Rotem: Legal system belongs to the Left

Israel Beiteinu MK charges discrimination following critique of his election to judicial selection c'tee.

david rotem 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
david rotem 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Knesset Law Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) spoke out bitterly on Tuesday against criticism leveled at the election to the Judicial Selection Committee of himself and another right-wing Orthodox MK, Uri Ariel (National Union). "I discovered over the past month that I am a partner in the theft of the judicial system," Rotem said at a meeting attended by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. "The judicial system," he continued, "apparently belongs to people who live in a certain place, have a certain color and hold certain political positions. Some think that someone who wears a kippa or lives in a settlement in Judea and Samaria or doesn't belong to a left-wing political party should be disqualified from taking part in the judicial system. "I heard someone say 'this house [the judicial system] belongs to me and my father and I will cut off the hand of anyone who touches it [a reference to retired Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin's reaction to the appointment of justice minister Daniel Friedmann in the previous government]. Afterwards, I heard people say they brought an idol into the temple when they elected me to the Judicial Selection Committee." During the meeting, Neeman told the MKs that economic crimes were one of the major reasons for the clogged court system. If punishment for these offenses was placed in the hands of administrative bodies, the courts would have time to deal with other matters. He added that the fines for such crimes should be made much stiffer. For example, traffic offenses. "If a driver fails to stop at a stop sign or a red light, he breaks the law," said Neeman. "His car should be impounded for 10 years and he should be heavily fined. I want to see how many people will fail to stop at a stop sign when they know the police can seize their car on the spot and impound it for 10 years." The same went for income tax evasion, he said. "Today, perhaps 30 offenders are jailed for tax evasion each year. Does that mean there are no more tax evaders? Why not impose very heavy fines on them? If someone fails to disclose NIS 100,000 in income, fine him NIS 1 million or NIS 2m. The fine will be imposed administratively. "Imagine how many people will try to avoid paying their taxes if they know the danger in doing so." Neeman blamed the entire judicial system - from the lawyer who continually seeks to delay the conduct of the trial, to the judge who fills reams of paper in writing each decision. He suggested raising the levy imposed on litigators who go to court for interim procedures in the middle of a trial and said such a move would not hurt poor people if the court also ordered the litigator who lost the case to pay heavy damages to the side that won. Neeman also made it clear that he would take steps to separate the two roles that the attorney-general has served up until now, that is, chief prosecutor and legal adviser to the government. He said he had been discussing the matter with retired attorneys-general and other experts who knew the situation, and hoped to come up with a proposal that would satisfy all sides. Neeman was also asked whether he believed there should be some government body responsible for overseeing the state prosecution. No, he said, "there is the scrutiny of the courts and the state comptroller. There should not be any political interference." Asked about how he would choose judges in his capacity as head of the Judicial Selection Committee, Neeman replied, "I don't have an MRI or an X-ray machine to look into the heads of the candidates. I will only ask one question: Can he contribute to the administration of justice in Israel?" He added that judges should be chosen according to their expertise and efficiency.