In the wake of the desperate war launched by the Netanyahu government on the Gaza Strip, the Supreme Court’s decision came to abolish the basic law of reasonableness. To shock Netanyahu and his allies, and bring back to the fore the issue of the severe societal and political rift that Israel suffered throughout the year preceding the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation.
The court thus dashed Netanyahu's hopes of bringing together the Israeli factions under his leadership, and preoccupying everyone with the war in order to gain as much time as possible to get rid of the consequences of that law, which has established Israel on one foot, since its approval in the Knesset in July of last year.
The idea of abolishing laws before the Supreme Court was not new, but what is new in this news is; It is that the law that was annulled by the Supreme Court was not an ordinary law, but rather a basic law, and the basic laws in Israel are considered the constitution. Because Israel does not have an oral or written constitution, it compensates for this with basic laws that carry the force of constitutional articles. This law also relates to the powers of the court itself, and attempts to limit these powers. Including restricting the court's powers to repeal laws.
Although the repeal of the law came with a difference of one vote in the Supreme Court, by only 8 to 7, this does not mean that the Supreme Court was completely divided regarding it, because twelve out of 15 judges in the Israeli Supreme Court had previously decided The Supreme Court may review basic laws and intervene in them if the court finds that the Knesset has exceeded its powers by passing laws that deviate from its founding authority.
There were also three judges – out of the seven who did not agree with the court’s decision – who believed that the “law of reasonableness” could be controlled by narrowing its interpretations only without the need to completely abolish it.
Netanyahu may seek to provoke him and Iran with specific, painful operations that may lead to the snowball rolling and expanding rapidly in the region, which may give him an opportunity to completely disrupt laws and life under the pretext of expanding the field of war.
The idea of “reasonableness” itself is ancient and found in laws, dating back to the Roman era. In constitutional and administrative laws, it is considered a legal standard indicating the necessity of procedures and laws to be “reasonable.” That is, compatible with the spirit of the constitution and its terms of reference.
Thus, the court ensures through this measure that Parliament does not pass a law that is contrary to the constitution, the spirit of society, the values of the state or its nature, and from here stems the strength of the measure of reasonableness in the work of constitutional courts.
In the case of the occupying state, this measure is considered to restrain the Knesset (Parliament) and the government from issuing any laws or instructions that conflict with the ideas and values on which Israel was founded. This is the approach that Netanyahu wanted to target in his judicial reforms, because of which he plunged the country into a dark tunnel.
Ironically, Netanyahu's goal in targeting this legal measure was to protect himself only by restricting the powers of the courts, and here is the “horse” that led to the great rift in Israeli society that preceded the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation.
Netanyahu – and his right-wing coalition – believed that the Supreme Court was restricting his ability to issue laws that would enable him to protect himself from accountability on corruption charges, even if he claimed otherwise. Therefore, he was pressing with all his might to abolish the Supreme Court’s ability to use the reasonableness argument. To repeal any laws he is able to pass in the Knesset regarding his immunity from legal accountability and prosecution on corruption charges during his time in power and afterward.
His allies on the extreme right supported this approach to obtain their own gains by issuing the laws they wanted regarding the ability to annex lands and protecting settlers, and exploiting Netanyahu’s need for them to pass whatever requirements and senior positions they wanted. Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition were actually able to pass a basic law that eliminates the argument of reasonableness, and he even made sure to give the law the status of a “basic law” in order to make it an immune constitution.
One month before the “Al-Aqsa Flood” battle, a lawsuit challenging this basic law was filed before the Supreme Court by Netanyahu’s opponents. During the deliberations, the current war broke out, and Netanyahu believed that the continuation of the war on Gaza could distract public opinion and the Supreme Court at the same time from trying to Repeal this law.
But the Supreme Court came back and turned against Netanyahu in the middle of the war, and did not care about it, announcing on the first of this year 2024 its earth-shattering decision to cancel this basic law that eliminates the argument of reasonableness. That is, the Supreme Court – ironically – overturned the law, eliminating its ability to repeal laws.
This shock comes to Netanyahu – and his camp from the Supreme Court – at a time when it is considered the weakest on the Israeli street, after the failures faced by the Israeli army and the Netanyahu government in Gaza.
Even when Netanyahu tried to escape from these successive military failures by heading outside Gaza, and apparently trying to expand the war – through the assassination of the Deputy Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Sheikh Saleh Al-Arouri, which happened the day immediately after the court’s decision, and then trying to tense the atmosphere in the region, as It seems, to expand the field of war – it is likely that this will not cover, at the Israeli popular and internal political level, these successive failures, or the effects of the earthquake caused by the Supreme Court drama.
Netanyahu seems desperate and is trying to play all the cards to protect himself from prison. He has come to realize that his enemies and opponents are now more vengeful towards him, and that the knives are sharpening waiting for his downfall, so that he can be stabbed and slaughtered politically by all the forces that oppose him relentlessly. Therefore, he finds no choice but to do so. Escape forward on both levels: internal and external.
On the Israeli internal level, there is a possibility that Netanyahu will try to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision by issuing a law that temporarily suspends the decision, until the outgoing president of the Supreme Court who opposes Netanyahu (Esther Hayut) is changed, so that he can introduce a person loyal to him into the Supreme Court, and succeed. At the heart of the decision.
Its ally in power, the extremist Shas party, has already begun this measure, and this trend is opposed by Netanyahu's ally in the war government, Benny Gantz, and therefore it may be difficult to achieve now, and may lead to the collapse of the war government contract later.
On the external level, there is a great possibility on the horizon that Netanyahu will try to exploit the assassination of Sheikh Saleh Al-Arouri. To expand the scope of the current war and turn it into a regional war without waiting for the form of Hezbollah’s response. After Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech, it seemed clear that the party would not resort to responding by expanding the war after what happened.
Therefore, Netanyahu may seek to provoke him and Iran with specific, painful operations that may lead to the snowball rolling and expanding rapidly in the region, which may give him an opportunity to completely disrupt laws and life under the pretext of expanding the field of war.
This matter is extremely sensitive, and is considered a heavy gamble on Netanyahu’s part, to the point that some may see this scenario as illogical, but the past three months have taught us that nothing can be ruled out for Netanyahu and the far-right movement that supports him, especially the religious Zionist movement that is looking for a world war. Within his obsession with the idea of religious war, and the salvific ideas that he carries and preaches today.
Regardless of the short-term outcome, what can be said here is that the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision added fuel to a fire that is almost burning Israeli society entirely.
Whether the solution that Netanyahu sees is to expand the war or to exploit it to the fullest extent, he will fail miserably in reuniting a society whose division has reached the point of no return, which actually calls for thinking about the stage after this division turns into almost certain Israeli internal chaos.