Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 13, 2015.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
In an indication of the sensitivity with which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views criticism that he is trying to fiddle with the Supreme Court, his office wrote a letter to the British weekly The Economist at the weekend saying he will “vigorously” uphold the independence of the court.
The rare letter to the editor written by Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, followed a critical piece in the May 2 edition of the influential news magazine headline titled, “Netanyahu v the Supreme Court” with the subhead, “The prime minister takes on the judiciary.”
According to the piece, the Supreme Court has “long been a solid pillar of the Jewish state’s democracy,” but now Netanyahu is “preparing for an unprecedented fight to muzzle the court.”
The piece briefly explains that Netanyahu supports an “override clause” amendment, that would limit its ability to overturn laws, and that he also plans to expand the judicial appointments committee by adding another minister and MK to the nine-person panel, giving an edge to politicians over jurists.
“The struggle to limit the powers of the Supreme Court is part of a broader contest over the nature of Israel – pitting religious and nationalist activists against advocates of a more liberal and secular-minded country,” The Economist wrote.
The article concluded: “With Israel facing potential indictments for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, it can ill afford to tarnish the image of its Supreme Court.”
Regev wrote that while The Economist got it “exactly right” in writing that the Supreme Court has long been a solid pillar of Israel’s democracy, it then “proceeded to misrepresent” Netanyahu’s position regarding the court.
Regev characterized Netanyahu as a “stalwart defender of the court” who has “proudly and consistently championed the independence of Israel’s judiciary” during his previous three terms in office.
“He will do so vigorously during his fourth term as well, to ensure that the Israeli Supreme Court will continue to be renowned worldwide for its professionalism and its integrity,” he wrote.