Israel’s parliament on Monday passed the controversial “reasonableness” bill, the first major legislation in the government’s plan to weaken the judiciary, despite six months of protests and American pressure against the most significant shakeup to the court system since the country’s founding.
The bill passed by a vote of 64-0, with all members of the governing coalition voting for it. All members of the opposition left the chamber while the roll call vote was taking place.
After rumors last week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may back down on the vote or even soften some of its components, the 73-year-old leader pushed forward with it and on Monday arrived at parliament, the Knesset, shortly after being released from hospital
The so-called reasonableness bill strips the Supreme Court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable.
It is the first major piece of the multi-pronged judicial overhaul plan to be passed by the Knesset. Lawmakers on Sunday began a marathon debate on it which lasted until the following morning.
The overhaul has split the country, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in protest. Here’s what you need to know about it:
What are the changes?
The judicial overhaul is a package of bills that each need to pass three votes in the Knesset.
While Netanyahu and his supporters say it is meant to rebalance powers between the branches of government, critics say it poses a threat to Israeli democracy and to the independence of the judiciary.
The reasonableness doctrine is not unique to Israel’s judiciary. The principle is used in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
The standard is commonly used by courts there to determine the constitutionality or lawfulness of a given legislation, and allows judges to make sure that decisions made by public officials are “reasonable.”
The standard was used this year when Netanyahu dismissed key ally Aryeh Deri from all ministerial posts, in compliance with an Israeli High Court ruling that it was unreasonable to appoint him to positions in government due to his criminal convictions and because he had said in court last year that he would retire from public life.