The public's short memory is the politician's friend. Surfing the Internet, on the other hand, may turn out to be his enemy. On the eve of the elections to the 18th Knesset, many people took steps to defend the judicial system and the Supreme Court from then justice minister Prof. Daniel Friedmann. Two of the leaders of that struggle were Benny Begin and Dan Meridor (both Likud ). The two - moral survivors of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first government after resigning from the cabinet during his initial term - then stood by Netanyahu during the election campaign in 2009 and worked toward his return to the premiership. Their support sprang from the assumption that he was able to change, but there were other issues that occupied them more.
"The first task, an enormous task, of the next justice minister will be to rehabilitate the [public's] faith in the Supreme Court, especially when it sits as the High Court of Justice," stated Begin in a 2009 interview with Ari Shavit. He added: "The court must be a fortress that deters the government from carrying out actions opposed to the law or to natural justice. If the court is weak, it will not be able to do that, and it is not clear where things will go. We have already seen how decisions are taken here and how rights are trampled on ... therefore I promise you that a justice minister on behalf of Likud will not behave as Friedmann did, and Likud will not behave as Kadima [which led the previous government] did. If there is a need for changes, we shall make them through a dialogue with the court and in coordination with it."
Two months later, the government headed by Netanyahu was established, and he appointed Yaakov Neeman as justice minister (under pressure from Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman ). Friedmann's response was that Neeman "will be an excellent justice minister." Begin and Meridor remained silent - or optimistic. When cabinet minister Meridor was asked, in an interview with Gidi Weitz in 2009, what the chances were that the Netanyahu government would initiate steps to curb the Supreme Court's influence - as Netanyahu had tried to do during his first term of office - he replied: "I don't believe such a thing could happen. I think the government will protect [the court] and safeguard it ... The prime minister treats the law-enforcement system as one should, in a decent and respectful way."
Meanwhile, a broad right-wing and religious front has been formed in the Knesset, and the activities of dozens of Knesset members are shaping the image of the Israeli legislative body into one of a piggish parliament. Justice Minister Neeman, for his part, has promised the public that he will bequeath the laws of the Torah to the citizens of Israel and turn halakha (Jewish religious law ) into the compulsory law of the state (as he told a gathering of rabbis and religious court judges in December 2009 ).
For their part, Begin and Meridor are keeping mum, or are still optimistic; perhaps because it was Meridor who said, in the same interview: "I am satisfied with the way things are being conducted today. I assume we have all learned a lesson. That is the test of a person - the way in which he is able to change and learn a lesson."
The events of the past few days have posed a question about the ability of both Meridor and Begin to learn a lesson. Neeman is galloping forward on his way to reforming the judicial system, and he seems like a person who is interested in no one else. Netanyahu has enhanced his nonintervention policy to a level of political art and learned - justifiably, from his point of view - to rely on Meridor and Begin not to interfere with him too much. And even if they grumble here or there, they will continue to serve in his home front command alongside Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
In 1997, when he left the first Netanyahu government, Meridor declared: "Israel must be saved from the dangerous false charms of Netanyahu, who every week takes us down another step. And every week we think we have reached the last step, only to find that we are mistaken. There is still lower to go." And what about now?
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: פיקוד העורף של נתניהו