On Thursday the gloves came off, and in an especially combative speech she attacked elected figures who seek to influence the character of the Supreme Court through laws that influence the make-up of its panels and declarations against serving judges.
She accused ministers and MKs of running an incitement campaign against the Supreme Court. "For a few years now there has been a campaign that is gaining momentum from year to year with the aim of weakening the justice system, the Supreme Court at its head."
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish (Photo: Arnon Paz)
Beinish added that this a delegitimization campaign "led by a number of politicians, Knesset members and even government ministers, who take advantage of their immunity and give the public misleading information that has deteriorated to incitement against the court, its judges and against its rulings."
Speaking at the annual conference of the Israeli Association of Public Law at the Dead Sea, Beinish said that she had warned against the trend to harm the Supreme Court and diminish its authority and by that "to undermine its ability to protect the democratic values of the State." She added that "the writing was on the wall. The warnings were heard, but no one got up."
Over the past few weeks the Knesset has passed a number of controversial proposals which aim to limit the Supreme Court.
One of the bills would give the Knesset's Constitution Committee the right to vet Supreme Court candidates. Another proposal, dubbed the "Grunis bill," would allow the appointment of a Supreme Court chief justice with only two years remaining until retirement.
Beinish also mentioned the role of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in blocking the bills that would change the face of the Supreme Court: "There is a great deal of importance to the fact that the prime minister declares the importance of the independence of the judges.
Beinisch and Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman (Photo: Arnon Paz)
"As far as I know, he was also opposed to some of the proposals and blocked the 'hearing bill'. I assume that the prime minister will continue to stand guard to the best of his ability. Still, as long as an ill wind is blowing, it is not enough to block one bill or another as this is an ongoing trend and not a sporadic struggle."
Beinish emphasized: "Since the dark days of World War II, the world has known to learn the basic lesson. Democracy is indeed first and foremost the rule of majority, but democracy is also maintaining the essence of democracy, the basic values of respect, human rights and in Israel, simultaneously with all these, the values of a Jewish State.
"These are not empty words. These are the values at the heart of the defense of our existence and they are getting worn out in a campaign meant to see them extinct," she said.
Meanwhile, in response to Beinish's statement, Knesset Member MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) said that the Supreme Court president's declarations show a lack of the basic understanding of democracy. "The president's statements are a clear example of wild incitement against the Knesset," said Elkin.
He added: "I respect the Supreme Court and see the institution's major significance and the importance of its judicial independence; nevertheless, I will not be broken by a campaign of threats and intimidation."
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