Facing Logjam, Israel's Justice Minister Appoints Temporary Supreme Court Justice

Judge Shaul Shohat, currently deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court, will serve on the Supreme Court for six months. He is the first temporary appointment since 2007

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar in the Knesset, this month.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar in the Knesset, this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar appointed a temporary Supreme Court justice on Thursday, as disagreements on the Judicial Appointments Committee have so far prevented the appointment of permanent justices.

The court is short two justices following the retirements of Menachem Mazuz and Hanan Melcer. The committee was supposed to choose replacements for both men last week, but Sa’ar postponed the meeting because its members were too divided to muster the necessary majority for any of the candidates.

Judge Shaul Shohat, who is currently deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court, will now serve on the Supreme Court for six months. He is the first temporary justice to be appointed since 2007. In that previous case, the temporary appointment later became permanent, but Shohat hasn’t so far been considered a contender for a permanent appointment.

Judge Shaul Shohat.Credit: The Israeli Judicial Authority

The panel said the temporary pick gives the court some breathing room. Sa’ar promised on Thursday to use this time to try to reach agreements among committee members on appointing permanent justices “who will reflect the diversity required of the country’s highest judicial instance.”

He added that he made the temporary appointment because he has a responsibility “to enable the Supreme Court to function and minimize the damage to the citizenry as a result of the missing justices.”

Aside from replacing Mazuz and Melcer, the appointments committee also needs to approve replacements for Neal Hendel and George Karra, both of whom will retire next year.

The committee is dealing with two separate disagreements among its members. One is between those who want justices who will be more cautious about intervening in cabinet and Knesset decisions and those who favor more activist justices. The other revolves around a demand by the Israel Bar Association’s two members on the panel that one of the four new appointees be a private-sector lawyer.

Any appointment needs the approval of seven of the panel’s nine members.

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