Israeli Lawmakers Fail to Stop Appointment of ‘anti-Zionist’ Judge

Transportation Minister Miri Regev boycotts meeting, hoping to foil promotion of judge who dismissed her libel suit last year

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Likud Knesset member Osnat Mark and Derech Eretz lawmaker Zvi Hauser after being selected as the Knesset's representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee, in Jerusalem, July 2020.
Likud Knesset member Osnat Mark and Derech Eretz lawmaker Zvi Hauser after being selected as the Knesset's representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee, in Jerusalem, July 2020.Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Likud MK Osnat Mark boycotted Sunday’s meeting of the judicial appointments committee in an attempt to foil the promotion of Judge Abbas Assi, alleging he is “anti-Zionist,” because he ostensibly issued rulings against the army and favoring Palestinian prisoners.

But Assi, a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge, was appointed by the committee to the district court anyway.

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MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz), also absented himself from the meeting, after Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn refused to promote any of the three candidates he had proposed. The three politicians thought their absence would deter the committee from convening. The committee, however, met despite their absence, which Regev and Mark claimed was illegal, and the two threatened to challenge that decision in the High Court of Justice.

After the meeting, Nissenkorn said, “The background noise and attempts to undermine the work of the committee in favor of political activism did not succeed and won’t succeed. We will continue to work in an unbiased fashion to appoint judges based on professional criteria. I won’t let any irrelevant considerations enter this space.”

Newly appointed Jerusalem District Court Judge Abbas Assi.Credit: The judiciary of Israel

The objections of Regev and Mark to Assi’s appointment were based, among other things, on an article last week in Israel Hayom that claimed that Assi is “one of the judicial figures most hostile to the police, the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers.” The story said Assi had dismissed a suit by a settler against the police for arresting him on Shabbat against regulations, and that he had accepted a suit filed by a Gaza resident arguing he’d been shot by soldiers for no reason. Mark tweeted Sunday that, “We won’t be the backdrop in a committee that appoints an anti-Zionist judge who issues tendentious and scandalous rulings against the IDF and in favor of security prisoners.”

Last year Assi dismissed a libel suit Regev filed against Channel 13 News for reports she claimed portrayed her in a criminal light. Assi ruled that the reports, “reflected the truth” and ordered Regev to pay Channel 13 court costs of 25,000 shekels (around $7,000). In August of this year the Jerusalem District Court accepted Regev’s appeal and ordered Channel 13 to pay Regev 150,000 shekels ($44,000). Channel 13 is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Among the candidates Hauser hoped to promote was attorney Shlomi Abramson, a close friend of his Derech Eretz colleague, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel. Hauser asked Nissenkorn to delay the discussion of all the controversial candidates to the next meeting, but Nissenkorn refused.

Regev, Mark and Hauser believed that the meeting of the appointments committee could not take place without them, since the law states that, “The committee is permitted to operate even without a number of its members, as long as it has no less than seven members.” But the committee, which has nine members, met with only six of them, based on the legal opinion of Justice Ministry legal adviser Lea Rakover. She ruled that while the committee can’t operate at all if it has less than seven members, it can convene and vote on appointments as long as most of its members are in attendance. During the meeting Nissenkorn issued a statement saying the panel was choosing judges as planned, “given the presence of most of the committee’s members at the meeting.”

Upon learning the committee had convened, Mark and Regev sent a letter to Nissenkorn demanding the meeting be adjourned immediately. “We view the decisions made at this meeting, whose [attendees] do not meet the minimum required by law, as null and void,” they wrote. They added that if Nissenkorn did not adjourn the meeting, “we will be forced to seek immediate and urgent remedy from the High Court of Justice.”

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