The wars of the rule of law
All those responsible for the rule of law in Israel - in one form or another - must call the combatants to order, spread a spirit of peace and begin conversing with each other. This is not a figure of speech; the future of the law lies in the balance.
Here is some inside information: Twelve hours before kissing the soldier identified as H., Haim Ramon sat at a private dinner and joked that he had to be careful, because something was liable to happen to him. Because something has happened to every justice minister who intended to shake up the judicial system the way he did, something that prevented the minister from ultimately filling the post. Ramon didn't make the comment in public. He didn't say it as part of his public clash with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch. He said it with a smile on his lips, because the comment expressed, in the frankest possible way, his assessment of reality when it comes to the way in which the politics of law operates in the State of Israel.
Some more inside information: A senior minister, whose lifelong dream has been to serve as minister of justice, decided at the beginning of the week to concede the coveted position because he was convinced that if he didn't do so, he would shortly find himself questioned under caution in a police investigation. The senior minister didn't say this in public. He did not say it as part of his public clash with the Supreme Court. While sitting behind closed doors, the minister determined that there was no chance that a person known as a critic of the rule of law would be able to serve as justice minister without the rule of law finding a way to distance him from the public arena on some criminal pretext or another.
These two small bits of inside information are instructive because they serve to testify to the outlook that led to the appointment of Prof. Daniel Friedmann as justice minister. This outlook does not just want to restrict the Supreme Court, and goes beyond maintaining that not everything is judicable. It holds that the law enforcement system in Israel does not operate in good faith, but as the long arm of the Supreme Court, and inappropriately serves the ideological agenda of those who head the court. This view is one of unparalleled gravity. If it has even the slightest trace of truth to it, then woe to Israel and woe to its rule of law.
But even if there is no truth to it, the very fact that senior politicians adhere to this view shows the abyss to which we have sunk. After the failed conduct in the Haim Ramon saga and the problematic verdict in his trial, and after the provocative appointment of Ramon's replacement, it is clear that the two camps struggling over the rule of law are now making aggressive use of all available means, whether appropriate or not.
The struggle between the Supreme Court faction and that of the Supreme Court critics has been going on for a long time. It is based on a legitimate struggle; it is good for an activist court to have its prosecutors as well as its defense attorneys. It is good that there are those who wish to raise the court's status, defend its supremacy and expand its area of jurisdiction; and it is good that there are those who wish to restrain it, criticize it and restrict its jurisdiction. The fact that Israel is divided between the Beinisch pole and the Friedmann pole is welcome. But what is intolerable is the fact that unruly, grudge-bearing, vengeful, violent and trampling tribes have developed around these two legitimate poles. For these tribes, the lofty end justifies all means. We must tell both sides: "Stop."
All of law emphasizes the means, not the ends, providing equal justice for all. When the judicial system turns into an uninhibited political battleground, it has stopped being a judicial system. Thus, what is now needed is composure and appeasement. What is now needed is a halt to the aggressive witch hunt, which is liable to bring disaster upon both sides. All those responsible for the rule of law in Israel - in one form or another - must call the combatants to order, spread a spirit of peace and begin conversing with each other. This is not a figure of speech; the future of the law lies in the balance.
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