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Why Israeli court striking down judicial overhaul is serious blow to Netanyahu

The justices of Israel's High Court have ruled against the "reasonableness law" pushed by the current government and designed to weaken the country’s democracy.
TOPSHOT - This aerial view shows demonstrators unfurling a giant banner against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a rally against the Israeli government's judicial overhaul plan near Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv on September 23, 2023. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — A landmark High Court ruling issued on Jan. 1, overturning one of the government’s key legislative efforts, marked the first day of 2024 as a victory for Israeli democracy as well as a stunning defeat for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition. 

For the first time in Israel’s history, the High Court struck down an amendment to one of the country’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. 

The so-called "reasonableness law," adopted by the Knesset on July 24, 2023, was among the most controversial legislation ever approved by Israel's parliament and a cornerstone in the government’s judicial overhaul plan aimed at eroding the powers of the highest court. It limited the ability of the High Court to invalidate laws and government decisions it deemed unreasonable. 

The Netanyahu government’s attempt to curb the power of the Israeli judiciary set off nine months of mass public protests that ended on Oct. 7, when the national attention shifted to the attack by Hamas. After the attack, opponents of the law blamed the Netanyahu government, saying the divisive legislation had torn Israeli society apart and weakened the country, encouraging the militants behind the assault.

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