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Global update

Israel’s democracy is under threat

Netanyahu: challenging the Supreme Court. Amir Levy/Getty

“A crisis is taking hold in Israel,” says Patrick Kingsley on The Daily. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have brought Tel Aviv to a standstill, protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “highly contentious overhaul of the Supreme Court”. Since the 1990s, the court has been the only check on the power of Israel’s parliament, holding a veto over any laws that endanger the rights of minority groups. This has put the judiciary in direct conflict with right-wing lawmakers: in 2012, the court overturned legislation that would have allowed ultra-orthodox Jews to defer compulsory military service; in 2020, judges scrapped a law attempting to legalise settlements of Israeli Jews on Palestinian lands. To right-wing politicians, such interventions prove that the court is doing “the bidding of the left”.

But these ultra-religious radicals never had the power to challenge the court’s position – until now. Since last year’s elections, when Netanyahu and his coalition partners formed the country’s “most right-wing government ever”, lawmakers have been trying to give parliament complete control over Supreme Court appointments and the power to overturn its rulings. Israelis worry that the PM would use this “neutered court” to water down or even overturn the corruption charges he is facing. It could also empower extremists to push ahead with settlements in the West Bank, escalating the conflict with Palestine. For decades, Israel has considered itself the “only democracy in the Middle East”. If the government’s reforms are put into action, that claim may be “under threat”.

❌🍷 Netanyahu isn’t the only democratic leader behaving like an autocrat, says William Hague in The Times. His “good friend” Donald Trump could well make a comeback, despite his disregard for America’s “laws, constitution and traditions”. Turkey’s President Erdogan has used the courts to ban his most popular rival from running against him. The three leaders share several traits: they have all become “ever more certain of their own views”. They fear retirement will make them vulnerable to prosecution. And they are all addicted to power, much like an alcoholic is addicted to booze. “In each case, voters need to take away the bottle.”