Aharon Barak denies lobbying against keeping Friedmann

Ex-Supreme Court chief says it hurts "to see how the efforts of 60 years of statehood are slowly being destroyed."

aharon barak 298 88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
aharon barak 298 88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak on Tuesday denied rumors that he has been working to block the reappointment of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. Barak added that such intervention by a former Supreme Court chief would be unethical. Barak, a vocal critic of the Olmert appointee, blasted those who had slammed him for his alleged intervention, but reiterated his belief - shared by numerous former judges - that Friedmann was a destructive force within the justice establishment. Media reports Tuesday morning claimed that Barak had contacted Labor chairman Ehud Barak and told him to join the next coalition to counterbalance the influence of Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman has been an outspoken supporter of Friedmann, asking Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu to keep him as justice minister. "Every attempt to attribute activities in this matter is in error," Aharon Barak said in an interview hours after the reports were published. "Nothing like this happened. I recommend that any public figure who is responding to rumors that I intervened in coalition deals should take the time to ask me, and I will tell them what I told anybody who bothered to ask: I never had anything to do with this." But Barak also used the opportunity to reiterate his grievances against Friedmann. "I am convinced that the renewed appointment of Prof. Daniel Friedmann to the Justice Ministry will continue to cause damage to the legal system, and on this matter, I have already publicly expressed my opinion. Beyond that, I do not think it is fitting to taking any position related to the composition of the government," he said. "I express my opinion on this subject, because this is a matter that touches upon the heart of the problems with the justice system and the judicial system, and it pains my heart to see how the efforts of 60 years of statehood are slowly being destroyed," Barak said. The reports stemmed, in part, from Ehud Barak's remarks at a meeting of the Labor faction on Monday, in which he said, "The most senior and important economic and social figures, and also judges - and I repeat, the most important - urge us to join the government." According to an article in Ma'ariv, Aharon Barak, former Supreme Court justice Yitzhak Zamir and others contacted the Labor Party leader through a mutual acquaintance - Labor activist attorney Yuval Elbashan. Aharon Barak dismissed that report as absurd. "There never was such a thing," he said. "I know [Ehud] Barak, and if I wanted to, I would have spoken directly with him." He added that he knew Elbashan as a former student, but that he had not seen him for "many months." A second version, also published in the same article, claimed that the two had met one-on-one in Eilat over the weekend. Zamir, another outspoken critic of Friedmann's work in the Justice Ministry, was also at pains to deny the rumors regarding the "very important legal figures." "My opinion regarding Daniel Friedmann is well-known," Zamir said on Tuesday. "He is causing damage to the legal system, but I am outside of politics and I do not get involved with what happens in the political system." The upper echelons of the country's judiciary have been at odds with Friedmann since he was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in February 2007. Friedmann supports reducing the Supreme Court's activism. He favors preventing the court from ruling on public-political issues or security measures - some of the most burning topics on which the court currently rules. One of his proposed reforms that has most irked well-known jurists is the move to strip the court of its ability to review Knesset legislation by establishing a separate constitutional court. When Aharon Barak was president of the Supreme Court from 1995 to 2006, he expanded the powers of the court.