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Israeli press review: Judiciary to be made toothless as Netanyahu seeks protection

Prime minister looking to turn Supreme Court into an advisory body, while Eurovision work permits upset the Haredi community
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a paper at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office (AFP)

Netanyahu targets judiciary’s power

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning legislation that would hamstring the Supreme Court and allow the prime minister to secure immunity from prosecution over corruption charges, Israeli daily Haaretz reports.

The proposed law would allow Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and ministers to disregard the court’s decisions in administrative matters, according to Haaretz, allowing it to annul any decision to strip Netanyahu of immunity from prosecution.

The Supreme Court would effectively be transformed from the highest legal power in the country into an advisory body.

Netanyahu, who is facing a raft of serious corruption charges, is negotiating with several right-wing parties who are set to make up his new government.

According to Haaretz, the negotiations include judicial reforms that this new legislation would be part of.

The prime minister’s plans have been shared with few, the newspaper reports, but privy to them is the Union of Right-Wing Factions, a collection of far-right parties that saw one candidate in April’s elections, Jewish supremacist Michal Ben-Ari, banned from running by the Supreme Court.

Settlement sovereignty drive

The prime minister will promote the idea of extending Israeli sovereignty over illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but only after Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan has been launched, state broadcaster Kan reports.

Speaking to Kan, a source in the Union of Right-Wing Parties said that the extension of sovereignty had been a recurring theme in negotiations over the formation of Israel’s new government.

The source said the Union of Right-Wing Parties, which has large support in Israel’s settler community, has been pushing for rapid moves towards extending sovereignty.

However, according to the source, Netanyahu is refusing their requests because he is unwilling to make unilateral moves that would displease the Trump administration.

Despite that, Yoav Kish, an MK in Netanyahu’s Likud party, said on Monday that he expects the prime minister to soon apply sovereignty to at least some settlements.

"In the context of Trump's century plan, we are talking about such a move,” Kish told Kan.

Singing on Shabbat?

United Torah Judaism (UTJ), an Ultra-Orthodox party that made gains in April’s election, is demanding the recreation of a body that will hand rabbis the power to issue work permits on Shabbat, news site Ynet reports.

According to Ynet, UTJ is responding to pressure from within the Haredi community it represents to ensure that as little labour as possible is carried out on Judaism’s day of rest.

This was particularly sparked, Ynet says, by the apparent ease the labour ministry issued work permits for the weekend around the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians have been accused by their community of only offering weak protests to Labour Minister Israel Katz’s decision, and in response have made the reformation of the rabbi body a key part of their negotiations to form the new government.

UTJ is now leading calls for a body to be set up within the ministry that will give rabbis the power to accept and reject Shabbat work permits, and the party is vying to head it.

"The only test for work permits should be whether it is life-saving work or not, and it is impossible to approve Shabbat desecrations on the basis of considerations of convenience and movement,” a senior UTJ official told Ynet.

“With the Eurovision Song Contest we do not know what to do, because it depends on a lot of international factors, but the prime minister knows very well today that the subject of work on Shabbat is at the heart of our demands.”

Palestinian land to be seized for Israeli roads

Two major transportation projects in the occupied West Bank have been approved, Haaretz reports, paving the way for swathes of Palestinian land to be seized.

The civil administration has signed off on the laying of two roads to isolated settlements, which will begin in July.

One road, dubbed the Hawara bypass and reportedly set to be 5.5km long, will serve the settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus, and other smaller ones north of the Tapuach Junction.

The other, the al-Aroub bypass, would be 7km long and run along the hills around Hebron, Haaretz says,.

Under the plans, 40.6 hectares of Palestinian land will be appropriated from the towns of Burin, Hawara, Beita, Awarta, Yasuf, Yatama and al-Sawiyah for the Hawara byapass.

Another 40.1 hectares is to be seized from Beit Ummar and Halahul for the al-Aroub bypass.

The plan is "part of the government's ongoing surrender to the demands of the settlers, who know full well that good roads are key to further development" of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, said NGO Peace Now.