Court Hears Challenges to Law Limiting Grounds for PM’s Removal

The chairs where the Supreme Court judges will sit, ahead of a court hearing on petitions against the government’s “Reasonableness Bill,” at the Supreme Court in Yerushalayim, Thursday. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday against a law passed by the coalition limiting conditions for any removal of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from office, in the latest showdown among branches of government.

Political watchdog groups and an opposition party have challenged the March 23 amendment to a Basic Law, which the attorney-general described as designed to preserve Netanyahu’s tenure.

The law’s proponents say it is meant to safeguard any democratically elected leader from a wrongful ouster.

Eleven of the Supreme Court’s 15 judges convened for the hearing, presided over by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, who retires next month. She has openly criticized a judicial overhaul sought by Netanyahu’s coalition.

In a statement, Justice Minister Yariv Levin condemned the hearing as “a de facto discussion of rescinding the results of the election” that returned Netanyahu to power last December. The Prime Minister denies wrongdoing in three criminal cases against him.

The full court bench is separately preparing a ruling on challenges to a July amendment voiding its power to overrule some Cabinet-level decisions on the basis of “reasonableness.”

Critics say that law removed one of the last checks on the executive and a coalition-controlled Knesset, in a country that has no written constitution. Netanyahu argued for redress of what he calls overreach by an unrepresentative judiciary.

Next month, the court is due to hear appeals relating to the convening of a committee for appointing judges, delayed due to a dispute over a government bid to shake up its membership.

A ruling on the “incapacity clause,” defining terms for deeming a prime minister unfit to serve, was not expected on Thursday.

The Supreme Court’s options include upholding the legislation as is, quashing it, or ruling that it must not come into effect before the next parliamentary elections. Attorney-General Gali Baharav Miara has recommended the latter.

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