Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
To a rowdy melee of cheers and boos, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked effectively declared war on the High Court of Justice on Monday, hitting it with blow after blow for the recent decision declaring the natural gas policy unconstitutional.
To a rowdy chorus of cheers and boos, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked effectively declared war on the High Court of Justice on Monday for its recent decision declaring the country’s natural-gas policy unconstitutional.
Speaking at the normally laid back and reserved Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, Shaked played on the Biblical phrase about a “land that eats its inhabitants,” saying she fears the world will start to view Israel as a “land that eats its investors.”
The decision, she said, “could cost the government billions of shekels,” adding that it “caused great harm to Israel” by entering into political and macro-economic issues beyond its purview.
Last week, the High Court struck down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flagship natural-gas policy, but suspended formally striking the law for a year so he and the Knesset can adjust the 10-year freeze on the gas price and some other items. If Netanyahu reaches an agreement with the gas developers to adjust the freeze terms, or institutes a limited change, he should be able to get past any further High Court petitions.
Opening her full magazine of verbal ammunition, Shaked, on Monday, even slammed the High Court for what she called hypocrisy in not intervening to block the Oslo Accords.
“Why, according to the same position which prohibits tying the hands [of future governments] didn’t [the court] strike the right of the government to sign onto the Oslo Accords, which tied the hands of future governments even more [and created instability],” she asked.
She also cited former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as calling areas where it was unclear what lines between the Knesset and the High Court were “black holes” to be filled by the court.
In contrast to the court filling these holes, she said, “I call these wide areas of governance” of the Knesset and the executive.
Given that there is a panel at the conference about whether the High Court has gone beyond its authority, she said: “The question mark is unnecessary,” making it clear she believes the High Court has gone substantially beyond its authority.
Shaked and some prior justice ministers have pressed for the High Court to stay away from policy issues before, but this was by far the most intense, unqualified and direct attack she has launched.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira came to the court’s defense, however, saying: “The High Court’s position and independence must be defended.”
Mandelblit went a step further, saying that even if one disagrees with the High Court decision, it has ruled and it must be followed.
“It is one thing to have a serious issue-related disagreement, and another thing to directly attack the High Court,” he said.
Following Shaked’s rant on the court, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich called on Netanyahu to dismiss her.
“Shaked’s attack on the High Court is violent and dangerous. She wants to destroy the independence of the legal system and scare and threaten judges. This is miserable behavior from someone who is meant to strengthen the court, which is one of the best in the world,” Yacimovich said.
“Instead of praising the court for being independent, she is trying with all her power to weaken its standing. Happily, the Israeli public trusts the court and answers as such whenever it is polled, despite the attacks against it. The same can’t be said about the political branch whose status is deteriorating largely because of the irresponsible behavior of ministers in the government,” Yacimovich continued.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog attacked both Netanyahu, for recent comments he made against the High Court’s gas decision, and Shaked.
“We heard the justice minister! The justice minister! She who is responsible to guard and defend the separation of powers and the independence of the courts with all of her soul has changed into the leader of the campaign [against it and] the flag holder of attacking the High Court,” he said.
MK and former US Ambassador Michael Oren (Kulanu) joined in the critique of Shaked, saying: “The High Court and the Israeli legal system are among the most respected [Israeli] institutions among the global community. I call on the justice minister… to attack to strengthen the High Court and not to try to harm it. The consequences of harming its position will create problems way beyond the borders of Israel.”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.