Ayelet Shaked .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Just days after Supreme Court President Miriam Naor dealt a public blow to Ayelet Shaked with a letter slamming her treatment of the court, the justice minister shifted attention on Sunday by publishing a list of 28 candidates for four Supreme Court spots due to open in 2017.
Naor, Supreme Court Deputy President Elyakim Rubinstein, Justice Salim Joubran and Justice Zvi Zilbertal all will be stepping down at different points over the next year.
Though their retirement dates are spread-out over several months, the Judicial Selection Committee is expected to select their replacements all at once, with meetings starting this week and a decision possibly in January.
The selection of the four all at once could dominate the path of the country’s highest court on fateful issues from the settlements to migrants, natural gas and human rights for decades to come.
Shaked called the group of candidates on the list “among the finest judges and jurists” in Israel.
In an unprecedented sign of open war, Naor severed relations with Shaked on Thursday regarding negotiations about appointments of future justices over the justice minister’s “gun on the table” threats she has made through the media that she would push a bill through the Knesset allowing her and the political echelon to appoint judges against the Supreme Court’s wishes.
For several days, stories had emerged without Shaked’s explicit approval but with implied confirmations by sources close to her, that she would back a bill by MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) allowing appointments of four new justices to the Supreme Court with a mere majority of the committee even if all of the justices on the committee opposed the candidates.
Several years ago, the Knesset passed a law stating that seven of nine members of the committee must support a candidate to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Because there are more politicians on the committee than justices, the presence of three justices on the committee, Naor, Rubinstein and Joubran, has meant that, effectively, the Supreme Court’s consent is needed to get an appointment through.
Naor said Shaked’s silence over the threats through the media confirmed her support for the threats and made it impossible for Naor to continue to negotiate with the minister. She said the justices would show up only for official meetings of the committee and would not be pressured or extorted.
The extraordinary rebuke of Shaked was sent out to the media in an unprecedented open letter by Naor, who is known as a mild-mannered justice, middle of the road ideologically, who is not enamored of judicial activism and who has allowed Shaked to rule the airwaves with criticism of the court. The letter signaled that Naor views Shaked as having crossed a line.
Sunday’s publishing of the full list shifts the debate past Naor’s letter and into high gear over who will get the four slots.
Candidates reports had said were the central fights and are, in fact, on the list, include Bar-Ilan University Professor Gidon Sapir, who Shaked prefers and the justices reject; and Tel Aviv District Court Judge Ruth Ronen and Haifa District Court Judge Ron Sokol, who the justices prefer and Shaked rejects.
In some cases, there are also disagreements between the Israel Bar Association and the justices.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv District Court Judges Khaled Kabuv, said to be preferred by the bar association, and George Kara, said to be preferred by the justices, are on the list as the most likely replacements for Joubran, who was filling a spot as the court’s Israeli-Arab justice.
Naor is due to be replaced in October 2017 by Esther Hayot as Supreme Court president after a nearly three year reign.