Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu Vows Judicial Reform, Maintains Status Quo

Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to defend and reform Israel's courts - while maintaining his opposition to recent judicial reform bills.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/27/2011, 2:32 PM

 27/11/11Cabinet Meeting
27/11/11Cabinet Meeting
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday conceded Israel's judicial system needed reform while at the same time vowing to defend the courts.

"I want to clear: The courts in Israel are among the cornerstones of Israeli democracy," Netanyahu said. "They are an important institution, a healthy and vital continuation of our democratic life here."

Netanyahu continued, "This does not contradict, however, the need to correct distortions that have entered in our public systems over the years. We will fix them responsibly, deliberately and seriously, and not get carried away without inhibitions."

Netanyahu has did not address how he would seek to correct the unspecified “distortions” he referred to.

However, on Saturday Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to a judicial reform bill which would institute the Western common law norm of locus standi – or legal standing – which would prohibit third-parties unaffected by a law or government policy from challenging its validity under Israel's Basic Laws at will.

Netanyahu has also expressed opposition to a bill that would require prospective Supreme Court justices to be vetted by Knesset lawmakers - much as the US Senate holds hearings before consenting to appoint justices to the US Supreme Court.

Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that he believed such bills – which represent bedrock ideas of Western jurisprudence – could “impair the independence of courts in Israel."

Observers say the bills, proposed by nationalist lawmakers concerned left-wing organizations fueled by foreign funds are using Israel's courts to wage lawfare on the Jewish state, have embarrassed Netanyahu and underscore divisions in Israel's ruling Likud party.

"The State of Israel was founded as a Jewish and democratic state," Netanyahu said on Sunday in an attempt to show solidarity with reformers in his own party. "Israeli democracy is strong, but that strength does not exempt us from acting to preserve it."

Critics, however, say Netanyahu's remarks form a classic "if by whisky" argument wherein a politician tries to please those on both sides of a given issue while taking no position at all – or intending to maintain a status quo.