Israeli govt accused of curbing court independence

Israeli govt accused of curbing court independence

Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuJERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government came under attack on Tuesday for promoting legislation critics said would weaken the independence of Israel’s judiciary.

Parliament on Monday passed a government-backed amendment that paves the way for an ally of conservative lawmakers to be appointed chief of the Supreme Court.The Supreme Court is held in high public regard and, in a country that does not have a constitution, is seen as an independent-minded watchdog overseeing the legislature and guarantor of civil rights.

Separate legislation that would change the composition of a legal committee appointing Supreme Court judges also received preliminary approval on Monday. Critics say if the bill is finalised, the committee would be packed with more right wingers as a result.Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, of the centrist Kadima party, accused Netanyahu of trying to “change the character of the nation” with the legislative moves.

Some of the criticism even came from within Netanyahu’s Likud party. “Perhaps it would be better to just write into the law who we want to be appointed,” Cabinet Minister Michael Eitan sarcastically told Army Radio.Netanyahu has insisted he will protect the independence of the judiciary. Israeli media reported on Tuesday that his government, which had originally backed the legal committee bill, might now backtrack on it.

The other change is final and allows for the appointment of Asher Grunis as chief justice next month. The amendment eliminates an age restriction that would have disqualified Grunis. – Khaleejnews