By MICHAEL BACHNER and TOI STAFF
Dan Meridor blasts plan that seeks to curb the court’s power and ensure PM’s immunity from prosecution, saying it would ‘bulldoze’ the legal system and erode democracy
A former justice minister and veteran Knesset member for the ruling Likud party warned on Thursday that the policies toward the justice system supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s likely next coalition could turn Israel into a dictatorship, and argued that they are diametrically opposed to the policies promoted for decades by Likud.
Dan Meridor — who held several ministerial posts under Netanyahu during his 21 years as a lawmaker between 1984 and 2013 — joined former Likud ministers Benny Begin and Limor Livnat in coming out publicly against the premier’s push to curb the authority of the High Court of Justice, and in the process, safeguard himself immunity from prosecution in the three graft cases against him.
But Meridor issued the most scathing criticism of his former political ally’s planned moves, which reportedly include a bill allowing lawmakers to overrule administrative decisions by the High Court of Justice, telling Army Radio that they would “change the regime system.”
“The idea that someone is above the law, that there is no equality before the law, that suspicions against the prime minister and ministers won’t be investigated and reach the court, is turning our country into something else,” Meridor said. “This has never happened. We have had prime ministers and ministers, even a president, who went to jail. We should be proud that there are no privileged people who are above the law.
“The idea of an override clause — that we won’t be a democracy, that there will be a dictatorship and the majority can do whatever it wants, that the court can’t say anything and there are no checks and balances — is a dangerous anti-democratic idea. There is not a single parliament in the world without checks and balances,” Meridor charged.
According to a television report on Wednesday night, Netanyahu and his intended new coalition partners have agreed that the incoming government will legislate a far-reaching constitutional change to curb the powers of the Supreme Court — giving Knesset members the authority to re-legislate laws that the court has struck down, and preventing the court from intervening in administrative decisions.
In addition to its far-reaching constitutional implications, such a law is of immense potential personal significance for Netanyahu, who is facing prosecution in three corruption cases, and is widely expected to ask his fellow Knesset members to vote in favor of giving him immunity from prosecution, as is possible under existing Israeli law.