Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will attempt to resolve the growing feud between Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday. Olmert will enlist the help of Kadima MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, who is due to hold a series of conciliatory meetings between the two. Furthermore, Friedmann and Beinisch will appear separately before the committee to present their version of events leading to the breakdown of relations between them, the sources said.
Civil Fights: Due process undermined
"The conflict between the minister and the judge must leave the personal sphere and return to professional boundaries," said Ben-Sasson.
In a harshly worded letter addressed to the justice minister and published on Wednesday, Beinisch alleged that since Friedmann was appointed justice minister in February, he has embarked on a systematic campaign to weaken the Supreme Court.
Friedmann responded to the allegation, saying that Beinisch's letter, coupled later in the day with harsh attacks against him by retired justices Mishael Cheshin and Dalia Dorner, were "an orchestrated attack on the justice minister. Their statements were based on personal attacks which did not address the issues at hand and are noteworthy because none of them examine the minister's proposals objectively."
Friedmann maintained that his "proposals are made for the good of the judicial system and to strengthen its independence." He added that his proposal to appoint search committees to recommend candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the courts did not take away from the status of the president of the Supreme Court.
According to his proposal, after the search committee recommends its candidate, the justice minister will still have to approve it with the consent of the president of the Supreme Court, exactly like the arrangement has been until now.
Meanwhile, high profile officials, including Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), have already spoken out about the dispute.
During a Labor Party faction meeting, Barak said the justice system and the State Comptroller's Office must not be disparaged. "These institutions are the foundations of Israeli democracy and dialogue between them and the government must be respectful," he said.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, said that while he backs legal reform, he believes it should be carried out "carefully."
"There should have been a 'legal' Camp David to discuss reforms in a respectful way. I always treated the court carefully and respectfully," said Netanyahu.
After Beinisch's letter was published, recently retired Supreme Court deputy president Cheshin told Channel 2. "Friedmann is constantly trying to undermine the Supreme Court. It's no wonder Beinisch reacted the way she did. I would have done so earlier and more harshly."
Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government on Thursday called on Olmert to fire Friedmann. "In the spirit of your declaration a few days ago that you were determined to protect the judicial system and the rule of law, we ask you to bring Prof. Friedmann's term of office to an end to reduce the damage that he has inflicted on the law enforcement institutions as well as public confidence in these organizations."
Another watchdog organization, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, defended Friedmann and urged him not to be deterred from carrying out "positive" reforms because of the "targeted assassination" that he was allegedly undergoing by former and current Supreme Court justices.