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Battle erupts over Israeli High Court’s independence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no qualms about threatening Israel’s democracy by advancing a bill bypassing High Court rulings.
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Unless pro-democracy forces wake up soon, they will find themselves having to add another sad day to the calendar week between Israel’s two national remembrance days — for the country’s fallen and for victims of the Holocaust. It will be known as Democracy Remembrance Day. On the days leading up to Israel’s 70th Independence Day (April 19), the government tried to take yet another big step toward ending the independence of its judiciary.

On April 15, one man, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, blocked a government-proposed law limiting the powers of the Supreme Court. In fact, this bill would enable the government (by a special Knesset majority) to ignore High Court rulings against laws it considers unconstitutional. For Mandelblit, this government measure represents a similar threat to the one he described in 2016 as “the end of democracy.” In September 2016, Mandelblit took a stand against the government’s proposed Regularization Law approving the expropriation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank for use by Jewish settlers. He warned at the time that the proposed bill would deal a blow to the constitutional defense of human dignity and liberty anchored in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and he subsequently refused to defend it against petitions to the Supreme Court challenging its legality. His current objections to the proposed government legislation known as the “Override Clause” foiled an attempt by the right-wing government to jail African asylum seekers and infiltrators.

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