The Supreme Court has lost the public's trust
The Supreme Court has lost the public's trustphoto: file

According to an annual report by the Israel Democracy Institute, presented to President Shimon Peres on Tuesday, public trust in national institutions has dropped on nearly all fronts over the last 12 months. Exceptions include the military and the office of the president. As part of its efforts to preserve and encourage democracy in

Less than half of the nation expressed confidence in the Supreme Court.

Israel, the Democracy Institute surveys and analyzes levels of public support and trust for various institutions and political figures.

According to the report, less than half of the nation expressed confidence in the Supreme Court (49 percent). This result contrasted sharply with last year's results, in which 61 percent of the public said they had faith in the nation's highest judicial authority. The drop in trust in the high court also knocked it out of its previous position as a "defender of democracy" in the public's view. That designation was awarded by those surveyed to the mass media, primarily for its contribution in exposing public corruption.

Perhaps in correlation with the media's exposure of high-level corruption, more than 90 percent of the Israeli public believes Israel "is touched by corruption and that corruption is a necessary tool for public advancement," according to the Democracy Institute report.

Public confidence in the Prime Minister is at an unprecedented low, the report noted, and the Knesset fares little better. Only 17 percent of the public has confidence in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while 29 percent of the public expressed confidence in the nation's legislators.

At the same time, Israelis expressed their belief that the state has a responsibility to provide the citizenry with their social welfare needs. The fact that they felt unable to trust existing political parties and institutions to fulfill that function led many Israelis surveyed to express a lessened interest and involvement in the nation's political life.

The Israel Police lost the public's trust as well, dropping from 41 to 31 percent. However, the Israel Defense Forces maintained a high level of confidence, 71 percent; as did the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres. Forty-seven percent of respondents expressed faith in Peres, as opposed to a 2007 low of just 22 percent who had confidence in the presidency.

The Justices 'Dug Their Own Pit'

The Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael responded sharply to the collapse of public confidence in judicial institutions as noted in the Israel Democracy Institute's 2008 report.

The Chairman of the Forum, Nachi Eyal, said, "Those who would shine their enlightened eyes upon the petitions of the enemies of Israel, but who shut the door on issues of national importance must know now that the public has lost their confidence in them...."

Eyal said that the Supreme Court justices "have dug a pit for themselves, which is now obvious to everyone, and the public's confidence will dissolve even faster if the Supreme Court doesn't balance itself with regards to crucial issues."

Moshe Feiglin, head of the Jewish Leadership faction in the Likud, said that the low public trust in the court system is the direct consequence of the judicial activism of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

"The self-exaltation of the judicial branch over the elected authority did not secure democracy, but quite the opposite - it brought about the loss of public trust in it. Only a change in the method by which judges are appointed, such that they represent the variety of views in society, and public hearings and oversight ahead of their appointment (as is the practice in the United States) might restore public faith in the courts," Feiglin said.