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Israel's Supreme Court, widely seen as a guardian of the country's founding democratic principles, is facing fierce pressure from political hard-liners who are challenging what they see as the court's overreach and liberal slant.

The stepped-up rhetoric and attempts to shackle the court are testing Israel's fragile democracy at a time when members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalist government have led an onslaught of attacks against the country's liberal institutions, stirring up populist sentiment and deepening a rift with the country's moderates.

The court's critics want it to tone down what they see as its overt activism and demand a rethink of the institution's role in society. But some observers see the campaign against the court as crossing a line.

"The attacks, the incitement is very worrying," said Dalia Dorner, a former Supreme Court judge. "Without an independent court there is no democracy."

In Israel, a country with a robust press and rowdy politics, criticism of the court isn't unusual, but its opponents rarely seek to curb its authority. It also comes as Netanyahu's hawkish coalition government, dominated by religious and nationalist parties, has escalated criticism of many of Israel's liberal bastions in the arts, media and civil society and pledged or carried out legislative action against them.


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