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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Supreme Court President Aharon Barak said Friday he would have backed the candidacy of Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison for the Supreme Court had she not publicly stated her views about how the court should function, views with which he disagreed.
Barak was speaking at a weekend conference sponsored by the Netanya Academic College and the Israel Forum of Law and Society at Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem.
"Had Ruth not declared her views about the task of the court in a democratic society, I would not have asked her what her views were and would have agreed to her appointment," said Barak. "But when she is nominated because of a platform and says that is what she is going to do, I am forced to take a position regarding her agenda. And her agenda looks bad to me because it goes counter to what I believe the court must do at this point in time.
"I don't say she should never be appointed to the Supreme Court. I think that at this particular time her agenda is not appropriate for the court. But I wouldn't say this and I wouldn't have voted against her appointment had she herself not publicly announced it," he said.
Barak and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni are deadlocked over the appointment. Livni is refusing to convene the Judges' Selection Committee because she currently lacks a majority in the nine-person forum to approve Gavison. She is hoping that in December elections, the two Israel Bar representatives who oppose Gavison will be replaced by supporters.
The court currently lacks three people to replace retired justices Eliahu Mazza and Jacob Turkel and former acting justice Yonatan Adiel.
Barak said the court was holding up under the strain of the missing justices but would not be able to keep it up for long. "Our work hasn't been affected yet but that's because we are working harder. There is a limit to what we can do... We can't go on like this, but the justice minister also understands this."
Barak dismissed allegations by the Public Defender's Office that the courts had taken harsh measures against arrested opponents of the disengagement brought before them because they were bent on helping the government implement the plan.
"I think the public defender's report was superficial," he said. "I think that the Supreme Court and the [criminal] courts did a good job and were fair and objective under difficult circumstances."
Barak also rejected charges that the courts had created new legal rules to deal harshly with the protesters.
He also denied right-wing allegations that the courts discriminated against certain groups including the settler population.
He pointed out that the High Court of Justice had ordered the government to change the compensation terms of the Compensation Law to provide compensation based on seniority for every resident of the Gaza Strip settlements instead of only for those over the age of 21. The change contributed hundreds of thousands of shekels to the compensation package.