Bar-On versus Barak
Three honorable Knesset members banded together last week, as did almost all the members of the Knesset's Constitution Committee, to undermine the election system of judges to the Supreme Court. Each to his/her style...
If Knesset Member Ronnie Bar-On needed a medical specialist, he would not hold a vote among the members of the Israel Medical Association for the most suitable doctor. He would go to the doctor with the best reputation he could find and ask for his services. This is what MK Yuli Tamir would do if she had to choose the scientist most worthy of promotion. She would not rely on elections in the Students Association but on the achievements of the candidate, which are measured by the stiff rules accepted in the academic world.
One can assume that even MK Nissim Ze'ev, had he needed a skilled mohel, would go to someone with the record of an expert rather than trust a vote among Shas supporters.
Yet these three honorable Knesset members banded together last week, as did almost all the members of the Knesset's Constitution Committee, to undermine the election system of judges to the Supreme Court. Each to his/her style: Bar-On argued that the Supreme Court has cheapened the status of Knesset representatives in the committee for electing judges. Michael Eitan maintained that judges are appointed to the Supreme Court on the basis of their connections rather than qualifications. Ze'ev said the Supreme Court operates on "a buddy-brings-a-buddy" system. Tamir claimed that judges which the public knows hardly anything about are elected. Nissam Slomiansky was angry that the court interprets the Knesst laws in an opposite way to the lawmakers' intention, and Avraham Ravitz diagnosed that some people elevate the Supreme Court to the level of godliness.
The excuse for the concerted attack was the Supreme Court justices' decision to recommend the election of Miriam Naor, Asher Gronis, Eliyakim Rubinstein and Edna Arbel to sit on the Supreme Court. The MKs did not like the decision nor the way it was made: early debates among the Supreme Court justices, which bind its representatives in the election committee to support an agreed list. The excuse the MKs used sounded feasible, but cannot hide the real motive behind their attack on the Supreme Court: they wish to clip its wings and are striving to turn it into an institution in the Knesset's image (see the internal elections in the Likud): vulgar, unscrupulous and devoid of a moral compass.
Like doctors, academic professors and mohels, Supreme Court judges are measured by their quality, not to the extent they represent public sectors. The test to their ability to cross the lofty threshold of the supreme judicial instance is professional excellence, composed of accumulated wisdom, integrity, a sharp mind, knowledge of the law and a suitable temperament. Not all judges are blessed with all these qualities, and over the years years the Supreme Court has also known mediocre and even unworthy judges, but the accumulated result of its activity is exemplary and a model to other state authorities.
Like Israeli medicine and Israeli academe (in part), so too the Supreme Court and the Israeli legal system in general, are among the state's fundamental assets. Now the Knesset is threatening to undermine this achievement, which is not self-evident and needs constant nurturing and strengthening. Under the pretext of wanting a "democratization" of the process for electing judges, the Knesset is seeking, in fact, to bring about the politicization of the process. Some of the MKs are trying to do that with the initiative to set up a Constitution Court and with the demand to change the structure of the committee to elect judges, in a way that will turn the representatives of the Supreme Court into a minority. The justified demand to diversify the reserves from which judges are brought can be fulfilled without a fundamental change in the procedure which has so far ensured the quality of this vital institution.
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