To cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel has adopted several controversial measures, such as tracking infected people by the Internal Security Agency (known as Shin Bet), suspension of courts, and temporary suspension of parliament. These are seen as an instrument of preserving power of Likud and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been ruling the country for more than a decade.
The courts are being suspended just in time to postpone the trial of Netanyahu who is being charged with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. Furthermore, the temporary suspension of parliament by its speaker Yuli Edelstein (a close ally of Netanyahu) has been implemented just before a plenum vote on a new Knesset speaker was supposed to be held. Edelstein did so knowing there is a majority that would replace him. In addition, the suspension also prevents establishing committees that would oversee actions taken by the executive, mainly the suspension of the courts.
Edelstein’s actions were reviewed by the Supreme Court, ordering him not to undermine the democratic foundations. What seemed to be a constitutional crisis has been averted by the resignation of Edelstein announced this Wednesday. However, some Likud members expressed concerns regarding the ruling and talked about “judicial coup”. The remarks might undermine the trust in independent judiciary among the citizens of the country. Moreover, by suspending the courts, Israeli leaders and politicians cannot be held accountable thus this situation creates a vacuum of law applicability for the ruling elite.
These steps should be seen as a further erosion of democracy in Israel, already weakened by the limited rights to criticize the government and restricted mechanisms for challenging government policy.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
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Author: Dominik Zachar
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