Israel’s Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would hear appeals against a new law that restricts its power, setting up a showdown with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
Lawmakers in Israeli parliament, called the Knesset, voted late Monday to pass the first in a series of judicial reforms, which included stripping the Supreme Court of its ability to reject some government decisions on the basis of “reasonableness.”
Netanyahu had pledged sweeping reforms to Israel’s judicial system when he was sworn in for his sixth term in December. His ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox coalition government has since been pushing for changes to limit the Israeli Supreme Court’s ability to rule against the legislative and executive branch. The government coalition also wants more say in appointing judges.
Massive protests have been raging for months across Israel against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plans, including the now-approved changes to limit the court’s check on the other two branches of government. The demonstrations have at times crippled the country.
Netanyahu, who survived a no confidence vote in the Knesset in March, was present for Monday’s vote after spending 30 hours in the hospital over the weekend to be fitted with a pacemaker.
On Wednesday the Israeli Supreme Court said it would hear challenges from seven groups seeking to throw out the law.
Eliad Shrug, the chair of one of those groups, the Movement for Quality Government, said in a statement, “We will appear in the Supreme Court to defend Israeli democracy, and we will do everything we can to stop the coup!”
Israel does not have a written constitution; it is governed by a series of Basic Laws along with its 75-year history of court rulings, including the one amended on Monday. The laws were originally enacted by the Knesset with the intent of coming up with a formal constitution in the future.