Supreme Court Justice Attended Controversial Settlements Jubilee Ceremony

After chief justice bared bench from attending ceremony, Justice Sohlberg says he participated as a private individual, along with his family

Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg, in 2014.
Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg, in 2014. Gil Yohanan

Supreme Court justice Noam Sohlberg attended a controversial state ceremony last week in Gush Etzion in the West Bank marking 50 years to the Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank.

Sohlberg attended the jubilee event, along with his family, as a private individual, even though Supreme Court president Miriam Naor canceled the official participation in the event of justice Neal Hendel, who was supposed to represent the judicial branch, Army Radio reported on Tuesday. Sohlberg lives in Alon Shvut, a settlement in the Etzion Bloc.

Sohlberg informed Naor in advance of his intention to attend the ceremony as a private individual, along with his family, and not as an official representative of the judicial branch, the Israel Courts Administration said in a statement. Naor did not intervene, said the spokesman.

Last week, Naor decided to cancel the judicial branch’s participation in the official government ceremony. Naor said: "The court system avoids participating in any controversial public event, in particular when the entire stage is dedicated to one side."

The Supreme Court backed up its president later that day when it rejected a petition by the right-wing Regavim nonprofit organization to reverse Naor’s decision or cancel the ceremony. "The decision not to take part in the controversial event, which could be interpreted as having a political nature, is also necessary to protect the independent status of the judicial branch and to preserve the public's faith in the legal system,” Justice Uri Shoham wrote.

Cabinet ministers criticized the Supreme Court's position, claiming it proves the court is biased against settlers and the settlement enterprise. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wrote a public letter in which she accused Naor of "unraveling the official nature of an event decided on by the government and created the semblance of a political event."