The Judicial Selection Committee will continue to appoint Arab judges to courts, despite one committee MK suggesting otherwise, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said on Thursday.
Both the coalition and opposition members of the Judicial Selection Committee for the secular courts will be rightwing due to a deal reached between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu. They will be Likud MK Nurit Koren for the coalition and Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov for the opposition.
The two right-wing MKs – along with Shaked – gives the nationalist camp a de facto veto in the process of choosing judges.
Ilatov stirred emotions when he declared on Army Radio Thursday that refusing to sing “Hatikva,” the national anthem, would disqualify candidates from getting his vote to become judges.
“In my view, a judge who is unwilling to sing ‘Hatikva’ cannot be a judge in Israel, which is the nation state of the Jewish people,” Ilatov said. “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?” Right-wing MKs were outraged when Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran refused to sing the national anthem during his swearing-in ceremony in 2012. Ilatov’s position appears to be aimed at preventing a similar situation from occurring in the future.
Shaked, however, said that judges would continue to be selected solely on their qualifications.
“There are many excellent Arab judges in the judicial system,” she said. “A judge needs 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.”
Former Nazareth District Court judge Hashim Khatib warned that if they would be required to sing ‘Hatikva,’ no Arab who respects himself would submit his candidacy.
He said he hoped a majority of the Judicial Selection Committee would overrule Ilatov and that the selection of judges would continue to be based solely on professional grounds.
Ta’al Party chairman Ahmad Tibi – one of the top leaders of the Joint List – told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that “the bizarre request [to make singing ‘Hatikva’ mandatory] comes from a representative of a party that recently spent most of its time dealing with legal matters,” referring to the corruption allegations against members of Yisrael Beytenu.
“It is good that Ilatov did not demand that the judge also must have served with the Border Police,” he added.
According to Ilatov’s standards, Joubran or any other Arab judge would not be selected, because they don’t have Jewish souls, Tibi said.
MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash/ Joint List) told the Post that “‘Hatikva’ is an exclusively Jewish anthem and the State of Israel has failed over the years to adopt an anthem for all its citizens.”
Jabareen emphasized that statements such as Ilatov’s prejudice the rights of Arab jurists to be equal partners in the process of selecting judges and that ‘Hatikva’ should be kept outside of this process.
The Hadash MK added that there is a need to increase the number of Arab judges in Israel because they are underrepresented. Ilatov’s statement, he said, reflects “a dangerous attitude for the Israeli legal system in general, and for the process of selecting judges in particular.”
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad/ Joint List) told the Post that Ilatov’s statement “comes from a party that is not committed to democracy, and nourished from racism and criminal behavior.”
“The McCarthyism and infantile nature of Yisrael Beytenu arrives each day to new heights,” she said, adding that “‘Hatikva’ does not represent the Palestinians in Israel, and no law will force us to change our mind.”
Ilatov and Koren were elected to the selection committee for the secular courts in a secret-ballot vote held at the Knesset at 4:30 a.m. The Knesset also filled a vacancy on the Rabbinical Court Selection Committee.
Zionist Union MK Revital Swid defeated the Likud’s Nava Boker for the vacancy that was reserved for a woman.
Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs from the coalition apparently joined the opposition in voting for Swid, who is Orthodox and comes from a family of rabbis who lived in Hebron before the 1929 Arab riots. Haredi MKs complained ahead of the vote that Boker had made statements in the past that were supportive of religious pluralism.
Boker denied making such statements and said she was a victim of character assassination. She threatened to stay home when key votes are held on Mondays and allow the coalition to fall.
Swid said she would use her membership on the committee to ensure that “fitting judges are elected who will protect the rights of women and help them receive equal treatment in the rabbinical courts.” She singled out both women and men who have been refused divorces as a challenge she will focus on.
“The next [judicial] appointments will decide the character of the rabbinical courts for years to come and will impact countless people,” she said.
Channel 2 cameras caught Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing outrage to Shas chairman Arye Deri at the Knesset over Shas’s intention to vote against Boker, the Likud’s candidate.
After the vote, opposition leader Isaac Herzog declared victory, saying that the coalition was weak and its future short. •