"The High Court is to blame that there is no constitution in
Israel," said Rabbi Gafni. He spoke these words at a
deliberation in which Knesset members argued with Justice
Minister Meir Sheetrit who opposes the establishment of a
constitutional court. Aharon Barak, the Chief Justice of the
High Court, is the main opponent of the plan.
Replying in the Knesset to a proposal by MK Eliezer Cohen
(Ichud Haleumi- Yisrael Beiteinu) regarding the necessity of
setting-up a constitutional court, Minister of Justice Meir
Sheetrit said that while he supports a constitution, he
opposes establishment of a constitutional court. A debate
erupted in the Knesset plenum between him, Rabbi Gafni and
other MKs following his remarks.
MKs Rabbi Gafni, Eliezer Cohen, Rabbi Gamliel, Tzvi Hendel,
Benny Alon, Nissim Zeev, and many other Knesset members
support the idea of a constitutional court.
Sheetrit claimed, "There is no need for a constitutional
court in order to interpret a constitution. We are a state
with a High Court, and the High Court should interpret the
MK Rabbi Nissim Zeev: "That's the problem."
MK Rabbi Gafni: "The High Court is to blame for the lack of
a constitution. But we know what it will say about us,
because [its Chief Justice] expresses his opinion at
Minister Sheetrit: "I disagree with all of those attacks on
the High Court and its Chief Justice."
Rabbi Gamliel: "You have no choice."
Shetreet: "No. I have a choice. I am not afraid to state my
Rabbi Gafni then read excerpts of remarks by one of the High
Court justices, Michael Cheshin. Cheshin noted, "Even if the
Knesset passes a law, the High Court could cancel any law
passed by the Knesset." Rabbi Gafni also noted that Barak
had also said, speaking just the day before a court case on
the law about yeshiva students was due to be argued before
him, "It is impossible to accept a law about the yeshiva
students because of the principal of equality."
"I was part of the enactment of the Basic Laws in 1992. I
did not let them include the word `equality' precisely
because of the yeshiva students issue, as you know," Rabbi
Gafni told the Justice Minister. "Now, Barak opposes the
Knesset and opposes the legislative authority. There were
deliberations here on the issue, and the word `equality' was
not included, due to the yeshiva students issue. In
contradicting the Knesset's opinion, he says the
Rabbi Gafni then called to the Justice Minister: "You are a
decent Justice Minister, yet you stand at the podium and
say, `Justice Barak will do what the Knesset says.' He
laughs at you; he laughs at me. He laughs at everyone. No
Justice Minister has ever been able to put him in his place.
He's stronger than all of us."
In the wake of Rabbi Gafni's remarks, Minister Sheetrit took
advantage of a clause in the Knesset rule book and grabbed
the microphone to "protest" the attack on the Chief Justice.
"It's out of place. It's unjust. There is no reason to
discuss the personal nature of different people."
Rabbi Gafni: "Who's attacking? We have ideological
differences of opinion."