Lawmakers Appointing Judges: Israeli Justice Minister Presents Plan to Overhaul Top Court

Under Ayelet Shaked's proposed plan, the justice minister would present Supreme Court candidates to the cabinet and Knesset for approval, and the candidates would undergo public hearings

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at a Hayamin Hehadash event, the party she co-chairs with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, March 17, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked presented on Monday a 100-day plan for reform in the judicial system that she intends to execute if reinstated in her post in the next government. Shaked said she intends to change the way Supreme Court justices are appointed: rather than have justices chosen by the Judicial Appointments Committee, the justice minister would present a list of candidates for approval by the cabinet and the Knesset.

Under the plan, candidates for the Supreme Court would undergo public hearings before the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee; the “override clause” allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws that the court has invalidated would be enacted; a minister would be able represent himself in court (even in opposition to his legal counsel's opinion); and a law enabling locating committees to appoint legal counsels to the ministries would also be enacted.

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Speaking at a meeting of the National Students Union in Jerusalem on Monday, Shaked attacked the Supreme Court, saying: "Since the '80s, a new generation has established itself in the Supreme Court, based on a new precept: the court as supreme adjudicator. In parallel, inevitably, the public faith in the Supreme Court dramatically decreased."

She also criticized the Judicial Appointments Committee, accusing it of "turning into a powerful tool for implementing the revolution."

About her plan for reforming the appointment of justices, Shaked said: "In the absolute majority of western democracies – elected officials are the ones who appoint the highest bench in the judicial system. There is no reason for us to lag behind… sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the public is entitled to know what the legal views of a Supreme Court candidate are."

She added that finalizing a law she has proposed, which would allow lawmakers to re-enact laws overturned by the Supreme Court, would help in that the court would "no longer be perceived as a player in the political arena, which has the last word."

"The national camp, throughout its years in power, did not lift a finger against the revolution in the Supreme Court," she said. "Until the last term, the right-wing was elected – but did not rule. At best, it was a years-long failure."

She also said it had been recently reported that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, "who blocked deep structural change in the judicial system, has recently been reported to have climbed down from his tree. I hope and believe that in the next term, he really does cooperate with the moves I intend to pursue, and that we will restore the separation of powers to its proper place."

She also called for the powers of the attorney general to be clearly enshrined. "Sometimes the attorney general has gone from being the government's lawyer to its prosecutor," she said. "The system by which the attorney general is chosen should return to the system by which legal counsels were appointed most years – by government resolution, at the recommendation of the justice minister."

Following a deadly attack against Israelis in Ariel on Sunday, Shaked said that the legal system makes it hard for Israeli soldiers to combat terrorism, and that "the legal constraints imposed on the Israel Defense Forces preclude effective deterrence." The justice minister also said that soldiers are afraid to shoot at Palestinians launching incendiary balloons, saying: "We can attack the left, but the truth is that the one who’s been ruling here for the last 40 years was the right."