Newly-installed Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann spent Wednesday trying to quell the storm of controversy surrounding his appointment, but critics continued to insist he was a poor choice for the job because of his allegedly unbridled attacks on the Supreme Court and its president, Judge Dorit Beinisch. "I will continue to cooperate fully with all officials in the judicial system, to strengthen the power of the law, to improve what needs improvement and to maintain the honor of the courts," Friedmann told MKs minutes after they overwhelmingly approved his candidacy.
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The Knesset approved Friedmann's appointment by a vote of 50 to 24, with one abstention. Friedmann thanked the MKs for their confidence. "I hope to justify the faith that has been placed in me," he said. "I am grateful for the support I have received in the Knesset from those who voted in my favor and also from those who voted against me, but congratulated me nonetheless."
Before the vote, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "Friedmann's service will ensure the preservation and protection of the rights of the citizens of Israel - and first and foremost, protection of the honor of the Supreme Court."
In an interview with Israel Radio, former Deputy Supreme Court President Mishael Cheshin went so far as to say he did not believe Olmert. "The prime minister declared that [Friedmann's] appointment was meant to bring quiet to the legal system. It was meant to calm it down, to protect its honor...This declaration sounds strange to me, to say the least. If the prime minister really meant what he said, how could he have chosen Danny Friedmann?"
Friedmann has been writing articles in Yediot Aharonot for years that have been highly critical of the Supreme Court, the system of appointing justices and the appointment of Dorit Beinisch to head the court.
"Danny Friedmann is an excellent jurist, there is no disputing that fact," said Cheshin. "He is one of the best. But Danny Friedmann also has something that others don't have...Since Professor Nili Cohen was [passed over] for the Supreme Court, he has unremittingly attacked the court and Beinisch."
Friedmann employs harsh attacks that often amount to contempt of court, Cheshin continued. "This is how Olmert thinks he can calm the legal system. Those who want to believe him may do so and those who do not want to believe him may also do so."
Cheshin added that he had read that Friedmann might appoint former head of the Courts Authority Boaz Okun as his director-general. Okun fought for Cohen's appointment to the court, earning the enmity of Beinisch.
Lapid said it was crucial for the justice minister and the Supreme Court president to work together harmoniously to deflect attacks against the judicial system, in addition to cooperating on the court's budget, selecting judges and Supreme Court justices, and drafting legislation
"The problem with Friedmann's appointment is that he is in sharp disagreement with Beinisch on a personal level and [professionally]," Lapid told the Post. "I am afraid the harmony...in the Justice Ministry will be violated because of these problematic relations."
In the Knesset, MKs spoke out for and against Friedmann's appointment.
"Friedmann is not joining the government because he is a great jurist," said MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz). "He was appointed because in the last few years, he has expressed opinions about the courts similar to the prime minister's...This isn't a minister who has some criticism about the system, this is someone who has no faith in it."
While the Shas Party voted in favor of Friedmann's appointment, they issued a statement criticizing Friedmann's articles as attacking religion, Israel's Jewish identity, and the rabbinical courts.