Habayit Hayehudi MK Gets Wrist Slap for Inciting Against Judge

Knesset Ethics Committee reprimands MK Moti Yogev for inciting against Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman, but takes no action on his call to bulldoze the judicial institution.

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

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Wednesday reprimanded MK Moti Yogev for inciting against Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman. The committee stated that his Facebook post "borders on incitement through an attempt to delegitimize a sitting justice and by extension a legal decision."

The Habayit Hayehudi MK posted on Facebook in October in response to the Supreme Court decision to issue a restraining order against the demolition of terrorist homes until a further hearing. "A Supreme Court justice defends murderers' rights, thus preventing a deterring punishment and endangering life," wrote Yogev. The MK further called on Fogelman "to take off the judge's robe and join the Arab Joint List, as his rulings are like its opinions."

The director of Israel's courts, Michael Spitzer, took the unusual step of protesting Yogev's comments to the Knesset speaker.

"The court system is open to criticism, even in cases in which it is worded scathingly and hurtfully, but Yogev's expressions constitute a form of incitement that encourages bloodletting."

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein passed on the letter to the Ethics Committee for Wednesday's hearing.

"There is no preventing criticism of judicial rulings, but Knesset members must be vigilant that the criticism be the essence and the language be appropriate and not personal slander of a judge or an attempt to terrorize him and thus undercut the independence of judicial decision, which is the lifeblood of a democratic state's judicial system," the committee stated on Wednesday.

The committee decided not to intervene regarding another statement by Yogev, in which he asserted a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer should be used on Israel’s Supreme Court. "The time has come to put the judicial authority in its place and show who is the master. The tail is wagging the dog," Yogev had posted.

Ethics committee members concluded: "The defense given to freedom of political expression of Knesset members is broad and includes harsh and inappropriate comments. Thus, this expression, despite being very close to crossing the line, does not justify levying any sanctions."