Israel's Chief Justice Bars Judge From Attending 'Controversial' Settlements Jubilee Event

The Supreme Court president saw the judge's attendence as 'innapropriate' due to the political nature of the event, which was to mark 50 years of settlement in Judea and Samaria

File photo: Supreme Court President Miriam Naor (L) attends a Knesset committee meeting flanked by Habayit Hayehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Habayit Hayehudi.
File photo: Supreme Court President Miriam Naor (L) attends a Knesset committee meeting flanked by Habayit Hayehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of Habayit Hayehudi. Emil Salman

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor defended on Wednesday her decision to cancel the court's participation in a government ceremony marking 50 years since Israel conquered the West Bank and would not be sending one of its justices as previously planned.

"In response to a petition filed on the matter, Naor wrote: "The court system avoids participating in any controversial public event, in particular when the entire stage is dedicated to one side."

The courts' legal adviser argued Naor's decision to the High Court of Justice in response to a petition that the right-wing Regevim group had filed against Naor's decision on Tuesday.

"In recent days, after the president examined the detailed invitation she had received in her office and additional thought, the president came to the conclusion that the event engages in a subject that is subject to public controversy," the response stated. "Therefore, without taking a position the president decided that it would be proper for the judicial authority not to participate in the event." The statement stressed that the decision was made before politicians turned to the court on the matter.

Naor had decided on Tuesday that it was "inappropriate for a representative of the judicial branch to participate in the event,” scheduled to be held in the Gush Etzion bloc, one of her advisors said. Its official representative was to have been Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers will participate in the official event named, “50 years of settlement in Judea and Samaria.” Representatives of all branches of the government were invited.

Before the Supreme Court’s announcement, Haaretz reported that the new Public Broadcasting Corporation and Army Radio both refused to air the government ad promoting the ceremony. The two media outlets said the slogan used in the ad, “We have returned home”, was controversial. They were also seeking clarification why the Palestinian city of Jericho was mentioned in the ads.

Knesset member Esawi Freige (Meretz) recently asked Naor to cancel the Supreme Court's participation in the ceremony, saying the event was political in nature. But Naor said her decision to cancel had been made before he reached out to her. She wrote Feige that they cancelled once they saw the wording of the invitation.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in response that from now on judges should not to be invited to official government events.

“For anyone who had a doubt, it was made clear today once again that Supreme Court justices bring into the courtroom a left-wing personal political agenda, something that is expressed in their rulings that repeatedly harm settlers and the settlement enterprise,” said Levin.

The head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Shlomo Ne’eman, called on Naor to reverse her decision, and accused both her and the Supreme Court of pushing what he said was an ideological agenda against the settlements.

“The justices must decide whether they will be a part of the historic return of the Jewish people to its land, or part of the hysteria of the left fearful of its having lost power,” he said.

In Israel where a right-wing nationalistic government has ruled since 2009, the Supreme Court has come under ongoing attack by government officials critical of what they percieve as a liberal bias. Advocates of the Supreme Court commend it meanwhile, for helping uphold the rule of law and principles of equality and human rights.