The Supreme Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Fresh off his selection to the judicial appointment committee, MK Robert Ilatov of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party stirred emotions in the Israeli political establishment on Thursday after declaring that "anyone who refuses to sing Hatikva (the Israeli national anthem) is unfit to serve as a judge."
Due to a deal with Yisrael Beytenu, both the coalition and opposition's representatives on the judicial selection committee for secular courts will be right-wing: Likud MK Nurit Koren for the coalition and Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Ilatov for the opposition.
The two right-wing Knesset members - along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked - gives the nationalist camp a de facto veto in the process of choosing judges.
"In my view, a judge who is unwilling to sing Hatikva cannot be a judge in the State of Israel, which is the nation state of the Jewish people," Ilatov told Army Radio on Thursday. "I have no problem with those who have already been appointed to the bench. I will not appoint someone who on principle is opposed to the idea of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. I don't need to aid and abet this. So we will have an Arab judge who sings Hatikva. What's the problem?"
The Israeli right was outraged when Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran refused to sing the national anthem during his swearing-in ceremony. Ilatov's remarks appear to be aimed at avoiding a similar spectacle in the future.
When asked to comment on Ilatov's remarks, Shaked seemed to offer a lukewarm endorsement of his position.
"Ilatov has been a valued partner of mine on many good things that we achieved in the previous Knesset," the justice minister told Army Radio. "Overall, our philosophies are quite similar. A judge, like a member of Knesset, needs to believe in a Jewish, democratic state. As for Hatikva, I'm not Robert's spokeswoman. He's a moral, principled person."
"Yes, there was the episode with Salim Jubran," Shaked said. "There are many excellent Arab judges in the judicial system. A judge needs to stand during the national anthem, but I won't be looking to see if he is mouthing the words to Hatikva or not. A judge needs to be selected first and foremost according to skills and criteria."
"The fact that we have Arab judges is an admirable thing in a country where 20 percent of the population are minorities," she said. "Jubran is retiring in 2017. Until then, no new judges will be picked [for the Supreme Court]."