Editorial

Both Netanyahu and His Messenger Ohana Are Unfit

Netanyahu and Amir Ohana (left) attend a Likud meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, December 24, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

In his first speech, new Justice Minister Amir Ohana has already displayed his ignorance about fundamental democratic values. From the fact that “judges are not elected by the public,” he concluded that the “judicial branch is the least democratic of the three branches of government.”

On Wednesday, in an interview with Channel 12 News, Ohana said that prosecutors might “frame him” and that judges don’t necessarily “make their decisions out of professional considerations alone.”

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If this weren’t enough, he added that not every ruling by the High Court of Justice must be followed, and that “the highest consideration must be safeguarding the lives of the people.” On his Facebook page, Ohana explained that he meant only in the “most extreme circumstances when a black flag flies over them.”

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The outlandish ideas that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ohana and others are planting in the public debate will take a long time to uproot, but we have to call attention to them on every possible stage. The government has no authority to ignore court rulings and decide which of them to obey; this goes for every court, and certainly the High Court. The State Prosecutor’s Office doesn’t frame elected officials, and if sometimes it exceeds the norms for enforcing the law, this exception is always in the politicians’ favor, not against them.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut responded harshly to Ohana’s statements, which she says express “an unprecedented and irresponsible worldview.” She also warned of the destructive implications of this view. “The path is short between such a worldview and the anarchy of every man doing that which is right in his own eyes,” she said, borrowing from the Book of Judges.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit also did the right thing when he said that “the obligation to obey to court rulings is fundamental and guarantees that the rights of all of Israel’s citizens are protected.” He also reminded those whose blind loyalty to Netanyahu has them preaching to disobey judicial rulings that obeying such rulings “is not a choice but an obligation imposed on every Israeli citizen and government authority.”

Ohana’s grave statements show that he’s not a representative of the public acting based on the rule of law. Instead, he’s the emissary to carry out a crime in the name of a prime minister accused of corruption. In this case, both the boss and his messenger are unfit to serve in their positions.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.