Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to return to office, where he could attempt to address his years-long legal troubles through new legislation advanced by his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies. Critics say such a legal crusade is an attack on Israel’s democracy.
Netanyahu, 73, who is on trial for corruption, will likely be buoyed by a loyal and comfortable governing majority that could provide him a lifeline from conviction.
Defenders of the justice system say the proposed changes would allow legislators to abuse their authority and disrupt the delicate balance of powers that keeps them in check.
“It brings us to a situation where our entire democracy boils down to elections, but once you’re elected you can do whatever you want,” said Amir Fuchs, senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank in Jerusalem. ” “This is not a normal situation in any democracy.”
Israel’s right wing has for years sought to change the justice system, portraying it as an interventionist and left-leaning for its own legislative agenda. With the formation of the requisite coalition, the way has been cleared for such changes.
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in three scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies wrongdoing and has portrayed himself as the victim of a witch hunt by law enforcement and the justice system.
Netanyahu’s political rivals say such allegations of alleged politicization of prosecutors and judges are part of a campaign to undermine and ultimately undermine public trust in the legal system.
Netanyahu has claimed that the proposed legal changes will not affect the outcome of his trial. During the trial, he is bound by a conflict of interest arrangement limiting his dealings with the justice system, although it is unclear whether this will be enforced.
Here’s a look at the legal maneuvers that could help Netanyahu:
The most controversial change will target Israel’s Supreme Court, which critics say is a direct blow to Israel’s democracy.
Netanyahu’s allies say the Supreme Court intervenes too often to strike down right-leaning laws. They say that voters elect their MPs to make laws and challenging those laws in the Supreme Court is an insult to the people’s choice.
Israel has no constitution, instead relying on a set of “Basic Laws” that ensure rights and freedoms. The courts are tasked with verifying that the law remedies those laws. The Supreme Court is seen as a last resort for minorities and other groups who challenge laws they feel are discriminatory.
The override clause, which is expected to be one of the first steps of the coalition, will allow the government to treat certain Supreme Court decisions as non-binding. Under the proposal, still being negotiated, the coalition could override any regimes with a majority, giving the governing bloc enormous power to upset Israel’s system of checks and balances.
Yaniv Roznai, a law professor at Reichman University near Tel Aviv, said that once the override clause is passed, the government could approve other changes to the law that could oust Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s allies plan to draft a law that would suspend prosecution of him for alleged crimes until the prime minister leaves office. It has been dubbed “French law” because in France, presidents have immunity from prosecution.
Current Israeli prime ministers can be prosecuted. But unlike France, Israel’s leaders have no time limit, meaning the shield of immunity could potentially be in place for years. Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving leader, having ruled for 15 years and has no plans to retire.
Under the scheme, a prime minister can be prosecuted for certain offences, but this does not include corruption charges. Researcher Fuchs said the law appeared to be tailor-made for Netanyahu.
changing the penal code
Netanyahu’s allies have pledged to drop the charges from the penal code that accuse Netanyahu of three counts: fraud and breach of trust.
They say the offense is poorly defined, giving the court too much discretion when deciding on punishment. They say it gives MPs excessive space…
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /