Meet the Megadonor Who Connects Bibi’s Judicial Coup and the GOP, Haaretz
Perhaps no person finds himself at the nexus of the future of both Israeli and American democracy more than Republican megadonor Jeffrey Yass. He is not only responsible for bankrolling the brains behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial coup, but he is already making unprecedented headways into next year’s US election on behalf of the GOP. Yass and fellow American billionaire Arthur Dantchik are largely responsible for bankrolling the Kohelet Policy Forum, the intellectual architects behind the plan that would fundamentally enfeeble Israeli democracy.

‘Not Over’: Opposition Vows to Continue Fighting Judicial Overhaul, The Times of Israel
Opposition leaders vow to continue fighting the government’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary, after the coalition muscles through a bill that will curtain judges’ oversight of politicians. “Like thieves in the night, the government passed a bill canceling reasonableness, and proving that nothing interests them except corrupt, anti-democratic laws,” Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says on Twitter. “The fight is not over. We will never give up on the values of the state of Israel. Tomorrow millions of Israelis will take to the streets with the Israeli flag to say: we will not give up.”

Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Suspect as West Bank Violence Shows No Signs of Slowing, AP
Israeli troops shot and killed an alleged Palestinian gunman during new unrest in the West Bank Monday, as a wave of violence in the occupied territory showed no signs of slowing. The Israeli military said troops stopped a motorist in Deir Nidham, a town west of Ramallah, to question him. It said the man got out of his car, threw a grenade and fired shots toward soldiers, who then opened fire. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that a 33-year-old man had been killed, but gave no further details.

Opinion and Analysis

Explainer: Israel’s Disputed Judicial Overhaul is Back, What’s New?, Reuters
Maayan Lubell notes, “Israel’s democratic “checks and balances” are relatively fragile. It has no constitution, only “basic laws” meant to help safeguard its democratic foundations. In the one-chamber Knesset the government holds a 64-56 majority in seats. The president’s office is largely ceremonial so the Supreme Court is seen as a bastion of democracy protecting civil rights and rule of law. The United States has urged Netanyahu to seek broad agreement on judicial reforms and to keep the judiciary independent.”

Is Israel’s Police Force Ramping Up Violence Against Pro-democracy Protesters?, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “Increasingly, however, there have been police on horseback and the use of water cannons and, on occasion, stun grenades – tools that normally have been reserved for quelling Palestinian protests. During the large protests on Wednesday, More than a dozen protesters were injured. Two people on the Ayalon highway were taken to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv with severe eye injuries after being hit directly by a water cannon. The two suffered internal bleeding affecting their vision.”

The Tale of Two Invasions: What the Last Attack on Jenin Tells Us About Israel Now, The New York Times
Tareq Baconi argues, “Today, there is no need for Israeli officials to sugarcoat their policies for fear of diplomatic reprisal, or to mitigate against the presumption of eventual partition. The transformation of Israeli political culture that accelerated after the violence of the Second Intifada and the impunity Israel enjoys internationally have culminated in the most right-wing government in Israeli history. In the two decades between these invasions, Israeli officials have rendered explicit their desire to consolidate what Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has called “a regime of Jewish supremacy” in all the areas under their control.”