A Government Without Friedmann

Either Livni is misleading the parties with which she seeks to form a coalition on the basis of this promise, or she is misleading herself.

By trying to keep Daniel Friedmann in the government, while at the same time promising to ensure that he does not push through his proposed reforms, Tzipi Livni is losing any semblance of credibility. Either Livni is misleading the parties with which she seeks to form a coalition on the basis of this promise, or she is misleading herself. It is hard to say which would be worse, or which would give more cause for concern. But if the meaning of Livni's position is that she supports Friedmann's policies, the Labor Party must opt for early elections.

The basic guidelines of the government in which Livni served as vice prime minister state that "the seniority of the Israeli legal system, headed by the Supreme Court, will be safeguarded. The government will protect the Supreme Court's exalted position and all its functions and responsibilities, and oppose any change that could impinge on its status or on the way judges are appointed to the legal system." But what will the guidelines of a Livni government say if the person that she wants as justice minister does not believe a single word of the above and is doing everything in his power to effect the exact opposite? How much energy will Ehud Barak and other Labor Party ministers and Knesset members need to invest to prevent passage of the laws that Friedmann has clandestinely introduced - without any public discussion and in an underhanded manner - and ensure that the government does not completely violate its own guidelines?

We must not allow ourselves to be fooled by the successes recorded so far in thwarting many of Friedmann's proposed legislative reforms, and we must also not be taken in by the image of the "great reformer" that Friedmann and his cronies have tried to create. Even the few laws he has managed to pass have caused great damage, and he has also caused damage by his nonlegislative actions - damage that will be very hard to rectify. He has introduced politicization where none previously existed; he has made it almost impossible for the government to function on a day-to-day basis; and he has consistently tried to undermine the public standing of the legal system - and especially the Supreme Court and its president, Dorit Beinisch - with his public comments.

It is clear that Friedmann cannot implement any policy other than the one he has so energetically, rapidly and uncompromisingly implemented thus far. Anyone who claims, as Livni does, that he can, is both misleading and misled.

If Livni believes that she will have time to rein in a rampaging justice minister, she has yet to internalize the significance of the prime minister's job. Her agenda will be filled with peace negotiations, weighty security issues and a dangerous economic crisis. She does not need a justice minister who constantly denigrates the legal system, which is fully deserving of the public's faith; instead, she needs a justice minister who believes in the current government's guidelines, whose working relationship with the Supreme Court president is based on mutual respect and esteem, and who is able to restore the public's faith in the legal system.

It is difficult to understand why Livni is insisting on Friedmann as her justice minister. If this is the condition that Haim Ramon has set for continuing to serve in the government, then there are serious doubts about whether this is proper, or even legal. Ramon himself cannot serve as justice minister, as he cannot oversee a legal system that recently indicted, tried and convicted him. But for exactly the same reason, he cannot serve as justice minister by proxy, or even be involved in any way in selecting the justice minister.