Skip to main content

Ignoring protests, Israeli Knesset advances Netanyahu's judicial overhaul

Three major elements of the government’s judicial overhaul plan were approved at first Knesset readings, with second and third readings expected in the coming days.
 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir react after sworn in at the Israeli parliament during a new government sworn in discussion at the Israeli parliament on December 29, 2022

The Israeli Knesset approved on the eleventh hour on Monday night, the first reading of three bills that are part of the government's controversial judicial overhaul plan even as hundreds of thousands of Israelis continue to protest against the move that would undercut the country's High Court.

Under Israeli law, in order for the bills to be enacted, they must be approved at two more Knesset readings, but Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin has set himself the goal of having the judicial overhaul plan adopted by the end of the month.

The first bill approved at a first reading would prevent the High Court from ordering a prime minister to recuse himself or herself from activities in cases of a conflict of interest, that would otherwise effectively impeach the premier. If adopted, the new law would enable only the government, by a three-quarter majority of the ministers, to order the premier to recuse himself or herself. More so, if the prime minister would oppose such a move, only a majority of 90 Knesset members out of 120 could force an impeachment. Only health reasons could generate such a move, the new bill proposes.

Opposition members are arguing that the bill proposed is personal, designed to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Hypothetically, the court could demand Netanyahu to recuse himself over the conflict of interest created by him overseeing the judicial overhaul plan while he himself is on trial.

The two other bills approved at first readings are both amendments to Israel’s semi-constitutional basic law — The Judiciary.  

Dubbed "the override clause," the first amendment will allow the Knesset to reenact laws invalidated by the High Court. In other words, the Knesset could approve bills, even if the court estimates that these bills come into conflict with one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. A majority of 61 Knesset members would be enough to override and ignore the authority of the High Court.

The second amendment completes the first one, limiting the authority of the High Court. It states that instead of 12 justices, the agreement of 15 justices would be required to strike down a law. The bill suggests that the High Court could invalidate or change a law only if it "clearly contradicts a provision enshrined in the Basic Law."

In parallel, the government keeps advancing other bills that also are part of the judicial overhaul plan. A key element of the government’s judicial reform is offering the government control over the selection of judges. The bill for changing the composition of the committee selecting the judges was already approved at a first reading. It is slated to be debated on Tuesday at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to prepare it for second and third readings.

The Knesset also approved late Monday at a first reading a bill repealing parts of the 2005 Disengagement Law from Gaza. The 2005 law saw the evacuation of Israelis not only from the Gaza Strip, but also from four settlements in the West Bank northern Samaria region (Homesh, Ganim, Kadim and Sa-Nur). Since then, settlers have been trying to return to the demolished outposts and rebuild them, especially Homesh. The bill advanced would enable repealing the clause banning Israelis from entering the region.

Protests continue across Israel against the government’s judicial overhaul, for the tenth week in a row. On Tuesday morning, police forcibly removed protesters who blocked one a road at the entrance to the Jerusalem government buildings compound. The protesters had chained themselves to each other with plastic pipes and sat on the road.

Huge demonstrations are expected on Wednesday and Thursday. Organizers of the protests are calling on demonstrators to block the airport on Wednesday, when Netanyahu is expected to depart for an official visit to Berlin. The same thing happened last week, when Netanyahu departed to Rome for an official visit.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in