Israeli Legislator Makes No Apologies for ‘Bulldozer’ Remark About the Supreme Court

Haaretz puts Moti Yogev from Habayit Hayehudi on the spot in this Q&A.

Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz
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MK Moti Yogev, during a Knesset subcommittee panel on the demographics of the West Bank.
MK Moti Yogev.Credit: Michal Fattal
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz

Hello to Knesset Member Moti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi, deputy chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. You said a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer should be used on Israel’s Supreme Court. What gives?

“The Supreme Court decided in a charlatanic fashion that it decides the policy of the State of Israel.”

That’s ridiculous. The High Court of Justice interprets that law and that’s its job. It doesn’t set policy.

“Excuse me. The government announced that it wanted to regularize the status of the buildings in Beit El, because there is a valid urban plan for them and it’s possible to regularize them. The land definitely does not belong to a Palestinian. No one has ever proved this. The court decided that it doesn’t accept the state’s position.”

That’s within its authority. The court saw all the documentation. Even when the court rules against one party, which is what generally happens, it’s not acceptable for one of the parties to call to destroy the court with the blade of a D9.

“Do you want to tell me what you think, or to hear what I think?”

Both. This is a dialogue

“So this is what I’m saying: The court entered an area beyond its jurisdiction and set government policy.”

Fine. Let’s say you’re right. Why did the court make this ruling?

“Because it erred. “

So let’s say it erred. That’s grounds for bringing in a bulldozer?

“One second, I just entered the Knesset chamber. One second. Okay, I’m with you.”

So let’s say the court erred. That’s a reason to excoriate it like that?

“Yes. The Supreme Court comes by what I said honestly, and I would like to quote a remark by [former Justice Mishael] Cheshin, who once said that anyone who raises a hand against the Supreme Court should have his hand chopped off. I assume that Justice Cheshin did not mean Saudi Arabian law on amputating hands, but rather said it as a metaphor ...”

But ...

“You’re interrupting me.”


“I said what I said as a metaphor. I didn’t order a D9 to be brought to the court.”

True, but it’s like giving a green light for a ‘hilltop youth’ to throw a fire bomb at the court, the way they threw them at the bilingual school [in Jerusalem].

“The Supreme Court does not accept the state’s position, nor does it carry out the hundreds and thousands of demolition orders in Israel’s Arab sector, for various reasons.”

Actually, it does.

“The Supreme Court has unrestrained authority and it is particularly aimed against Jewish settlement, while it allows illegal Arab construction.”

I disagree with your interpretation. But let’s say the court erred.

“One moment, I thought you wanted to interview me and hear what I have to say. Unless this is just a friendly conversation.”

Sir, this is an interview. Still, you are open with me, sir, and I am open with you, sir.

“You can drop the ‘sir.’ Your name is Nir, right?”



So, let’s say the court erred. Is that any way to talk? You’re a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. You’re a colonel in the reserves. You served in the Gaza Strip. You know what a D9 is. You’re familiar with the connotations.

“I know them well. The judicial branch is acting aggressively and is trying, without any authority, to grab the steering wheel.”

It rules in accordance with the law.

“The expression I used was a metaphor. If you did a poll, you’d find that the Supreme Court lost the public’s trust long ago.”

Because of statements like yours, among other reasons.

“Because it doesn’t allow Jewish petitioners to realize their claims, among other reasons.”

What are you actually saying, that you think the court is pro-Arab?

“Yes, and it’s also pro-left. It was chosen by the left-wing elites. Pretty soon, with a professional justice minister who is balanced and can counterbalance, we will restrain the judicial branch.”

The balanced and counterbalancing justice minister leaked to Beit El residents things she heard from the defense minister and hinted to them in the middle of [last] week that the demolitions would not take place that night. You’re losing control there on the right.

“What do you mean she leaked?”

Nu, the information the minister gave the residents.

“Nir, Nir, I didn’t keep a diary that night. I have a feeling ... I’m not one to stir up arguments. Had the court been willing to talk, I would have talked with it. What [Justice Minister] Ayelet [Shaked] said wasn’t a leak. I also called [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett and told him to add hundreds of police officers at Beit El, and asked if he could check all of this with the prime minister and I gave the residents the policy of the prime minister, of a minister, that’s not classified. It was to ease tension.”

Two months ago, did you vote for the justice minister’s bill toughening sentences for stone-throwers?

“I’ll pass a law yet ... it affects anyone who throws stones.”

Should we also get tough with “hilltop youth” who throw stones at soldiers?

“Soldiers and police officers are our loved ones, our sons and our daughters, not our enemies. Anyone who raises a hand against or throws a rock at a soldier or police officer should be arrested.”

That’s funny. Your remarks now don’t jibe with what you said about the bulldozer.

“The court earned my remarks honestly. I’m against violence. In Amona I calmed both sides and I paid for it. That was also my conduct at Beit El. I said God forbid, don’t hurt police officers. Unequivocally. The police are our flesh and blood.”

And the court?

“Also. But some of those serving on it have ruined it in their efforts to assume excessive powers.”

You noticed from my questions, perhaps, that I’m a leftist, and ...

“Nu, that’s most of Haaretz. Haaretz is an objective newspaper?”

I think it’s the most objective there is.

“I invite you to a tour of Judea and Samaria.”

I travel around there pretty often. In any case, I wanted to say that the behavior of you people on the right in recent days scares me a lot.

“I suggest that I study your ideology in depth, and you ours. Let’s meet and learn about each other. That’s more important than anything.”

But your remarks ...

“Had the district court ruled that the land was Ahmed’s, we would have taken a step back or we would have reached an arrangement with Ahmed. We didn’t come to rob Ahmed or to rob Mohammed. We returned to our land, and we are doing it in accordance with the law.”

Or not. In any event, thank you, sir.

“Sometime, whenever you want, let’s do coffee.”

Thank you very much. See you later.

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