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"The ultimate standing of the Israeli legal system, headed by the Supreme Court, will be ensured. The government will preserve the high standing, as well as the range of functions and authorities of the Supreme Court, and will object to any change which may harm its standing, or the way judges are appointed in the legal system." These words constitute the entire "Legal System" section of the government's official guidelines. Nothing else is said, but the government has resolutely and consistently acted in contradiction to these statements.

Since Daniel Friedmann was appointed minister of justice, he has devoted his declarations exclusively to causing ongoing harm to the standing of the Supreme Court. His actions have been devoted solely to eradicating the standing of the Supreme Court as the head of the legal system, to infringing on the range of functions and authorities of the chief justice, and to pursuing by any possible means a change in the way judges are appointed.

There can no longer be any doubt: It is not only one particular initiative of Friedmann's or another that clashes with the government's guidelines; the very fact that this man holds the office of justice minister is a blunt violation of the coalition agreement.

Why did the prime minister see fit to appoint this man, whose agenda was clear and open to all, as justice minister in his government? The time to ask this question, it seems, has passed. We must apparently accept the fact that Friedmann has the backing of the prime minister, who apparently wishes to go down in history as the man who eliminated the independence of Israel's legal system and led to its politicization, and as the man who diminished a central component of Israeli democracy.

Here, however, the question of the Labor Party's involvement in this process arises.

It is, indeed, a matter of convention that one party in the coalition does not dictate to another who its representatives in the government should be. We can recall, however, the case in which Yitzhak Rabin was forced to replace education minister Shulamit Aloni with Amnon Rubinstein after Shas threatened to leave the government.

Ehud Barak now faces the same test. There is no longer any point in debating Friedmann's initiatives with him or in trying to tone down his bills, and there is no longer any point in "fighting from within the government" to uphold its own basic principles.

Now, after severe damage has already been done to the legal system, the time has come when Labor's continued presence in the government means that Daniel Friedmann is Ehud Barak's justice minister.

Barak must make a decision regarding his own identity to those people who are supposed to be his supporters. He must decide whether he is the leader of Israel's democratic camp, the camp that wants the constitutional democracy that has evolved in Israel to exist, the camp that wants Israel to maintain a separation of powers. If Barak decides, as he should, that this is his identity, he must hand back the keys of his office to the prime minister.