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The Guardian view on democracy in Israel: under assault from the top | Editorial

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Even some on the right are having second thoughts as a government of extremists attacks the country’s institutions

Almost half of Israelis now believe that their country’s democracy is in grave danger. They are right. The assault upon its institutions is not merely the alarming result of a far-right government. It is to a large degree the raison d’être for this administration. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister once more and still fighting the bribery and corruption case against him, is no great admirer of the judiciary. His extremist coalition partners were an expedient choice, given their desire to undermine the supreme court and scrap its rulings outlawing Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Settlement expansion and annexation are at the top of this government’s agenda.

The intentions are not new. But they have never been pressed so nakedly and aggressively. The plan announced by the justice minister, Yariv Levin, would allow even the slimmest Knesset majority to override supreme court decisions – which would mean that controversial new laws could be pushed through, targeting minorities, civil society and the right to protest against annexation. Politicians would also gain more power to pick the court’s members. The timing of Mr Levin’s announcement was pointed: the day before a high court of justice hearing on whether Aryeh Deri can serve as interior and health minister, given last year’s suspended sentence for tax offences. While reining in the supreme court would not directly affect Mr Netanyahu’s case, the body has previously had to rule on his eligibility for office after his indictment. The move would be a powerful blow to the judicial system.

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