Analysis: Solid bloc of 4 right-wing politicians may not be so solid

The key question regarding the Judges Selection Committee revolves around Justice Minister Neeman.

neeman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
neeman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The election of two radical right-wing MKs to the Judges Selection Committee will obviously have a significant impact on the composition of the Supreme Court in the course of the current Netanyahu administration. For the first time, a fairly solid block of four right-wing politicians who support the Jewish settlement enterprise in the West Bank and oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will have a strong, if not decisive, say in determining who will join the justices currently sitting on the bench. There are two sources of criticism of the Supreme Court as it was run by former court president Aharon Barak, and continued, to a lesser degree, by his successor, Dorit Beinisch. There is one group that opposes the court on purely political grounds. Its members have claimed for years that the court is dominated by leftists and "Palestinian-lovers" whose decisions are guided by their alleged ideological views. Only a few months ago, MK Zevulun Orlev told the Knesset State Control Committee that he would never petition the High Court of Justice because he had no faith in it, by which he meant that he had no faith the court would rule according to his ideological views. Then there is another group which believes that the Barak court trespassed on the sovereignty of the Knesset and did not honor the democratic principle of the separation of powers. Although many members of this group belong to the political Right, including MKs Michael Eitan and Reuven Rivlin, their criticism is mainly motivated by constitutional concerns. Even former justice minister Daniel Friedmann belonged to this group, though he also seemed motivated by personal considerations in his opposition to the Barak court. There is, naturally, a substantial overlap between these two groups, but it's more politic for those who want to continue holding on to the West Bank to attack the court for being too activist, a non-political charge which many non-rightists agree with to some extent, than to charge it with being pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist, as many of them fully believe. The question is whether the right-wing bloc in the Judges Selection Committee, which also includes Israel Bar representative Pinhas Marinsky, will apply both critiques to the Supreme Court or just the second one. That is to say, will the committee insist that the new justices tone down the court's activism and if so, by how much, or will it insist that they belong to the right-wing camp and make their decisions on human rights issues involving Palestinians, illegal settlement activity and other key issues in accordance with these political beliefs? There is very little doubt that MK Uri Ariel (who stands for little else than his position on the so-called Greater Land of Israel) and MK David Rotem will focus on the political views of the judges. Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who belongs to the hawkish camp in the Likud but may be somewhat more pragmatic, will perhaps be less insistent that the judicial candidates belong to the "national camp." The key question revolves around Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. The Orthodox Neeman has not hidden his hawkish views in recent public appearances, but he is also a distinguished lawyer who thrives in the secular world and knows what it means to compromise. If he is, as he seems to be, a seeker of consensus, he will try to find a way to work with Beinisch. To some degree he will have to, since it will require a majority of seven members of the Judges Selection Committee to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Under their joint stewardship, perhaps the court will not be feted by the international community as it was under Barak, perhaps it will no longer play as prominent role regarding some of the country's burning issues as it did under Barak. The question is whether or not it will have the strength and the legal and ethical concern for human rights and governmental fairness, to make, from time to time, the kind of courageous decisions it did under Barak.