Knesset begins debating bill to give government control over judicial picks

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman addresses the Knesset plenum during deliberations on one of the government's judicial overhaul bills, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman addresses the Knesset plenum during deliberations on one of the government's judicial overhaul bills, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset has opened floor debate on the coalition’s first judicial shakeup bill, which is expected to advance past its first of three readings this evening, as tens of thousands of anti-reform protesters gather outside the parliament building.

Sponsored by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the bill proposes to put judicial appointments under government control, as well as block the Supreme Court from exercising oversight over Basic Laws, including the proposed legislation itself.

Although it is only the first of several planned measures, today’s vote could be a turning point in political discourse over the government’s efforts to upend the judicial system. The bill’s coalition backers, primarily Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Constitution Committee chair Simcha Rothman, said they would engage in “dialogue” with the opposition once it cleared its first floor vote.

President Isaac Herzog last week called for the coalition to halt its progress to enable discussion, and opposition leaders continue to say they will not engage until the legislation is paused.

Earlier today, Rothman’s committee continued to press ahead with the coalition’s next bill, which would create preemptive immunity for certain laws, blocking the Supreme Court from reviewing them.

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