Former Court President Lashes PM on Judicial Reform

YERUSHALAYIM -

The battle over the Israeli judiciary continued to pour out heat on Thursday as former High Court president Dorit Beinisch accused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of seeking to destroy a legal system in order to protect himself from prosecution.

The judges have decried Netanyahu’s reported plans to provide himself with immunity from prosecution as part of a larger reform enabling the Knesset to override court rulings that determine a law to be unconstitutional. Should they find the immunity measure unconstitutional, the Knesset could override and the prime minister would be able to continue in office. Such measures are now said to be included in the coalition agreements, though nothing has been signed.

“I want to say with sadness that if it’s true — and it appears to be true — that this is coming from the prime minister… likely because of his personal interests, the tables have turned and there is a serious campaign that truly accuses the justice system [of misconduct],” she said in a Thursday interview with Israel Radio

“Be careful before you try to destroy… an impressive system that was built over years,” she warned. “You don’t carry out reforms without substantive consideration and evaluation… The need to evade trial cannot drive this broad reform — it’s unacceptable.”

Beinisch also said she was “shocked” by statements belittling or attacking the court and the attorney general, apparently referring to, among other things, Likud MK Miki Zohar’s comment earlier this week that the High Court will soon be “irrelevant.”

She claimed that right-wing politicians have been spreading “nonsense and lies” about the justice system to discredit it.

“I don’t know if the public has the means to examine just how much nonsense and lies… are spread about the [justice] system,” she said, referring to allegations, including those made by Netanyahu himself, of a politically motivated campaign to oust him from power. Netanyahu has repeatedly denounced the “witch hunt” against him, and maintained his innocence of any charges of corruption.

She rejected the idea that the court was overly activist vis a vis the legislature, noting that in the past 25 years, the court had only disqualified 18 Knesset bills, and in most cases the legislation was only partially struck down.

Beinisch agreed that the justice system should be open to some reforms, but not ones that are driven by personal interest.