Labor to oppose Friedmann reform bill

Barak cites need for "Supreme Court independence;" reform aims to change judges' election panel.

Barak intense 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Barak intense 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor Party ministers decided Thursday to oppose Justice Minister Daniel Friedman's proposed bills on judicial reform. During a meeting in Tel Aviv, the ministers also decided to oppose the reinstitution of the Religious Affairs Ministry, due next week. Speaking at the meeting, Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that his party "is expected by the citizens of Israel to safeguard the Supreme Court's independence and the delicate balance between the Court and the government." "Changes can be made after a serious and profound debate, but not through arm bending", Barak said. The two proposals, issued by Friedmann in draft form on Wednesday, call for a far-reaching overhaul of the Judges Election Committee and changes to the way lower-court judges are appointed. The minister's initiative provoked angry responses from both the Knesset and the judiciary. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said Wednesday that the reforms would cause "damage to the professionalism and independence of the judiciary that amounts to more politicization of the procedure to elect judges". MK Ophir Paz-Pines said Friedmann's bill was "part of the war he declared on the judicial system and his efforts to reduce its power." MK Zehava Gal-on (Meretz) said Thursday that Friedmann "wouldn't stop at red," and called upon the Labor ministers to push for his resignation. "Friedmann's latest initiative is yet another phase in an attempt to crush the Supreme Court. He is supposed be protecting the judiciary; instead, he is becoming its destroyer", said Gal-on. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.