Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to continue opposing judicial reform in Israel.

Speaking at an event for outgoing Supreme Court chief justice Dorit Beinisch, Netanyahu said, "We will continue to act to ensure that there would be no danger to the independence of the court."

"In democracy there are many important institutions. A functioning legal system, however strong and independent, is what allows the existence of all other institutions," he added.

"That is why I'm doing and will do everything I can to keep the judicial system strong and independent," Netanyahu said. "And that is why I appreciate everything you did, Justice Beinisch."

"For five and a half years you brought honor to your post as the head of the judiciary in Israel. It was not an easy tenure," Netanyahu said. The courts were under attack, and arrows were often aimed directly at you."

"These attacks were unsuccessful, both against you and the court," Netanyahu said with satisfaction.

"The court is strong and stable," he added. "I did not let anyone harm it. In recent months I stopped every law that threatened to impair the independence of the system. I will continue to do so whenever laws that might impair the independence of the court in Israel are proposed."

"I wish to congratulate the president-elect, Grunis," Netanyahu concluded. "I have no doubt, that under your leadership, the Supreme Court of Israel will continue shine in the world as a beacon of liberty, which the State of Israel and its temple of justice and freedom can be proud of."

Critics of the outgoing Beinisch say her tenure was marked by a partisan judicial activism that frequently impinged on the prerogatives of Israel's Knesset and government, effectively overriding the sovereign will of the people expressed through their representatives.

Of particular note was her court's extensive reliance on a still-controversial decision by Israel's Supreme Court in 1997 that defined Israel's "Basic Laws" as Israel's formal Constitution, thereby allowing for the power of judicial review.

Israel's formal constitution has been deadlocked in committee since the founding of the state, and its Basic Laws can be altered by a simple majority vote.

Under Beinisch, Israel's Supreme Court took a strong-view of its own powers and did not deem it necessary to abide by the limits - both formal and self-imposed - which its contemporaries around the world customarily observe vis-a-vis judicial review.

Among the bills Netanyahu proudly killed in committee in recent months were attempts to implement the concept of legal standing in Israel's courts, and the review of Supreme Court candidates by Israeli lawmakers.

In law, standing or locus standi is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's right to petition the court.

Standing is not only a bedrock principle in Western common law, but appears in a less crystallized form in both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds as well.

The review of potential judicial candidates by lawmakers is common, but not universal, in democracies around the world and serves to ensure courts represent the plurality of Israeli views.

Israel's current system of appointments for Supreme Court justices has been criticized as creating a court has a very narrow ethnic, political, and social character.

Beinisch, along with Netanyahu and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, actively opposed all attempts to define the limits of the Supreme Court's powers, charging such moves were "undemocratic."

Incoming Supreme Court chief justice Asher Grunis is seen as having a far more conservative view of what is judiciable by the court, and is expected to exercise far greater restraint than Benisch did.