Supreme Court: Olmert can continue negotiating

Beinisch dismisses arguments against Olmert's talks with Syria, PA while heading transitional gov't.

Beinisch 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Beinisch 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Wednesday appeared to dismiss Likud MK Limor Livnat's arguments that in continuing negotiations with Syria and the PA, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meant to force the next government to accept the terms he reached. The court was hearing Livnat's petition calling on the court to order Olmert to stop negotiating because he was head of a transitional government which did not have the people's support. Livnat and her attorney, David Shimron, tried to persuade the court that the circumstances today were different from those of 2001, when the High Court rejected a petition calling on it to order then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to stop negotiating with the PA after he resigned and new elections were pending. Shimron said that in 2001, the Knesset had not dissolved and the election was only for the office of prime minister. Secondly, Barak was a candidate for prime minister in the 2001 elections In the current case, there is no chance that Olmert will be able to return to office and continue advancing his policies since he is not running for prime minister. Secondly, this time the Knesset has dissolved and does not enjoy the confidence of the people. However, Shimron's main argument to the court was that Olmert had said in a Knesset speech on November 10 that he would continue negotiating "as part of a genuine effort to reach an agreement, or at least establish its foundations, so that it cannot be evaded in the future." Beinisch pointed out that in the case of both the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, the government could not sign a peace treaty unilaterally. According to the law, the Knesset would have to ratify the decision and the government would have to hold a public referendum. But Shimron argued that Olmert could make concessions to the Syrians and the Palestinians which would bind future governments. Beinisch dismissed the argument. "Do you think that what Olmert said about forcing his position to be adopted by future governments is really possible?" she asked Shimron. Beinisch also said that the situations in 2001 and now were "almost identical," indicating that just as the court had rejected the petition then, it would reject it now. She said the 2001 decision made it clear that the government could take action as long as it did so with self-restraint. The decision also upheld the Barak government's right to negotiate on the eve of elections. After the hearing, Livnat told reporters, "We will wait for the ruling. What I can say right now is that the prime minister is acting without authority or legitimacy. The Likud adopts, and will adopt, a completely different policy from that of Olmert and Livni." She added that Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu would reject any agreements reached by Olmert. The court's decision on the petition is due to be handed down soon.