"The courts in Israel are one of the cornerstones of Israeli democracy. They are an important, healthy and essential institution for our continued democratic life here," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated. "This is not inconsistent with the need to correct distortions that have be introduced into systems of public [governance] in general over the years, and we will correct them responsibly, with sound judgment and with due seriousness and without being carried away uncontrollably."
If that is what Netanyahu believes, he should have conducted himself differently when he was assembling his coalition. He should have seen to it that the significant posts of justice minister and chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee went to people whose views were the same as his. Now he must repair the severe damage that has resulted from the faulty appointments to which he agreed. This is something he has the capacity to do.
If the prime minister's outlook had been shared by the justice minister, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch would not have had to express the tough and correct things she said on Thursday at a conference of the Israeli Association of Public Law when she accused some politicians of conducting a campaign of incitement against the Supreme Court. A fair and proper justice minister should have responded similarly immediately after things indeed got "uncontrollably carried away" following the slanderous remarks of National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and MK Yariv Levin during a Knesset hearing on bills designed to destroy rather than repair what Netanyahu calls the cornerstone of Israeli democracy.
A fair and proper justice minister has just two roles: defending the justice system in the cabinet, in the Knesset and with the public; and working with the President of the Supreme Court to improve and strengthen the judicial system and the service it provides the public. The incumbent justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, is serving other interests. He remained silent in the wake of the unruly goings-on in the Knesset and in the process revealed what he thinks. He is not the person who should be serving as justice minister in a government that views the judicial system as Netanyahu does.
Netanyahu has no alternative. If he does not replace the justice minister, he must become personally involved and come to a real agreement with Supreme Court President Beinisch on the appointment of justices to the High Court. He must halt the attempt to retroactively change the Israel Bar Association's representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee, and he must exert his authority over the destructive figures in his party.
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