High court dismisses petition against Naveh

Judges criticize temporary IDF chief candidate for statements in which he was quoted as being dismissive of court decisions.

yair naveh 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yair naveh 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition by left-wing NGOs requesting a temporary injunction against the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh as temporary Chief of General Staff in connection to claims that he committed war crimes when he was OC Central Command in 2006.
The justices did, however, criticize Naveh’s statements to Haaretz in 2009 in which he was quoted as being dismissive of earlier court decisions regarding the legality of targeted killings.
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At the same time, the court rejected a similar petition requesting to cancel Naveh’s appointment to deputy chief of General Staff.
On Tuesday, following the decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to cancel the appointment of Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant as the next chief of General Staff, Naveh was picked as a temporary replacement for 60 days, to give the government time to vet additional candidates for the job.
The petition was based on three incidents that took place in 2006 and 2007, in which Palestinian terrorists were killed during IDF operations.
The incidents became known to the public after Haaretz journalist Uri Blau published an investigative article based on a leak he received from Anat Kamm, who was then a soldier serving in Naveh’s office.
The court determined that the petitioners, which include NGOs such as Yesh Gvul and Gush Shalom as well as individuals like former Meretz chairwoman Shulamit Aloni and former Meretz MK Moshe “Mossi” Raz, did not exhaust other measures of redress before petitioning the court and that the petition itself was filed belatedly and did not meet the requirements of due process.
The three-justice panel accepted the state’s objections to the petition in full.
“The petitioners failed to present us with grounds to justify the rescinding of Maj.-Gen. Naveh’s appointment to the position of deputy chief of General Staff,” Justice Edna Arbel wrote in her ruling. “The request for an injunction is also denied.”
The justices also ruled on the merits of the petition itself, and found it to be groundless. The court was satisfied that the killings were properly authorized by the military chain of command and in compliance with the law and previous High Court rulings.
The petitioners also claimed that Naveh was unsuitable for the job because of a comment he made to Blau during an interview, which they say showed disregard for High Court decisions.
When asked if the killings breached a court decision, Naveh was quoted as responding dismissively, “Don’t bother me with High Court instructions, I don’t know when the High Court decisions were issued and when they weren’t. I know when a targeted killing is approved and that I receive instructions from the [IDF’s] Operations Directorate.”
The justices slammed him for uttering statements they considered unbecoming for an IDF officer and a leader to make.
“His [Naveh’s] pointless statements are problematic not just because they may encourage disobedience to court rulings, but because they are liable to harm the public’s trust in the justice system and the principle of Rule of Law, which everyone is subject to, especially people who hold public positions,” Justice Salim Joubran wrote.
On Tuesday, Naveh submitted a letter to the military advocategeneral explaining the remarks he had made to Blau.
“I was quoted as saying things that I don’t deny saying, but which were presented in the article in a way that could be understood as my disregarding the High Court in general and its ruling on the legality of targeted killings in particular,” Naveh wrote. “Such a reading of the words is wrong and upsetting in my eyes; it twists my meaning and takes things out of context.”
On Sunday, the cabinet is scheduled to approve the appointment of Naveh as temporary chief of General Staff for 60 days, postponing the decision that was supposed to be reached on Thursday, due to pressure from ministers to let Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi remain in the post.
Because of the temporary nature of the appointment, Naveh will be exempt from going through the entire appointment process, including receiving the approval of the Turkel Committee on Senior Appointments, following an agreement between the prime minister, the defense minister and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, who determined that the appointment would be approved by Defense Ministry’s Legal Adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari.