Israel has been rocked by mass protests against the current right-wing government’s planned judicial reforms for months. If confirmed, the so-called “Levin Plan”, named after Minister of Justice Yariv Levin, will lead to fundamental changes in the Israeli legal system: it aims mainly to restrict the authority of the Israeli Supreme Court, while granting the Knesset and government unlimited power to pass undemocratic and harmful legislation on human rights.
Sawsan Zaher is a Palestinian human rights lawyer specializing in constitutional human rights litigation on behalf of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. She litigated several landmark constitutional cases before the Israeli courts, and until August 2021 she served as the deputy general director and senior lawyer of the Adalah Legal Center, where she worked for 16 years.
The Levin Plan is comprised of several components: prohibiting the Supreme Court from intervening and examining Basic Laws, changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee and granting politicians an exclusive majority, restricting the court’s authority to strike down regular laws and enacting an “override clause” that will allow the Knesset to re-enact laws disqualified by the court, politicizing the appointment of legal advisors to ministries, cancelling reasonableness tests that allow the courts to cancel governmental and public authorities’ decisions, and restricting the right to legal hearings before courts.
Protesters across Israel argue that the Levin Plan aims to weaken the independence of the Supreme Court, breach the principle of separation of powers, and grant politicians full control of judicial nominations, thus leading to the weakening or even diminishing of basic legal principles in what Israelis view a “democratic and Jewish State”. Facing enormous pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared he would “suspend” and postpone the confirmation process of the proposed to the Knesset’s summer session on 27 March.
Nevertheless, despite all of these attacks on the rule of law, Palestinians intentionally did not take part in the massive demonstrations against them. After all, the State of Israel has never extended democratic norms to its Palestinian population, most importantly the principle of absolute equality. Indeed, throughout the public controversy surrounding the Levin Plan, one thing remained markedly absent from the debate: namely, how the proposed legal and constitutional amendments to the Israeli legal system would affect Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.
Several human rights organizations in Israel have published position papers detailing the impact of the coalition agreement on Palestinians. This policy paper from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Ramallah Office, however, focuses specifically on the components of the Levin Plan and analyses the impact of the fundamental changes in the Israeli legal system on Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.