(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
Continuing her message of a readiness to reform the balance among the courts, the Knesset and the government, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday rebuffed those who had “designated” her and others who want to change that balance as “sons of darkness” while calling those trying to maintain the status quo “sons of light.”
Shaked, who was speaking to the Israel Bar Association at its annual conference in Eilat, expressed respect and support for the courts. She said that changing the balance might be “subtle,” and that she had no intention of attacking the courts, as some have framed her image.
She even quoted former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak about the law being a field that seeks synthesis and proper balance between different priorities.
Striking a different tone from her predecessor, Tzipi Livni, who was known to value the state’s Jewish side while emphasizing even more the defense of its democratic side, Shaked made several references to traditional Jewish texts.
In explaining the importance of the court system’s respect for the Knesset’s and government’s powers, she invoked not only respect for the people’s elected representatives, but the Biblical Passover sacrifice. She said the rabbis of the Talmud favored following the public’s lead in certain circumstances where there was doubt about details of the sacrifice.
After Shaked, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein spoke, expressing “shock” at the “earthquake” of having to approve an indictment against former Tel Aviv prosecutor Ruth David for alleged obstruction of justice in the Ronel Fisher saga.
Weinstein said he thought he had “seen it all,” and that even he had been taken aback by the specter of such a high-ranking member of the state prosecution committing crimes – especially trying to frustrate a state criminal investigation.
At the same time, he slammed all those who had equated the scandal with the need for greater oversight over the state prosecution.
Weinstein, who was one of the leading forces behind establishing the year-old office for overseeing prosecution decisions, which is led by former judge Hila Gristol, said the office’s objective was solely to improve the prosecution’s conduct, not investigate or indict prosecutors.
The issue has been heated, though, as virtually the entire state prosecution staff has boycotted cooperating with Gristol’s office, frustrating some of her oversight goals. Some of her supporters have pointed to the Fisher case and David’s involvement as a sign that prosecutors must submit to more oversight.
Also speaking at the conference, Bar Association president Doron Barzilai congratulated Shaked on her appointment and appeared to endorse some of her efforts to rebalance relations with the courts.
“There has not been a proper open conversation” on the issue of “how much oversight” there should be over prosecutors and about “judicial activism,” he said.
“You can have a different view” about the right balance with the courts and “still guard the judicial system,” he said in further defending Shaked, adding that “Daniel Friedman is not an enemy.” (Friedman, a former justice minister, tried to limit court powers.) Conference chairman Zaki Camal also took a shot at the courts for boycotting the Eilat gathering as part of an ongoing spat between Barzilai and the courts. To loud applause, he praised the large lawyer turnout despite the judicial boycott
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