The judicial reform plan will not give the Knesset “unlimited power,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Piers Morgan of Fox News, as he insisted that his actions were strengthening and not harming democracy.
“There won’t be this unlimited power,” Netanyahu said during an interview conducted while he was in London over the weekend.
The interview was published on Monday, amid national turmoil over his judicial overhaul plan, which critics fear will transform Israel from a democracy to a dictatorship by neutering the High Court of Justice and giving inordinate powers to the Knesset.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets and the Histadrut labor federation launched a national strike that virtually shut the country down.
In the interview, Netanyahu appeared calm and unruffled as he defended the plan, noting that it was ridiculous for critics to cast him as a Third-World autocrat for promoting it.
Morgan pointed out that many critics had called his plan “regime change.”
Among particular concern is a private member's bill by Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice chairman MK Simcha Rothman that gives the Knesset the ability to except any legislation from judicial review, even ones that deal with basic rights.
That legislation is still in its infancy. Netanyahu, however, appeared to indicate to Morgan that such legislation would not be passed in its existing form.
Balance of power
“I am a classic believer in the balance between the three branches of government. That is what ensures democracy.”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
He emphasized, “We need to restrain the power of the parliament” so that it is balanced with that of the court. The Supreme Court deserves its place under the Sun.
“I am a classic democrat with a small d. I am a classic believer in the balance between the three branches of government. That is what ensures democracy,” Netanyahu said.
The existing legal system gives the court sole power to nullify parliamentary legislation, but one doesn’t want to replace one injustice with another, Netanyahu explained.
“You want to go from one extreme to the center. You don’t want the pendulum to swing to the other side where the Knesset, our parliament can nullify any decision of the Supreme Court.”
He defended the changes he wants to make in the selection of judges; a move that he said would bring Israel in line with other democracies.
“There’s one other thing that characterizes the judiciary in Israel, and that is the judges veto the appointment of judges. They effectively select themselves. That doesn’t exist in any democracy. The reform we’re dealing with corrects that.”
Netanyahu affirmed that the judges selected for his trial would not be impacted by the judicial reform.
Many of those who oppose the reform plan don’t properly understand it, Netanyahu said, with Morgan telling him that was a patronizing stance.
“People will see in the end that Israel was a democracy, is a democracy and will even be a stronger democracy after the democratic reform,” the prime minister said.