Netanyahu Backs Minister Shaked: Everyone Has the Full Right to Criticize Supreme Court

'In a strong democracy like ours, nobody is above criticism,' says the prime minister after criticizing the 'puzzling' ruling against the gas deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on April 3, 2016.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the right to criticize the Supreme Court on Tuesday, thereby backing up his justice minister, who has come under fire for doing exactly that.

“I respect the court and the judges and their decisions,” Netanyahu said at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the new national library in Jerusalem. “But everyone has the full right to criticize these decisions.”

“In a strong democracy like ours, nobody is above criticism,” he added. “In our neighbors, nobody criticizes anybody. In places where it’s impossible to voice criticism, democracy is harmed. The discussion has to be dignified rather than inflammatory. That’s how I’ve behaved, and how people should behave.”

Netanyahu’s comments came one day after Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked harshly criticized the court for overturning the government’s deal with the natural gas monopoly.

“A judiciary body that bears no responsibility for filling the wallet with bills permits itself to empty it out,” she said during an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat. “Once again we run into the phenomenon of irresponsibly wielding authority." 

Her comments were subsequently assailed by opposition MKs.

On the day the gas ruling was handed down, Netanyahu himself also criticized it.

“The court’s ruling seriously threatens development of Israel’s gas reserves,” he said at the time. “Israel is seen as a country with excessive judicial interference in which it’s hard to do business.”

“Certainly nobody has anything to celebrate over the fact that the gas is liable to remain deep undersea and that hundreds of billions of shekels won’t reach the citizens of Israel,” he added. “We’ll look for other ways to overcome the severe damage done to Israel’s economy by this puzzling ruling.”