Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman - 23.11.2011
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset, Nov. 23, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his opposition Saturday to a bill sponsored by two members of his Likud party that would limit public access to High Court petitions.

In a short statement released by the Prime Minister's Office, Netanyahu said that he would object to any bill that would limit the independence of Israel's courts.

The PM's comments came just hours after Netanyahu's deputy, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor said in a televised interview that he would resign from the cabinet if the bill, sponsored by Danny Danon and Yariv Levin, would pass into law.

Speaking of the bill on Channel 2's Meet the Press, Meridor said that there was "a red line, limiting the High Court will not pass," adding that "there won't be a single day in which a law such as this exists and I am still in the cabinet."

"I don't believe that Israel will go dozens of years back in time and support such a move," he said, adding that he had "returned to the government to stop such things. I don't think that anyone in his right mind will support it."

In response to Meridor's threats to resign if the bill to limit High Court petitions would pass as law, one of the bill's sponsors, Danon said that Likud would not "be allowed to turn into a branch of Kadima."

"Anyone who disagrees with the opinion of the majority within Likud needs to reach his own conclusions as to his political place – the door is open for minister Meridor," Danon said.

In explaining their bill to limit High Court petitions, Levin and Danon wrote earlier this week that there was a need "to set criteria that balance the use of this critical tool, using parameters to assure the soundness of the process and to preserve the link between the alleged harm and the identity of the petitioner."

Under the bill, human rights groups not registered in Israel and whose main activities are not in Israel would not be permitted to petition the High Court. Nor would a group be allowed to file a petition over a wrong ostensibly being done to someone, unless that individual himself petitioned the court as well.

Petitions of a general nature would only be permitted regarding issues of substantial constitutional import to the conduct of government, or if the harm that might be done to the public is substantial and palpable.

Moreover, any group who files such a public petition and accepts donations from abroad, would be required to report its funding sources to the court, to prevent the "irrelevant motives of interested or hostile groups" from getting a hearing under the guise of a public petition.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: רה"מ נגד ההצעה לצמצם עתירות: מתנגד לכל חוק שיגביל עצמאות בית המשפט