Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday delayed the enactment of a new law that makes it harder to remove a prime minister from office — the court’s second ruling in three days that impeded attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to gain more power.
The new measure says that a sitting prime minister can be judged unfit for office and removed only by votes of three-quarters of cabinet ministers and two-thirds of the Parliament. Previously, a prime minister could have been ruled unfit for office by the attorney general and the courts.
But the Supreme Court, in a 6-to-5 decision, ruled on Wednesday that the law would not go into effect until the next Parliament is elected — meaning, for now, the old standard still applies. The court found that the bill was intended to serve Mr. Netanyahu, who is on trial for a litany of corruption charges.
On Monday, the Supreme Court overturned a law limiting its own power to block government actions as unreasonable, a decision that has divided the nation.
Critics say that both laws, part of a package pushed by the right-wing government and approved last year by the Parliament, were devised to remove checks and balances on government power and to shield Mr. Netanyahu from oversight and dismissal.
“It is very clear that six of the judges think this is a misuse of constitutional power because of the personal nature of the amendment,” Amir Fuchs, a constitutional law expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, said of the ruling on Wednesday. “It is their using powerful legislation to benefit one person.”
The law was challenged shortly after it was ratified by groups including the Movement for Quality Government, a leading Israeli rights watchdog. On Wednesday, the group called the law “crudely tailored to the personal needs of a prime minister accused of crimes.”
“The court’s decision is an important victory for the Israeli public,” the Movement for Quality Government said in a statement. The ruling contains an important message, the group added, that the rules of Israeli democracy “are not a piece of putty in the hands of the prime minister.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters have criticized both the rulings and the timing of the decisions during the continuing war in Gaza.
“This ruling, like the one preceding it, has no validity, as it contradicts basic laws legislated in a democratic process by an elected parliament,” Shlomo Karhi, Israel’s communications minister and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party posted on social media.