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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann responded Thursday to criticism from former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, with the minister saying that the Supreme Court has changed Israel's justice system and assumed authority it never had to begin with.
Following a prolonged silence regarding the current power struggle between Friedmann and the Supreme Court, Barak on Wednesday launched a harsh attack against Friedmann, saying, "There won't be judges in Jerusalem if the government [decides to] manage the justice system."
"There won't be judges in Jerusalem," continued Barak, "if political considerations take precedence when appointing judges. There won't be judges in Jerusalem if the courts cannot provide aid to those who turn to it with claims of severe harm vis-a-vis the rule of law."
In Friedmann's response, he quipped: "There are judges in Jerusalem, but there are also lawmakers in Jerusalem."
Speaking at an awards ceremony Wednesday night with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in attendance, Barak recalled the time when "[former] prime minister Menachem Begin said 'There are judges in Jerusalem,' after an especially damaging ruling by the Supreme Court regarding his political worldview. There have been other prime ministers who have reiterated: 'There are judges in Jerusalem,' and have refrained from encroaching on the independence of the Supreme Court and from changing the ways of the institution."
Continuing with his support for the Court in its campaign against government interference, Barak said, "The independence of the Court, the manner in which its judges are selected and the doctrines it has formulated in order to balance between the contradictory demands of Israeli democracy - such as status and adjudicability - have been meticulously protected, because only the sum accumulation [of this protection] will allow us to still say in the future that 'there are judges in Jerusalem.'"