Israel parliament passes Netanyahu's judicial reform bill amid mass protests

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was negotiating compromises on a bill to overhaul the Israeli Supreme Court's powers

Israel's parliament on Monday voted in favor of a judicial reforms bill supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has ignited mass protests.

The Reasonableness Standard Bill, part of a judicial reform package, passed along a 64-0 vote after members of the opposition left the Knesset hall once the voted started. 

Netanyahu, who was released from the hospital earlier Monday after being fitted for a pacemaker, had arrived at the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, to continue negotiating revisions to the bill that seeks to limit the Supreme Court’s powers to reject government or executive decisions based on the current reasonableness standard. 

"It's a sad day. A day of house destruction. I look at the coalition celebrating and ask, what are you celebrating? That you are dismantling the Jewish state we have?" head of opposition Yair Lapid, who was formerly Israeli's prime minister, said in a speech after the bill passed. "Today we saw an unprecedented show of weakness by Netanyahu. There is no prime minister in Israel. Netanyahu has become a puppet on a string of messianic extremists. In a democracy, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you win. We all get it. But what happened here today is not within the framework of democracy. It's something else. This is a complete violation of the rules of the game."

Critics of the legislation say it would feed corruption and lean toward authoritarianism by preventing the country’s highest court from quashing the appointment of corrupt officials and allowing the ruling coalition to expunge individuals who disagree with its policies. However, those in favor of the bill say it will rein in the judiciary, arguing the reasonableness standard is too vague and allows the courts to reject the decisions of election officials based on political grounds. 


"This is the meaning of the law passed today," Lapid continued. "The abolition of checks and balances, the abolition of the separation of authorities, the abolition of the gatekeepers, the abolition of the entire immune mechanism of Israeli democracy. This is not a victory for the coalition - this is the defeat of Israeli democracy. We will not give up on them. We will not surrender. We will not let them turn Israel into a flawed, undemocratic country that is run by hatred and extremism."

israel parliament passes netanyahus judicial reform bill amid mass protests

Israeli police disperse demonstrators during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenber)

Lapid said opposition will petition the High Court on Tuesday "against this losing legislation, against the unilateral cancelation of the democratic character of the State of Israel, and against the anti-democratic and predatory way in which it was administered." 

"This government can win the battle but not the war. Israel will not turn into Hungary or Poland. It won't work," he said. 

On Sunday night, President Biden reportedly cautioned Netanyahu against rushing toward a vote. The Knesset is scheduled to go on recess at the end of this week until mid-October, the Wall Street Journal reported, and there had been talk of potentially extending the current session to allow time to negotiate. 

"From the perspective of Israel’s friends in the United States, it looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less," Biden said in a statement to Axios, addressing Netanyahu. "Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this – the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus."

israel parliament passes netanyahus judicial reform bill amid mass protests

Demonstrators block the road leading to Israel's parliament hours before a vote is expected to overhaul the judicial system, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

"We believe that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of support," a U.S. State Department official echoed in a statement to Politico late Sunday. 

Netanyahu and his far-right allies, a collection of ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, say the changes are needed to curb the powers of unelected judges. Their opponents, coming largely from Israel's professional middle class, say the plan will destroy a fragile system of checks and balances. 

"This is a clash between the Israelis and the Jews," Gideon Rahat, chair of the political science department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told the Journal. "It’s a clash between a more civil identity and a more religious identity."


Those in support of the judicial reforms say the bill will properly balance the powers of government, categorizing how an activist and liberal Supreme Court has blocked legislation pushed forward by Netanyahu’s government despite its growing political power. Opponents fear the judicial reforms could usher in an ethno-religious state that would potentially afford Jews a greater status above other citizens. 

Demonstrators, many of whom believe the very foundations of their country are being eroded, stepped up their opposition, blocking a road leading to parliament. 

israel parliament passes netanyahus judicial reform bill amid mass protests

Demonstrators wave large Israeli flag during a protest against plans to overhaul the judicial system in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Businesses shuttered their doors in protest at the vote.

Further ratcheting up the pressure, thousands of military reservists have been declaring their refusal to serve under a government that they see as setting the country on the wrong path. Those moves have prompted fears that the military’s preparedness could be compromised.

"We are in a state of national emergency," Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who returned Sunday from a trip to the White House, said in a statement earlier Monday. "During these decisive hours, I call on elected officials to act with courage, and to reach out in order to arrive at understanding."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and on Twitter: @danimwallace. 

Authored by Danielle Wallace,Yonat Friling via FoxNews July 24th 2023