Katsav backs method of picking judges

President Moshe Katsav on Tuesday defended the judicial system and said he was against making changes in the Judges Selection Committee. "In my opinion, we should not change the composition of the court and the balances and safeguards that it includes, despite the voices demanding change," said Katsav, speaking at a ceremony in which 23 newly appointed judges to the district and magistrate's court presented their credentials and took the oath of office. "In this committee, the voices of all the governing branches are heard and its true strength is in the checks and balances and the partnership between the authorities," he said. The Judges Selection Committee is headed by the justice minister and includes one more cabinet minister, two MKs, two members of the Israel Bar and three justices of the Supreme Court. Critics of the committee claim that it gives too much power to the Supreme Court and does not reflect the ideological and sociological composition of the general population. According to Katsav, "should the members of the committee themselves believe that the tools they have at their disposal to choose the best judges are not good enough, they should be the ones to initiate improvements and advancements in the methods for examining, selecting and choosing the candidates." Katsav also referred to the debate over whether the Supreme Court justices properly reflect the makeup of Israeli society as it is today. He said the debate was legitimate "but must be a worthy and objective one, conducted reasonably and cautiously. The decisive consideration must be the quality of the candidate and his suitability to hold such high office." Katsav said he believed it was important for the court to reflect the different values and social and cultural points of view, but that "considerations of the professional level and personal qualities of the candidate are more important. The court is not a parliament." "The country's best judges belong to the Supreme Court and they reflect Israeli society," he added. Referring to a key decision handed down by the High Court two weeks ago, Katsav appeared to criticize the outgoing government's economic policies. "The state must guarantee a dignified existence to all of its citizens," he said. "The social security network, which is meant to make sure this is done, has been badly hurt in the past decade and we must develop a system of checks and balances to guarantee a minimal level of economic existence."