On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he opposes having the Knesset Constitution Committee hold hearings for Supreme Court nominees. "This decision will not pass," he said. "It won't happen; it won't be. We must preserve the separation of powers, and the Supreme Court is above everything."
Netanyahu thereby adopted the traditional democratic stance that characterized his Likud party before it was infiltrated by anti-democratic elements, and for that he deserves praise. But this position requires the prime minister to take additional steps, because he cannot rely on Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to implement his policies on the Supreme Court.
A bill approved on first reading on Monday, which would enable Justice Asher Grunis to become president of the Supreme Court, is problematic in this regard because it is aimed at enabling the appointment of a particular justice. Nevertheless, it repeals an unnecessary law enacted by former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, and in that regard, it is a worthy bill. If it becomes law, and if the next court president is chosen by seniority, as is the custom, Grunis will become president, and that is a fitting result.
But seniority, the method by which all previous presidents of the Supreme Court have been chosen, is not enshrined in law, and politicians seeking to influence the justices are constantly threatening to abolish this custom. Thus if Netanyahu supports the supremacy of the Supreme Court, he could take a historic step toward ensuring this supremacy by enacting the seniority principle into law.
The impending selection of new Supreme Court justices has become a theater for the frenzied smashing of every rule and norm. Unfortunately, the prime minister can't rely on his justice minister in this regard; Neeman's motives are indecipherable, as are the masters he serves. But it is clear he doesn't serve the separation of powers and the rule of law.
Therefore, the prime minister must enter the picture. He must stop the unconstitutional process of changing the way the Israel Bar Association's representatives to the Judicial Appointments Committee are chosen. And he must ensure that the justice minister reaches a genuine understanding with the president of the Supreme Court on which candidates are worthy of being chosen to join the court.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: התנגדות ראויה לשימוע לשופטים
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