Taking Stock

Decisions in the coming months over prosecuting Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and in the trial of former president Moshe Katsav will place the judiciary at the center of public discourse.

The prayer "For the sin we sinned before you" recited on Yom Kippur includes a confession in the sphere of social and public morals - between two people and also between a public figure and the public. The range of sins it covers goes from sins that stem from malice and deception, falsehood and untruths, to those that stem from wielding power and arrogance.

In the past year, the trial began of the former prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Olmert was accused of a series of serious crimes in the public sphere. This is the first time that so severe an indictment has been submitted in Israel against someone who has served in such senior positions. Alongside the indictment, the concluding document in the police investigation of the Holyland affair points to "independent evidence" and documents that testify to what appears to be an extensive network of corruption, perhaps unprecedented in its gravity and deployment.

According to the police statement, it involves people who bribed and those who were bribed, including two former mayors of Jerusalem, Olmert and Uri Lupolianski, who apparently joined forces for the serious crimes of giving and receiving bribes. The never-ending march of suspects would not have shamed even the least enlightened countries of the world.

Parallel to the public watchdogs - the state comptroller and the attorney general - who found themselves up against the ruling powers, stood the Supreme Court. For its part, the government did not really raise its voice at phenomena such as the throwing of a shoe at Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, the slashing of a magistrate's court judge's car tires and the ongoing threats against judges. On the contrary. The state refrains from enforcing various High Court of Justice rulings and has not applied rulings meant to prevent racial, religious or sectorial discrimination.

The justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, who is supposed to defend the judicial system, did not hesitate to attack the High Court ruling that obligated the Turkel committee, which is looking into the Gaza flotilla incident, to appoint a woman among its members. It should be pointed out that the inability to find a suitable woman worthy of sitting on the committee arouses ridicule, as do the plethora of government maneuvers, which ultimately failed, to mold the committee into a council of sages devoid of authority or significance.

Despite the attacks on it, the High Court has continued the trend of strengthening its defense of individual rights. The most prominent decisions in this field are the ruling which annulled a clause in the criminal code that prevents a person detained for security offenses from being present in the process of extending his remand, because of the disproportionate damage to his right to a fair proceeding; a ruling that annulled a clause in the annual Budget Law because it discriminates in favor of yeshiva students as compared with other students; and a ruling that permitted supervised traffic of Palestinian vehicles along Route 443.

In the existing anti-High Court atmosphere, it is not surprising that these rulings once again spurred proposals to curtail the High Court's authority, supervise decisions of a security or budgetary nature, and authorize the Knesset to once again revive, with a majority of 70 MKs, laws that were disqualified by the High Court (and even to make them immune for several years from legal and judicial criticism ).

It is possible to assume that this year there will be similar proposals that will enjoy greater momentum in the corridors of power and the Knesset.

The decisions that it can be assumed will be handed down in the coming months about bringing to trial Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and in the trial of the former president, Moshe Katsav, will place the judiciary in the center of the public discourse. This discourse requires self-examination, so as to avoid confusing legitimate criticism of this or that ruling with harming the supremacy of the law and its institutions - an essential building block of a democratic society.