Friedmann, Livni slam each other in Kadima meeting

Foreign minister accuses Justice minister of "damaging democracy."

livni 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A new feud erupted within Kadima on Sunday when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni accused Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann of "damaging democracy" and he responded that she "did nothing" when she was justice minister. The fight added a new front to the recent battles between legal and political officials that have pitted Friedmann against Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert against State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. The exchange took place in a stormy meeting of Kadima ministers ahead of Sunday's cabinet session. One minister who was present at the meeting said it was clear to him that Livni had purposely picked a fight with Friedmann for public relations purposes in an effort to present herself as the defender of the justice system. Witnesses to the dispute said that Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri asked Friedmann politely to ease the tension between him and the Supreme Court and Livni then pounced on Friedmann. "You are harming the public's trust in the judicial system," Livni told Friedmann. "Support for the system is falling and democracy is being harmed. You are contributing to the erosion of democratic values in the public and to its loss of faith in the courts." Friedmann was not afraid to fight back. He criticized her for not making reforms when she was justice minister and accused her of neglecting the Justice Ministry, which she ran while simultaneously serving as foreign minister and minister of immigrant absorption. "You as justice minister left the system not functioning," Friedmann said. "I could have acted like you and not convened the judicial selection committee but then the system wouldn't have functioned. The way you dealt with the issue did not improve the system's work. My goal is to change and improve. You didn't do anything at all on this issue." He blasted Livni for using the phrase "damaging democracy," which he said was the buzzword for legal officials who wanted to prevent any real argument on the issues. He said legal officials repeatedly tried to block his reforms by leaking to the press that they would "damage democracy." A source close to Livni responded that Livni's attack on Friedmann was "not just tactical. This is what she believes in." While some people present at the meeting said the argument was "respectful" and "blown out of proportion" others praised Friedmann for defending himself against Livni's attack. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz also voiced criticism in the meeting, saying that it was inappropriate for Olmert to ask ministers to vote on budget cuts without being given time to study them and offer alternative proposals.