The coalition on Tuesday finished preparing for its first reading the controversial bill that would bar Israel's judges from applying the reasonableness standard to administrative decisions of the government as a whole, and of any other individual elected official.
The coalition's stated intention is to pass the bill into law by the Knesset's summer recess, which begins on July 31. Will it succeed?
There are three options. The bill may pass as is; it may pass in a watered-down version; and it may stall at some point during the legislative process and not pass.
The coalition has been testing the waters since talks at the President's Residence failed on June 14, and since it began to discuss the reasonableness bill in MK Simcha Rothman's Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee soon after.
The protest movement did not respond immediately en masse, but the protest this week at Ben-Gurion Airport indicated that they are going to fight as hard as they did against the previous bill that nearly passed in March, that would have given the government control over the Judicial Selection Committee.
Why did the protest movement not immediately respond?
Deputy Attorney-General Dr. Gil Limon warned that the reasonableness standard was an important standard in the Israeli legal system. Cancelling the reasonableness standard would remove an important tool for the review of arbitrary and extremely unreasonable decisions by the government. This would consequently harm law enforcement and other agencies, which could see unreasonable appointments to key positions based on political trust and association.
Rothman's insistence to finish preparing the bill on Tuesday further fueled the protest. No committee session was scheduled on Wednesday, and Rothman's noticeable impatience to finish voting already on Tuesday indicated that the coalition may be planning to pass the bill's first reading in the Knesset plenum already on Monday.
Bills passed this week
Two bills that passed this week designed for the personal benefit of Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri further aggravated protestors. The first delayed a vote for the Chief Rabbinate so that Deri would have time to choose between his brother, Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, and ally Rabbi David Yosef, as his candidate for Sephardic chief rabbi. The second was designed to allow an ally of Deri to skip a cooling-off period and run for mayor in Tiberias.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin later said on the Knesset dais this week that the current makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee was "warped" and indicated that he would not rush to convene the committee, which the opposition demands as a condition to returning to talks at the President's Residence. This, too, is likely to spur protestors.
Finally, outgoing Tel-Aviv Police Chief Ami Eshed's said at a press conference on Wednesday evening, while still in police uniform, that government ministers had attempted to intervene unlawfully in his treatment of the Ayalon Protests, and added that had he not exhibited patience, many people would have been injured and hospitalized from police violence.
These and other occurrences have brought the protestors back in full force. Therefore, barring any unpredicted changes, in the coming weeks the country is likely to experience a déjà vu of March. There will be more days of disruption, perhaps again at Ben-Gurion Airport; pilots, reservists from classified units within Military Intelligence and other elite units, and other reservists, are once again threatening not to continue volunteering for reserve duty.
The issue will likely go down to the wire, as has been common in the past six months. We may even witness another public warning from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over damage to national security if the bill passes.
The coalition may attempt, like it with the Judicial Selection Committee bill, to water down the bill slightly in later stages of legislation. But if it remains a superficial change like in March, it will not convince the protestors.
Should these steps happen, there is a fair chance that the results will be the same, and Netanyahu will find a reason to stall.
What, however, is different this time around, that may lead to the government to succeed in pushing the bill over the finish line, while it failed in March?
First, moderate Likud MKs whose support for the judicial selection committee bill was uncertain, have indicated that they will support this bill, likely because its effects are considered less dramatic than the previous bill.
Second, the government is giving itself more time. In March, the judicial selection committee bill stalled at the last possible moment. This time around, the government is on pace to bring the bill to a final vote with a week to spare; this could give it time to maneuver even if the bill does stall at first.
Irking supporters of the judicial reform
Third, the judicial system or police may take a step that will irk supporters of the judicial reforms and garner enough public support for the bill to pass. For example, if law enforcement decides to open an investigation into whether Kobi Yekutiel, the man who neutralized the terrorist on Tuesday's Tel-Aviv's ramming and stabbing attack, acted lawfully when approximately 30 seconds later, he shot the terrorist dead despite him appearing to no longer be a threat – public uproar against the law enforcement system will grow, and eventually could translate into anger at Israel's judicial system and create support for the judicial reforms.
There are also a number of laws being challenged in the Supreme Court, and a controversial ruling in the coming weeks could be described to the public as additional proof of the necessity of the reforms.
In Israeli politics, 25 days is a long time, and much can change by the end of July. What is fairly certain is that protests will continue to increase, and will likely determine the outcome of whether the bill passes within this timeframe.
The Knesset returns after the summer recess on October 15. In any case, therefore, if the coalition fails to pass the reasonableness standard bill this month, it could in October pick up where it left off