Until recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be a supporter of the rule of law, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, as they have developed since the state's establishment. His acquiescence to the appointment of Yaakov Neeman as justice minister seemed to be a political response to Yisrael Beiteinu in coalition negotiations as well as the personal appointment of a confidant. When the prime minister opposed Neeman's proposal to split the position of attorney general, he demonstrated that he is not opposed to the idea of an attorney general with broad authorities.

In contrast to his predecessor Ehud Olmert, who launched a battle against the Supreme Court, Netanyahu always came off as someone who recognized the importance of this institution and of the independence of its judges. But things are different now: The prime minister is backing the assault by Yisrael Beiteinu and members of his own party against the legal system and its independence, and has accepted its subordination to political considerations.

Last Sunday he allowed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation to approve a resolution that would change the Judicial Appointments Committee before its upcoming convention, a resolution that violates the Basic Law on the Judiciary and makes a mockery of the recent Israel Bar Association election.

The prime minister said nothing when his party colleague MK Yariv Levin, with demagogic lies, said after the ministerial committee vote: "This ends the reign of jurists from the radical left ... the will of the public is stronger than the legal elite that had controlled ... the judicial system by referring their friends to the bench ... full diversity of the composition of the Supreme Court, whose gates would open to judges from the Mizrahi ... Russian ... and nationalist communities ... [and] prevent the appointment of justices with a post-Zionist agenda."

Netanyahu's silence, and his acquiescence to the idea that candidates to the Supreme Court must be vetted by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, constitute agreement with the determination that "jurists from the extreme left" are sitting on the bench, and support for the idea that the rulings of the district courts should be not only interpretations of the law but also interpretations of the political interests of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. This is his test: Will he choose the path of Menachem Begin, or that of Olmert.

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