The High Court of Justice will hear an appeal against the “reasonableness” of MK Itamar Ben-Gvir’s appointment as national security minister after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney-general Gali Baharav-Miara failed to file an answer to the appeal after requesting and receiving five consecutive extensions.
The court will set a date for the hearing “soon” and the respondents will need to answer 10 days prior to it, High Court Justice Yitzhak Amit ruled on Thursday.
KAN’s Michael Shemesh reported earlier this week that the reason the attorney-general had failed to answer the appeal was because Netanyahu himself had failed to give her an explanation as to why the appointment was indeed reasonable, for unclear reasons.
The appeal was filed on December 26 by three citizens and a civil organization, even before Ben-Gvir was officially sworn in as minister. According to the appeal, Ben-Gvir’s appointment suffered from “extreme unreasonableness” due to him being a “serial disrupter of public order,” and that he still held extremist and racist attitudes while giving a “false impression” that he had become more moderate.
The appeal also accused Netanyahu of not giving enough thought to the implications of such an appointment.
Two citizens who filed the appeal, Orny Patrushka and Yossi Shusman, described themselves as “citizens who are anxiously observing the structure of Israeli democracy being weakened right in front of the public’s eyes.” The two have filed a number of appeals in recent years connected to “safeguarding democracy and defending core rights and freedoms.”
The civil organization in the appeal is the “Movement to Strengthen Tolerance in Religious Education,” which leads the “Tag Meir” coalition, which acts to “encourage values of tolerance and Judaism and mitigate hate crime and racism.” The third civilian in the appeal, Gadi Gvaryahu, is also a member of Tag Meir.
Under the sub-headline “Ben-Gvir as a disturber of public order,” the appeal quoted a number of officials from events surrounding Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, who accused Ben-Gvir of stoking the flames as rioting broke out in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
“One can see clearly and convincingly that Ben-Gvir acted in a methodical and effective way (unfortunately) to stoke, if not to ignite the riots that occurred between Jews and Arabs in Operation Guardian of the Walls but not only,” the appeal said.
The appeal also quoted Netanyahu promising on a number of occasions in 2020 and 2021 that Ben-Gvir was not worthy of serving as a minister and would not be a member of his government.
Under another sub-headline saying “Ben-Gvir hunts, disgraces and degrades political opponents,” the appeal listed many instances, including in the past year, when the future national security minister accused Arab and left-wing members of Knesset of being terrorists and traitors. The appeal pointed out that this has been Ben-Gvir’s rhetoric for decades, going back to the ’90s, when a number of rulings in Ben-Gvir’s approximately 53 indictments noted the severity and danger of his comments.
The next section, titled “Ben-Gvir, racism, hating the other and the philosophy of Meir Kahane,” brought a list of quotes from Ben-Gvir’s speeches at memorials to Kahane over the years. The speeches showed that he was still an adherent of Kahane’s racist philosophy, the appeal claimed. It added that even if Ben-Gvir proclaimed today that he has become more moderate, his ongoing affiliation with outspoken Kahanists such as Bentzi Gopstein proves otherwise.
The appeal also listed events in the past year when Ben-Gvir drew his pistol, allegedly in circumstances where such action was grossly inappropriate.
All this amounts to the “extreme unreasonableness” of his appointment as minister, the appeal argued, noting that this concept was introduced many times in the past by the High Court in order to bring into question decisions made by people or bodies in power.
The decision to go forward with the hearing against Ben-Gvir’s appointment came a day after the “Deri Law,” intended to reinstate Shas chairman Arye Deri as a minister, passed its preliminary reading on the Knesset floor.
Deri was removed as health minister and interior minister after the High Court ruled last month that his appointment was “unreasonable,” due to his three criminal convictions for white-collar crimes, and to the fact that he misled a court in his most recent conviction in 2022 to believe that he would quit politics for good in order to receive a lenient plea bargain.
The law would block the High Court from hearing appeals against the reasonableness of ministerial appointments. If it passes, it likely will make the appeal against Ben-Gvir irrelevant.