Israel’s Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday over an “incapacitation” amendment, which imposed restrictions on the government’s ability to claim that the prime minister is unable to fulfill his duties. The government passed the amendment back in March, ahead of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s corruption trials.
The “incapacitation” amendment at the center of Thursday’s hearing has also been one of the many instances fueling the mass anti-government protests which have rocked Israel for months now. After being petitioned by numerous groups and individuals, including Israel Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara, and the Movement for Quality Government—one of Israel’s largest public interest groups—the Supreme Court held its second hearing on these petitions. 11 of the 15 justices sat in Thursday’s hearings.
Attorney for the government, Yitzhak Bart, claimed that the that the amendment was not meant to change the law, rather clarify the definition on incapacitated, and solidify who bore responsibility for making such a decision. In the government’s view, the Basic Law, pre-amendment, was too vague as to who had the ability to decide when a prime minister could be deemed incapacitated. The government also claims that the Supreme Court does not have authority to conduct judicial review on issues pertaining to Basic Laws, which serve as Israel’s pseudo-constitution.
The hearing focused primarily on the validity of the amendment. The justices questioned whether the amendment was a “personal” law, passed to allow Netanyahu to follow through with his judicial reform plans. Bart admitted that part of the passage of the amendment may have been motivated by personal or political interests, but argued that a democratically elected government inherently writes and passes personal and political laws. He also argued that, even if the individual law may be personally or politically motivated, the amendment was passed, not for the sake of Netanyahu serving as Prime Minister, but for the sake of the prime minister position and the country’s elected government. Numerous justices responded, questioning the rationality of such a law. They argued the ability to pass laws in such a way lends itself to government corruption.
The “incapacitation” amendment passed through the government in March. It effectively narrowed the definition of incapacitation to rest solely upon the prime minister’s, or a supermajority of the cabinet’s, determination.
On Thursday , former Prime Minister Ehud Barak commented on X (formerly Twitter), condemning the law as a personal law meant to benefit the prime minister. He also praised protester who have been marching since January against such reforms.