UTJ MK Yitzhak Pindrus's comments are a danger to democracy - editorial

“You know what my dream is?” Pindrus retorted. “To bring a D9 [bulldozer] and blow up the building.”

MK Yitzhak Pindrus (photo credit: COURTESY/OFFICE OF MK YITZHAK PINDRUS)
MK Yitzhak Pindrus
(photo credit: COURTESY/OFFICE OF MK YITZHAK PINDRUS)

Comments by United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus that he would like to blow up the Supreme Court in Jerusalem cannot be taken lightly. They are an egregious assault on the rule of law in Israel, and Pindrus must be taken to task.

The Walla news site published a recording of Pindrus speaking on Independence Day at the Nehora high-school yeshiva in Mevo Horon. He was debating Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman, who is on the Judicial Selection Committee and spoke in favor of changing Israel’s legal establishment democratically – including the makeup of the Supreme Court.

“You know what my dream is?” Pindrus retorted. “To bring a D9 [bulldozer] and blow up the building.”

Challenged by reporters at the opening of the Knesset summer session on Monday, Pindrus said he had no regrets about what he said, adding that he had spoken in humor and his critics overreacted. His remarks were, however, roundly condemned by jurists, journalists and politicians across the political spectrum.

Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch said they were shocking, while Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy said they were sad.

“I won’t let you and your partners with your dangerous fantasies carry them out,” Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Pindrus. Labor leader Merav Michaeli likened the comments to “the incitement and propaganda” that led to Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.

 United Torah Judaism member Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus at the campaign opening event of ''United Torah Judaism party'' in Bnei Brak on February 24, 2019.  (credit: YEHUDA HAIM/FLASH90) United Torah Judaism member Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus at the campaign opening event of ''United Torah Judaism party'' in Bnei Brak on February 24, 2019. (credit: YEHUDA HAIM/FLASH90)

In an article published by the Century Foundation titled, “The Assault on Israel’s Judiciary,” Dahlia Scheindlin said in recent years, “the most important emerging aim of the nationalist right-wing leadership has been to undermine a core pillar of democracy – the judiciary.”

“Right-wing leaders and public figures have methodically constructed an elaborate narrative of the judiciary as a cabal of elites who have captured the country,” she said. “In this view, justices impose a liberal-universalist and left-wing political agenda that violates the true will of the people through a brutal power grab.”

One of the strongest voices in the anti-judiciary campaign has been that of Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who in the final years of his premiership openly spoke against the courts.

“It’s a witch hunt,” Netanyahu said last May about his trial, railing against the judiciary, the police and the rest of Israel’s criminal justice system. “They didn’t investigate a crime; they didn’t look for a crime; they hunted for a man – they hunted me. This is what illegitimate use of power looks like. This is how you try to topple a strong prime minister from the right wing. This is what a coup attempt looks like.”

Israelis who care about the inviolable sanctity of the judiciary bristle at the assault against the Supreme Court by Pindrus. He should face disciplinary action in the Knesset for his incitement against Israel’s highest court.

How can United Torah Judaism justify a threat to blow up the Supreme Court? If such a threat came from a Palestinian terrorist organization, the person who issued it would certainly be investigated and charged. Pindrus might have parliamentary immunity, but he cannot be allowed to get away with such venom against the judiciary.

In 2015, the Knesset Ethics Committee reprimanded Bayit Yehudi MK Mordechai Yogev for comments he made against Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman over the latter’s decision to freeze an order to demolish terrorists’ homes pending appeals. Vogelman had “placed himself on the side of [Israel’s] enemies,” Yogev said, adding that the injunction “defends the rights of murderers, thus preventing deterrent punitive measures and putting people’s lives at risk.”

Yogev’s comments against the judge “border on incitement” and constitute an attempt to “delegitimize a sitting justice and by extension a legal decision,” the Ethics Committee said in its decision. However, it decided that Yogev’s call to raze the Supreme Court with a bulldozer did not warrant sanctions against him.

This would be a good opportunity for the current Ethics Committee to make amends and reprimand Pindrus. He should not be given a free pass.