Justice Minister Shaked Attacks High Court Over Gas Ruling

Ayelet Shaked accuses High Court of exceeding its authority. 'Once again the Supreme Court turned itself into a venue for arbitrating on purely political and macroeconomic questions.'

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, April 4, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday roundly attacked as “irresponsible” the High Court of Justice’s ruling to overturn the government’s gas deal.

“A judiciary body that bears no responsibility for filling the wallet with bills permits itself to empty it out,” she said during a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Eilat. “Once again we run into the phenomenon of irresponsibly wielding authority."

Shaked asserted that the High Court exceeded its authority when it ruled on the deal. “Once again the Supreme Court turned itself into a venue for arbitrating on purely political and macroeconomic questions,” she said.

The High Court ruled on questions that the Knesset was supposed to decide on, according to Shaked. “[Former Supreme Court President Aharon] Barak called those political areas that the Knesset and the government decide on, and the Supreme Court has no business intervening in, ‘black holes,’” she said. “I, in contrast, call them ‘areas of governability.’ Here is exactly where the government can express its ability to govern and of the Knesset to legislate in the name of the people who chose its representatives."

Overturning the gas deal, which was negotiated between the government and the firms operating Israel's offshore gas fields, is liable to cost the state hundreds of billions of shekels, Shaked said.

“I hope that we won’t turn in the eyes of the world into a country that devours its investors," she noted.

Referring to the expected appointments of four new Supreme Court judges in 2017, Shaked said that she wants judges that will protect the power and prestige of the Supreme Court, "but not at the expense of weakening the Knesset’s and government’s ability to act on political matters that do not violate human rights.”

In response to Shaked speech, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire the justice minister.

“Shaked’s tongue-lashing against the High Court is violent and dangerous,” Yacimovich said. “Shaked is trying to destroy the legal system’s independence, to intimidate judges and threaten them. Court independence is a basic rule of democracy, and if damage to the system continues, Netanyahu will no longer be able to boast that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”

MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) commented, “A government not guided by the rule of law will lead Israel to lose its identity as a Jewish and democratic state,” she said. “Woe to the court system that is headed by a justice minister who threatens it."

The Military Advocate General, Gen. Sharon Afek, spoke in the conference about the recent incident of the soldier who shot and killed a subdued Palestinian attacker in Hebron.

“One can be an advocate of free speech, but at the same time see the dangers in this discourse,” said Afek. He warned that the discourse that has developed after the video of the shooting emerged was liable to hurt the army “in that it publicly challenges the authority of commanders to order soldiers and determine what is permitted and what is forbidden and to define the rules of behavior and opening fire."

Afek added: “Parts of the discourse pretended to dictate to the investigative bodies how to operate. I want to stress unequivocally – the military advocate general will not make decisions based on public opinion polls. We will act professionally and businesslike. We are obliged to represent public interests with integrity, and without fear or bias."