The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced changes to a key part of its controversial plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system. This marks the government’s first concession in the face of massive public protests and international pressure, including from US President Joe Biden.

Changes to judicial selection process

The proposed changes relate to the selection of judges in Israel’s judicial system. The current system involves a committee consisting of politicians, judges, and legal experts selecting new judges. The original plan sought to establish a new selection committee where coalition-appointed members would have a clear majority, which was seen as undemocratic and elitist. The revised plan reduces the power of the coalition, giving them a one-seat majority of appointed spots on the judge selection committee.

In another concession, the revised plan also requires a supermajority of the committee to select further judges after two supreme court judges have been appointed.

Other elements of the proposed reform include an override clause, where the Knesset would have the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, and a bill that would make it more difficult for courts to declare a sitting prime minister “unfit for office.”

Reactions and implications

Opposition leaders inside and outside the legislature have rejected the proposed changes as insufficient. Protest movements and senior figures in Israel’s security, high-tech, financial, and academic fields have also expressed concern over the overhaul, saying it will damage Israeli democracy.

The changes to the plan mark a concession by the Netanyahu government in the face of widespread criticism. The government aims to pass the judicial selection bill before the Passover holiday begins on April 5.