(photo credit: Courtesy)
The political debate on the role of the judiciary in Israel exploded Thursday after Supreme Court President Miriam Naor wrote a letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked saying she is cutting ties with Shaked, because the minister supports a bill to weaken the Supreme Court’s influence on judicial appointments. Naor called Shaked’s bill “a gun on the table.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a vocal opponent of judicial activism, compared Naor’s actions to the boycott Israel movement.
Levin said he was shocked by the letter, which he said “shows that, in her view, the court does not belong to the state, but is above it, as if it is her private domain.
“The chief justice is trying to intimidate the justice minister, the government and the Knesset, by using an inappropriate tool of boycotts that our enemies use when they’re trying to force us to do things that are harmful to Israel,” Levin stated.
“The Supreme Court president’s decision to stop discussing judicial appointments is an opportunity to make the necessary change to the committee’s make-up, in a way that will remove the judges from it who try to dictate appointments and bring in their friends without transparency, in a way that goes against basic democratic values.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett backed Shaked, saying: “Unfortunately, in recent decades, there is an increasing intervention of judicial activism in the government. The time has come for the lawmakers to make laws and the judges to judge.”
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, who proposed the bill that Naor opposes and is a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee, said he hopes to reach agreements with the judiciary about the legislation, and said he doesn’t understand what “all the fuss” is about.
“The bill talks about choosing Supreme Court justices by a simple majority and not twothirds, which is the current situation, in order to strengthen democracy in the judicial selection process,” he explained.
“The bill has yet to reach the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and hasn’t moved forward at this point.”
Ilatov called on Shaked and Naor to calmly reach an agreement so that the bill will not have to be passed for the impending round of judicial appointments.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said the bill is an example of how “Netanyahu and his soldiers in the Knesset are leading a short of revolution to purify the judiciary, the media, all criticism and fair democratic processes, in order to perpetuate his rule.”
Former justice minister MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said Naor’s cutting ties with Shaked is justified, as a response to “destructive use of force,” and that the bill is an attempt to pressure Supreme Court justices.
MK Elazar Stern (Zionist Union) submitted a request to hold an urgent discussion in the Knesset of “the coalition’s attempt to turn the Supreme Court into its private franchise.”
The request states that the bill violates the separation of powers, and that the coalition is trying to control the court, thus harming Israeli democracy.