There Is No Friedmann Without Friedmannism

Why the prime minister made such a no-holds-barred war against the legal system - which, despite its shortcomings, is one of Israel's most magnificent systems - part of his agenda remains a mystery.

In an interview with the prime minister published in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, both the interviewee and the interviewers did everything possible to sum up Ehud Olmert's term in the most positive light. But Olmert said not a word about a key component of this term, and that is not surprising: Throughout his term, Olmert has consistently refrained from explaining one of his main policies - the war he waged on the Supreme Court and on the constitutional democracy that Israel has become, his harassment of the Supreme Court president, and his consistent and determined efforts to weaken, politicize and humiliate the Israeli legal system.

Why the prime minister made such a no-holds-barred war against the legal system - which, despite its shortcomings, is one of Israel's most magnificent systems - part of his agenda remains a mystery. It is hard to avoid thinking that immediately after Haim Ramon's conviction, these two friends, Ramon and Olmert, recklessly and arrogantly decided "to teach a lesson" to the legal system by appointing someone who had consistently criticized the prosecution and the legal proceedings against Ramon.

One has to understand Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's modus operandi. We do not know whether Olmert was familiar with it before placing this important portfolio in Friedmann's hands, but Friedmann's high intelligence, his legal knowledge, the personal charm that he knows how to use are all entirely subordinate to his burning hatred for the Supreme Court and its head, President Dorit Beinisch, and for the independence of the legal system. That is the center of his world, the main, and perhaps only, motive for his activity.

Perhaps Olmert did not know in advance what he would get. But in defiance of the government guidelines and coalition agreements that he signed, he used Friedmann to wage a superfluous and damaging war against Israeli democracy. And this is the same Olmert who, in the interview summing up his term, said that what concerns him is what kind of country he will bequeath to his grandchildren. In any event, this badly tarnished his image, increased public suspicion of him and created unnecessary tensions with his partners in the government. Because of this policy, which he never explained - though not only because of it - Olmert's term will be considered one of the worst of any Israeli prime minister.

Because there is no Friedmann without arrogance and burning hatred, because there is no Friedmann without a constant war against every branch of the legal system, because there is no Friedmann without a retreat from all the achievements of constitutional democracy in Israel, prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni must either prevent him from continuing to serve in her government, or decide that Friedmann reflects her attitude toward the legal system and the nature of Israel's democracy.

Livni must understand that it is impossible to tame Friedmann. There is no Friedmann without Friedmannism, and there is no partial Friedmannism. Friedmann will always be a total concentration of effort in one direction only.

Livni must therefore decide whether she needs this war, or whether she needs a justice minister who will restore government support for and sympathy with the legal system. A minister who will tell the public that the legal system is a central and admired element of Israel's democracy, who will be able to treat the president of the Supreme Court with understanding and respect and, together with her, bring about the necessary changes in the system. Livni must decide whether she wants a justice minister who sided with suspects and the corrupt, and denigrated the police, the prosecution and the courts, or a minister who will support the rule of law. The answer seems clear: Livni must remove this obstacle from her path.

Perhaps it will be considered naive to suggest that Ramon also divorce himself from Friedmann. But as opposed to Friedmann, Ramon is not a "one-trick pony." He is a multifaceted politician, with shortcomings, but with virtues as well. Ramon committed an indecent act against a female officer and was tried and convicted. The court had its say, and Ramon thinks he was a victim of injustice.

Now, he has two options. The first is to become a "one-trick pony" as well, and to continue being preoccupied by his conviction, as he was when he dragged the cabinet into a bizarre discussion about appointing a commission of inquiry to investigate the issue. In that case, it would be preferable for him to end his public career, as he considered doing after his trial.

The second option is to put the incident behind him, bow before the system that prosecuted, judged and convicted him, and refrain from discussing it for a very long period, perhaps forever. If he does this, he will benefit on both the personal and the public level. But he will be able to do so only if the justice minister is not Friedmann.