Netanyahu's reforms will 'crush' justice system, Israel Supreme Court chief says

PM's bid for more control of judiciary has led to fears over rights of secular liberals and minorities

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to impose more control over the Supreme Court would “deal a fatal blow” to the independence of judges, the court's head has warned.

The proposal, part of planned judicial reforms, has created concern that the changes may lead to laws that could affect the rights of secular liberals and minorities.

Mr Netanyahu, who took office as Prime Minister last month, says he will preserve the judiciary's independence.

But chief justice Esther Hayut warned the proposal would “deal a fatal blow” to the independence of Israel's judges.

She told local TV the plan was not to fix the justice system but “crush it”.

“The meaning of this plan is therefore to change the democratic identity of the country beyond recognition,” she said.

Attorney general Gali Baharav-Miara said the proposed legislation would “lead to an unbalanced system of checks and balances”, according to the Justice Ministry.

“The principle of majority rule will push other democratic values to the corner,” she said.

Yariv Levin, Israel's Justice Minister, said his plan would restore balance between the branches of government in light of judicial overreach.

He called the criticism “a call to set the streets on fire”.

Three Palestinians killed during raids

Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during arrest raids in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said.

The military has been carrying out near-nightly raids in the territory since early last year.

It said troops opened fire when Palestinians began throwing rocks and cement blocks from rooftops after soldiers entered the Qalandia refugee camp before dawn.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man killed as Samir Aslan, 41.

Mr Aslan’s sister Noura said Israeli security forces broke into their house at 2.30am local time to arrest his 18-year-old son Ramzi, AP reported.

As Ramzi was being hauled away, his father sprinted to the rooftop to see what was happening, she said. Within moments, an Israeli sniper shot him in the back.

Mr Aslan’s wife called an ambulance, but Noura said the army initially prevented medics from reaching the house. As Mr Aslan was bleeding, his family dragged his body down the stairs and called for help. An ambulance picked him up 20 minutes later, Noura said.

The Israeli army also raided the northern West Bank on Thursday, entering the village of Qabatiya south of Jenin and surrounding a house in the town.

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that Israeli forces fatally shot 25-year-old Habib Kamil and 18-year-old Abdel Hadi Nazal.

The Israeli army said security forces entered Qabatiya to arrest Muhammad Alauna, a Palestinian suspected of planning militant attacks.

The army said soldiers shot at a number of Palestinians during the raid, including a man who tried to flee the scene with Mr Alauna, a gunman who fired at the forces from inside his car as well as a group of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli troops.

The deaths on Thursday bring the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year to nine. They include two killed on Wednesday, one during an Israeli military raid in the territory’s north and another after stabbing an Israeli man in a southern settlement.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 6:31 AM