Israel's Justice Minister: High Court ‘No Longer’ a Left-wing Party Branch

Ayelet Shaked says court is now more representative of the population: more diverse, more conservative

Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked January 21, 2018
Alex Kolomoisky

The High Court of Justice is “no longer a branch of Meretz,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in an interview published on Thursday. Today,” she said, “it represents the entire population.”

Shaked told the daily Yedioth Ahronoth:“In the past, there were groups which felt that the High Court didn’t represent them. Today it represents everyone. It’s more diverse, more conservative. The only thing it lacks is an ultra-Orthodox Supreme Court justice.”

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Shaked said her goal was to alter the court’s conduct from what it had become under former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, and specifically to make it more conservative.

“Through the appointment of justices, I succeeding in doing this,” she said. “Before the election, we called for a change in the courts’ policy. I’m carrying out this demand thanks to my excellent political abilities.”

She added that during her tenure, decisions on appointing or promoting judges have had nothing to do with the candidates’ background. “I didn’t count how many of them were religious and how many secular. I read their rulings, and opinions about them, and I consulted with people who know them.”

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Shaked, a member of the Habayit Hayehudi party, also commented on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that his Likud party hopes to win 40 seats in the next election.

“When Likud had 40 seats, it led the disengagement and evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank,” she said, referring to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

“When Habayit Hayehudi had only three seats, more than 1,000 terrorists were freed in the Shalit deal. I hope the public will understand that if Habayit Hayehudi doesn’t get a double-digit number of seats, Netanyahu will form a coalition with the left.”

Just two days earlier, Shaked sounded a very different tune about the court, accusing it of “making the people irrelevant.”

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“The justices have begun, step by step, to disconnect themselves from the written law and have begun seeing themselves as shapers of what the law should be,” she said on Tuesday. “The court has turned itself from the body in charge of interpreting the law into the body in charge of policy.”

Referring to the possibility that the court may overturn the nation-state law, she added on Tuesday, “if the court rules that even Basic Laws aren’t immune to judicial review, it will deprive the people of the possibility of influencing the creation of constitutional arrangements via its representatives. The people will thereby end its role in what was until now our democratic system. Thereafter, norms will not be set by the people.” Those remarks sparked an outraged response from former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

“These are very grave statements,” Beinisch said in an interview with Israel Radio on Wednesday. “There’s a lack of understanding here of what democracy is. These are demagogic statements that belong to other systems of government.”

“There are red lines that mustn’t be crossed,” Beinisch added. “Things were said here that I’ve never heard before ... These are extremist statements that don’t describe our system of government.”