Democracy, Populism, & Domestic Politics, Middle East, Power & Security Democracy in Israel

March 20, 2023
By Kristen de Groot | Penn Today

Proposals from Israel’s new far-right government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could significantly weaken the country’s Supreme Court and have drawn major protests around the country, with tens of thousands marching on the streets and military reservists refusing to train. 

In what the court’s chief justice has described as a “fatal blow to democracy,” these sweeping changes would give the parliament powers to override Supreme Court decisions by one vote, reinstate legislation that has been ruled in violation of Israel’s Basic Laws, and effectively control the appointment of judges.

Critics fear this disruption is a symptom of democratic backsliding in Israel, following the playbook of increasingly autocratic governments in Hungary and Poland. 

Perry World House (PWH) hosted a conversation looking at what this reduction in power of the court would mean for Israeli democracy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whether the current public dissent could force the government to back down from these proposals.

Moderated by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and PWH Visiting Fellow Trudy Rubin, the panel included Guy Grossman, a professor of political science in the School of Arts & Sciences, and R. Daniel Kelemen, professor of political science and law and chair of the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University, who is also an adjunct professor of European Union law at Penn Carey Law School. 

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