What Israel’s Supreme Court Justices Wrote in Their Landmark Ruling

The eight Israeli justices who struck down a key part of the judicial overhaul on Monday argued that they had little choice given the law’s potential danger to Israeli democracy.

On the other side were seven dissenting justices who saw overreach in the decision to annul a law curbing the judges’ ability to use “reasonableness” as a legal standard.

Each justice wrote an opinion, with the full decision topping 250,000 words. The ruling capped a landmark case in Israeli jurisprudence. For the first time in Israeli history, the Supreme Court has struck down a quasi-constitutional Basic Law.

The justices, led by departing Chief Justice Esther Hayut, argued that the standard of reasonableness was a key tool for judges to protect against arbitrary government overreach, particularly in Israel, which lacks a formal constitution.

In her opinion, Justice Hayut said the law curbing the judges’ ability to use reasonableness as a legal standard left the public with little protection from arbitrary government policies or politically motivated decisions to hire or fire civil servants.

“Given the fragile, lacking system of checks and balances that exists in Israel, the total cancellation of judicial review on the reasonableness of government and ministerial decisions renders meaningless a substantial part of the role of the court in defending the individual and the public interest,” Justice Hayut wrote.

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