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What Israel’s judicial overhaul means for Palestinians

Palestinians in the aftermath of an Israeli military raid on Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem, July 24, 2023. (Photo: Mohammed Nasser/APA Images)

Key developments (July 20 – 24)

  • On Monday, July 24, the Israeli Knesset passed the third and final reading of a law limiting the power of the Supreme Court, a landmark moment in the Netanyahu-led government’s judicial overhaul. The so-called “Reasonableness Law” will curtail the ability of the Supreme Court to overturn government policies it considers “unreasonable.” The law’s passing has been met with widespread protest by the Israeli liberal establishment, including former army Generals, intelligence figures, and army reservists, while the White House commented the law’s passing was “unfortunate.”
  • Also on Monday, a large Israeli military force invaded Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem in one of the most extensive invasions since the Jenin operation in the beginning of July. Army bulldozers tore up streets and dug deep trenches while Israeli soldiers raided the house of a 28-year-old former Palestinian detainee in the camp, arresting him. According to Wafa, the Israeli force also raided several more houses in the area, including a mosque. Tulkarem and its neighboring refugee camps have been the focus of Israeli intelligence and military counterinsurgency efforts since the rise of the Tulkarem “Rapid Response Brigade” last March. In the early morning hours of the same day, the Israeli forces also raided Aqbat Jabr refugee camp on a search-and-arrest operation but ended with no arrests after the person wanted by the army was not found at home.
  • Israeli settlers burned down dozens of olive trees in the West Bank town of Burin, south of Nablus. According to Wafa, the settler group was from the nearby illegal settlement of Yitzhar, and carried out its arson with the protection of an Israeli army escort. The attack comes three days after the killing of a Palestinian driver in the Nablus region, 18-year-old Fawzi Makhalfa from the town of Sebastiya, north of Nablus. According to Middle East Eye, the Israeli army claimed that it opened fire on the driver due to an alleged car-ramming attempt.


The first part of the judicial overhaul passed today. The liberal Israeli establishment is predictably in an uproar as the illusion of its Zionist democracy has begun to unravel. But beyond the liberal panic at the shattering of the “shared fiction” that helps prop up the U.S.-Israel relationship, the question remains what sort of meaningful difference will this make for Palestinians?

Mondoweiss has touched upon the answer several times. The rightwing government has already formed a hardline “private militia” as a result of the judicial tug of war; it has already proposed draconian laws that aim to clamp down on Palestinian resistance; and it has already approved the construction of more settlements in the West Bank. What comes after would only intensify this trend. The eventuality of the judicial overhaul’s success — today being a milestone in that potential trajectory — would ramp up the rate of Israeli territorial annexation of land in the West Bank, and in doing so, it will let its territorial ambitions go beyond the hitherto gradualist policy of creeping annexation championed by liberal Zionists.

The difference for Palestinians, therefore, is not so much qualitative as it is a difference in degrees of intensity. Previous liberal governments have been no less brutal in their colonial designs on Palestinian land, and the greatest acts of territorial takeover and ethnic cleansing in the history of Zionism were carried out by the doyens of Labor Zionism. The difference lies in the doctrine guiding the modus operandi of colonial rule. The reigning Israeli philosophy in how to best rule and administer the West Bank has, over the decades, remained consistent in orientation: to deploy a combination of “soft power” and “military power” that adopts a policy of incremental colonization in conjunction with economic pacification measures. Liberal Zionists consider this “carrot and stick” the tried and true method of maintaining a “status quo” of relative stability. This stability will, in their view, ensure the longevity of the colonial project, and so many from the military-security establishment have sounded the alarm, believing that the hardline approach of the right-wing government will eventually lead to a “security disaster” for Israel.

Concretely, what will this mean? It means that if the government successfully votes the death penalty into law for “terrorists,” the Israeli Supreme Court will be unable to enact the “reasonableness” clause — effectively, a veto for laws it deems unreasonable — to override it. It means that if the government decides to ethnically cleanse an entire Palestinian village — instead of the incremental and silent displacement of individual families from that village — it will do so without much opposition from those who might assume that such drastic actions might incite Palestinians to resist.

Naturally, they will. The Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy will erode further, while the popularity of the armed resistance groups will reach new heights. Settler attacks and pogroms will incite revenge operations from resistance fighters and lone wolves alike, while future settler provocations at Al-Aqsa will drag other actors into the arena of struggle outside the West Bank (Gaza, Lebanon, and perhaps beyond). The concept of the “unity of fields” will only continue to gain traction, while normalization agreements will stretch at the seams as Arab states find it increasingly difficult to justify doing business with such an openly hostile settler-colonial regime.

But beyond all this, it will bring the Palestinian struggle closer to its moment of truth, doing away with the common fiction that Zionism is anything other than a movement at war with the indigenous population. That is when the true nature of the anticolonial struggle will become readily apparent to the part of the world that refused to see it for so long.

Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss Palestine News Director

Yumna Patel, Palestine News Director

Articles / Twitter / Mastodon

Faris Giacaman, Mondoweiss Managing Editor

Faris Giacaman, Managing Editor


Mariam Barghouti, Mondoweiss Senior Palestine Correspondent

Mariam Barghouti, Senior Palestine Correspondent

Articles / Twitter

Tareq Hajjaj, Gaza Correspondent

Tareq Hajjaj, Gaza Correspondent

Articles / Twitter

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