Israel's Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch blasted what she called a recent “delegitimization campaign” against the Supreme Court. Beinisch blamed politician’s Knesset members and ministers during her speech at a conference of the Israeli Association of Public Law at the Dead Sea.
Beinisch, who is set to retire next February, referred to a series of bills that aim to change the way justices are appointed. "Over the past five years I warned against the trend to harm the Supreme Court, to diminish its role, to limit its power and to prevent it from carrying out its important role, and in this way to undermine its ability to protect the democratic values of this country," she said.
Beinisch said that the campaign is “headed by a number of politicians, members of Knesset and even government ministers, who take advantage of their immunity and send the wider public false and misleading information that has degenerated to incitement directed against the court, against its judges and against its rulings.”
“Supreme Court judges did not grow up in noble estates. They worked, and put energy into their professional achievements. Why incite against them?”
Beinisch ended her speech to much applause. "This was a ground-breaking speech," Eliyahu Matza, a retired Supreme Court judge, said to Israel Hayom.
Many believe Beinisch’s comments to be aimed at the politicians of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative-religious coalition, who have backed the court reform bills. One bill introduces Knesset influence to Supreme Court appointments, while another opts to limit High Court petitions.
The most controversial bill is the “Grunis Law,” which would abolish the need for the Supreme Court president to have spent at least three years on the bench. The initiative would pave the way for the appointment of judge Asher Grunis as Supreme Court president.
MKs responded to Beinisch’s speech with ire of their own. Zeev Elkin, the chairman of the ruling coalition, said to Rueters, "I will not break under a campaign of threats and intimidation and will continue to lead a practical discourse of legitimate reforms needed in the legal system."
"The attempts by the Supreme Court president to silence the criticism and to deter the critics are doomed to failure," Yariv Levin agreed. "Criticism of the Supreme Court and about the dark deals made to select justices is much-needed, and its purpose is to strengthen Israeli democracy," Levin said to the Jerusalem Post.
MK Arieh Eldad blamed Beinisch’s speech on her imminent retirement. "The closer she gets to her retirement date, the farther she gets from one of the first lessons we learn in citizenship classes in a democratic country: the people are sovereign and rule through their elected representatives," said Eldad. "Beinisch senses that the people are tired of the democracy of the Supreme Court."