Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continued his staunch opposition to judicial reform in Israel by attempting to cloak himself with the authority of Likud founder Menachem Begin on Tuesday.
“Begin said ‘There are judges in Jerusalem’, and I say ‘There will be independent judges in Jerusalem,’" Netanyahu proclaimed at a legal conference.
"On my watch we will defend the independence of the High Court, which is essential for our existence here, no less than security or the economy," Netanyahu said, as he finds himself at odds with the rank and file of the Likud, who are pushing to reform Israel's courts.
Netanyahu's statements were in reference to a proposed bill that would require prospective candidates for Israel's Supreme Court be vetted by a Knesset committee.
Critics say Netanyahu's rhetoric amounts to scare tactics. They note the vetting of Supreme Court justices by the US Senate for over 230 years has not led to national collapse. Judicial reform they add, while very important, does not raise the same existential questions that defense and economic matters do.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein took responsibility for Netanyahu’s stance, telling the audience, "when the law that would institute a hearing [to vet prospective justices] came to my attention, I called the prime minister and told him this bill will not pass and must be eliminated now and immediately."
Weinstein related that Netanyahu assured him the bill would not pass "he asked me not to worry, saying the law would be removed from the national agenda – and indeed it has been."
Weinstein also refused to admit the possibility Israel’s judicial system had any need of reform. "Our court is a court glory, which for generations has been the brave guardian of the rule of law and civil rights. We must not hurt it."
Critics of Israel’s current judicial appointment system say it allows the Supreme Court to self-elect its members – and has led to a court that does not reflect the broad range of views held by the Israeli populace.
If the candidates were vetted and the choices reflected the majority in the Knesset, they say, the court could become increasingly representative of Israel’s populace with each election, while at present the court has retained an unchallenged leftist makeup dating to Israel's inception.
On Sunday a bill seeking to institute the concept of locus standi – legal standing – in Israel’s courts was was killed in a ministerial committee after Netanyahu expressed his opposition to the bills and vowed to protect the court.