A strong and independent Supreme Court is essential to the safekeeping of a democratic society, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a swearing-in ceremony of incoming Supreme Court President Asher Grunis on Tuesday, adding that he will reject any bill that threatens to hinder Israel's court system.
Speaking at the Jerusalem ceremony, Netanyahu said that it was the responsibility of a democratic country to protect certain basic rights, such as "the freedom of conscious, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the protection of private property, protection of workers' rights, and the reliability of contracts."
"Those are freedoms which give the meaning to a free life," the premier said, adding that, among the other institutions that make up a democratic system, "the court stands above all."
The PM also spoke of regimes in which democracy and human rights exist only in theory, saying that the difference between those regimes "and those in which these rights exist in reality is a strong and independent court system."
Netanyahu then vowed to protect the strength and independence of Israel's court system, saying that "every time that a bill which sets to injure the strength of the courts appears on my desk, it will be taken down."
Referring to the "stormy debate" in Israel over the role and limits of the courts' power, the premier said that disagreement was a normal phenomenon where every section of society sought to bolster its position.
However, Netanyahu said, that debate must "maintain limits where criticism of a court's decision isn't used to undermine the courts' stature" or to "personally attack justices."
Also speaking at the ceremony, President Shimon Peres also highlighted the Supreme Court's importance, saying that "a true democracy wasn't tested by being defined as such, but by the strength of its democratic institutions."
"Free elections are the cornerstone of a democratic regime, but they are not enough," Peres said, adding that they are those who determine the conduct and fate of any democracy. "The chief of those is the justice system, headed by the Supreme Court."
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