Israel's Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Showdown over Judicial Curbs

Israel's Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday against a bid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to curb the court's powers, part of a judicial overhaul that has divided the nation, sparked months of protests and worried Israel's allies, Reuters reported. The court's 15 judges were hearing challenges by watchdog groups against a amendment passed in July ending the Supreme Court's ability to overturn some government decisions when it deems them "unreasonable". Although other tools for voiding executive decisions remain in place, opponents say the amendment removes a vital check and balance in Israel's political system. The government says its aim is to stop political overreach by unelected judges. A ruling is not expected for weeks or months, but the showdown pitting the judiciary against the executive and legislature has gripped the nation. The hearing has been given wall-to-wall television and radio coverage. "Can you really hold a discussion of this question, without bias or predisposition, given that it is a matter of your status, your honour?" Simcha Rothman, a lawmaker in Netanyahu's religious-nationalist coalition and architect of the judicial overhaul, asked the court. Chief Justice Esther Hayut responded: "We are not addressing ourselves - neither our status nor our honour ... We are addressing the public's vital interests." As the hearing began, the shekel, which last week hit its lowest level in three years, weakened 0.2% in early trading. Read more.