The Showdown Begins

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Israel’s supreme court heard the first legal challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plan on Tuesday, a case that underscored the tribunal’s showdown with the government and which risks plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The case centers on a proposed bill unveiled by Netanyahu’s coalition earlier this year that would decrease the power of the country’s top court. Tuesday’s proceedings specifically focused on the first law – passed in July – that would remove the court’s ability to strike down government decisions it deems to be “unreasonable.”

Although the first proceedings were relatively calm, the judges and the government’s legal representatives clashed over a series of issues, including the court’s impartiality and whether the legislation “doesn’t endanger democracy.”

The ruling is expected to take weeks or even months. Meanwhile, the case puts Israel’s Supreme Court in the unprecedented position of deciding whether to accept limits on its own powers.

Netanyahu’s coalition – made up of ultra-nationalist and religious parties – said the legislation is important to rein in an unelected judiciary they believe wields too much power.

But opponents have decried it as a significant threat to Israel’s democracy, adding that it would concentrate too much power in the executive branch of government.

Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in months-long protests since the government unveiled the overhaul earlier this year. Opposition against the legislation has come from various facets of Israel’s society, including thousands of military reservists, who have declared their refusal to report for duty over the plan.

Large demonstrations also took place on Monday night in protest of the judicial changes. On Tuesday, a few supporters protested in front of the supreme court in favor of the law.

Netanyahu has not commented on whether he would respect the court’s decision to strike down the law. However, members of his coalition have hinted that the government might disregard the court’s ruling.

Legal experts caution that a disregard of the court’s decision could trigger a constitutional crisis, wherein citizens and the nation’s security forces would be compelled to determine whose orders to follow.

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