Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut has met in recent weeks with former minister Tzipi Livni amid the push by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for a shakeup of the Israeli judiciary that would curb the top court’s powers, Israeli television revealed Friday.
Livni, who among other senior posts served as justice minister in 2013-2014, has been a vocal opponent of the proposed judicial overhaul and was a prominent speaker at anti-government rallies held in Tel Aviv the past two weekends.
Hayut has also come out forcefully against the ruling right-religious coalition’s planned judicial changes, warning in a fiery speech last week that they would deal a “fatal blow” to Israel’s democratic identity.
Her speech was criticized by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who said it underlined his arguments that the justice system has been politicized, and chastised her for violating ethics rules for serving judges. Levin, a top ally of Netanyahu, unveiled the proposals for overhauling the judiciary earlier this month and has become the face of the government effort.
According to Channel 12 news, Hayut and Livni convened twice at the former’s home — once ahead of last Saturday’s demonstration and again this Thursday. No details were provided on what they discussed.
Both parties confirmed they met, though Hayut disputed the timing of the first meeting, saying it took place several weeks ago and not the night before the protest.
“Out of a desire to help and as a former justice minister, I recently initiated conversations with relevant figures, starting with former justice ministers to the Supreme Court president,” Livni said in response.
A statement from Hayut’s office similarly said that Livni requested they meet.
“[Hayut] felt the request should not be refused and will meet any previous or current justice minister who asks,” the statement said.
The television report came a day before another scheduled mass demonstration in Tel Aviv, with police expecting turnout to increase from the roughly 80,000 protesters who rallied in the coastal city last Saturday.
Speaking at the most recent protest in Tel Aviv, Livni vowed that “nobody will be above the law, not even the prime minister,” in a reference to Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing trial for corruption. “Together we will protect the state, because it is for all of us.”
“History will not forget,” she added in remarks directed at lawmakers advancing the judicial overhaul.