Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, staunchly resisting the leftists who have attacked his government’s plan to reform the country’s judiciary and bring it more into line with the judicial system in America, issued a special statement announcing he would not cave to the opposition.
Leftists have staged a “Day of Disruption” and protests all over the country for weeks over the proposed reforms, which aim to accomplish five things, as Gabriel Groisman has noted:
(1) Changing the process of selecting judges, so as to give the governing coalition of the Knesset a majority in the judicial selection committee; (2) Prohibiting the Supreme Court from making decisions based “on reasonability” rather than on laws passed by the Knesset; (3) Changing legal opinions of general counsels of government departments, appointed by the attorney general, from binding to advisory; (4) Raising the standard for the Supreme Court to strike down a law passed by the Knesset to 11 out of the 15 judges; and (5) Providing the Knesset the capacity to override a decision by the Supreme Court that strikes down a law passed by the Knesset with a majority of the Knesset members.
“Immediately after the election results, I said that I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu began. “I meant it then, and I mean it even today. We have one country and we must do everything to protect it from outside threats and from an irreparable rupture.”
“We cannot allow any dispute, no matter how acute, to endanger the common future,” added Netanyahu, “we must reject violence and bullying, and condemn incitement and ranting. The opponents of the reform are not traitors, and the supporters of the reform are not fascists. The overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens across the political spectrum love our country and want to preserve our democracy. But since there are those who appropriate democracy for themselves, I want to say a few words tonight about democracy.”
“True, we have differences of opinion,” he acknowledged. “Supporters of the reform think that there is no real democracy here, and what endangers democracy is an all-powerful Supreme Court, which enters into every issue, and which in practice is the one that runs the country. On the other hand, the opponents of the reform think that what would endanger the democracy is a Knesset and a government that will act without brakes and restraints that would harm the rights of the individual. A proper democratic regime must address these two issues.”
“Supporters of the reform are outraged that the balance between the authorities in Israel has been violated over the past decades,” he stated. “The court unjustifiably interfered with security considerations in the fight against terrorism; it raised difficulties time and time again with the government’s policy. For example, it prevented the removal of infiltrators from Israel and you know what that did to the residents of the south Tel Aviv and many other places in Israel. it interfered in the gas layout, and for years it delayed the extraction of the gas from the water, which came at a heavy financial cost.”
“Without authority, the court overruled laws, prevented appointments and intervened in areas it did not have,” Netanyahu contended. “And there is one more claim — perhaps the most painful. Many agree that the Supreme Court is a closed club for appointing judges using the friend-bring-friend method. Judges have a veto; the system exists. They appoint themselves, which does not happen in any other democracy in the world.”
“I believe it is possible to pass a reform that will provide a response to both sides, a reform that will restore the proper balance between the authorities, and on the other hand, preserve and protect the individual rights of every citizen in the country. Because we did not come to run over and trample; we came to balance and correct,” he said. “We will responsibly advance the democratic reform that will restore the proper balance between the authorities. … The best way to achieve the balanced reform and prevent the rift in the people is through litigation and achieving as broad an agreement as possible. Unfortunately, until now the opposition representatives refused to enter this discussion. They wasted almost three months because of this refusal. I hope that will change in the coming days.”
“We do not want a controlled court. We want a balanced court, and a balanced court will be a court of the people and such a court will also gain the trust of the people. This is not the end of democracy: it is the strengthening of democracy. In every democracy, including the U.S., the elected officials are the ones who appoint judges. New Zealand is not a democracy? Canada is not a democracy?” he asked.
“I want to answer a major concern raised by the other side,” he said. “I know there is a fear of an unlimited sweeping ruling that would result in any small majority in the Knesset being able to invalidate any decision of the court. So I want to tell you clearly — this will not happen. On the contrary: we intend, I mean, to enshrine the rights of the individual in the law. We will guarantee the basic rights of all citizens. Jews and non-Jews, women, religious, seculars, beneficiaries — all without exception. Every legislation will be committed. I will personally ensure that there is detailed legislation on this issue.”
“I met tonight with a series of ministers, including the Minister of Defense, I heard his concerns about the consequences of the situation on our national security, I take everything into account. And in the same breath I must say again that there is no room for refusal. Refusal endangers our national security, and the security The individual of each of us. There is no justification for reluctance. I tell you, my friends, I will do everything, but everything, to calm the spirits and unite the rift in the nation. People, we are brothers and with God’s help together we will do and together we will succeed,” he concluded.