‘I’m taking the reins’: Netanyahu says real danger to democracy is ‘all-powerful court’

“Many in the nation agree that the Supreme Court is run as a closed club for the appointment of judges in a friend brings friend system,” said Netanyahu.

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement that he had no plans to stop the judicial reform, beginning with the passage of a bill to reform the process of appointing judges.

“I’m taking the reins,” Netanyahu said, noting that until now his “hands were tied” over a conflict of interest.

“For our people, and for our country I will do everything to reach a solution,” he said.

Addressing the protesting IDF soldiers and reservists, the premier said: “There is no place for refusal to answer the call of duty. It endangers our national security and everyone’s personal security, and there is no justification for it.”

“I will do everything to heal the rift in the nation because we are brotherly people and with God’s help we will do it together, and together we will succeed,” he said.

“Citizens of Israel, a few months ago, as soon as the election results were announced, I said, ‘I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel,’ I meant it then and I mean it today,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of his statement.

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“We have one country and we must do everything to protect it from external threats and from an irreconcilable rift from within. We cannot allow any dispute, no matter how acute, to endanger the common future of all of us.”

He went on to warn that the real danger to democracy was “an all-powerful court.”

“Opponents of the reform are not traitors and its supporters are not fascists. Most of the citizens of Israel love our country and want to preserve our democracy. But since there are those who appropriate democracy for themselves, I want to say a few words about democracy: the supporters of the reform think that there is no democracy here. What is real and what endangers democracy is an all-powerful court.

“On the other hand, the opponents of the reform think that what will endanger democracy is a Knesset and a government that will act without restraints and without brakes, that will endanger the rights of the individual.”

“The supporters of the reform are outraged that the balance between the authorities has been violated over the past decades. The court unjustifiably interfered with security considerations in the fight against terrorism, raising difficulties with the government’s policy,” he said, noting that the Supreme Court prevented the removal of infiltrators from Israel as well as intervened with offshore gas deal.

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Restoring the ‘proper balance’

The “most painful” claim of the pro-reform camp, Netanyahu said, was the cronyism in Israel’s process of appointing judges.

“Many in the nation agree that the Supreme Court is run as a closed club for the appointment of judges in a friend brings friend system. The judges have a veto in the existing system on the appointment of judges and in practice appoint themselves, which does not happen in any other democracy in the world,” he said.

The law, which will pass in its present form in the Knesset next week, “will balance and diversify” the court…

“We do not want a controlled court but a balanced court, which will also gain the trust of the people,” Netanyahu continued. Citing Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, he said, “This is not the end of democracy but the strengthening of democracy.”

Dershowitz, who has spoken out several times against the proposed reforms, nevertheless has made it clear that they do not in any way threaten Israel’s democracy – “quite the opposite,” he told Australia’s J-Air radio last week, “they actually enhance it.”

Noting that many people were scared of an “illiberal Halachic (Jewish law) state, with anti-gay and anti-women legislation,” Netanyahu said he believes it is possible to pass a reform that will “provide an answer to both sides, that will restore the proper balance between the authorities that will preserve the individual rights of every citizen in the country.”

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He called out the opposition over its refusal to enter discussions aimed at finding a compromise. “Almost three months have been wasted because of this refusal. I hope that will change in the coming days.”