Israeli gov’t pushes on with divisive legal overhaul

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition advanced on Tuesday three bills, which are key parts of its proposed judicial overhaul plans that have divided Israeli society over the past two months.

The bills were brought up for voting in the early morning hours after a fierce debate.

Lawmakers with Netanyahu’s new ultra-religious and ultra-nationalist government voted in favor of a bill that would allow the Knesset (parliament) to cancel Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority vote.

The bill was adopted by a 62-52 vote in a first non-binding reading, meaning it still needs to pass two more rounds of voting before becoming a law.

The Knesset also voted in a first reading in favor of a law that would cancel the Supreme Court’s authority to declare a prime minister unfit for office for any reason other than physical or mental impairments.

The third bill, which was also approved in the first reading, calls for the legalization of four unpermitted settlements in the occupied West Bank. The four — Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim — were evacuated in 2005 as part of Israel’s “Disengagement Plan” in which it withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip.

The ruling coalition says the proposed overhaul is needed in order to curb the overly activist Supreme Court. But critics fear that it will give unrestrained power to Netanyahu, who is facing a criminal trial over corruption charges, and his government.

The proposed plans have created an uproar, with weekly massive demonstrations across the nation. ■

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