Shaked’s Candidate for Supreme Court Justice: Court President Hayut Is Against Me

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Professor Gideon Sapir at Bar Ilan University on July 14, 2011
Professor Gideon Sapir at Bar Ilan University on July 14, 2011Credit: \ Moti Milrod

Prof. Gideon Sapir, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s candidate for Supreme Court justice, assumes that court President Esther Hayut would act to prevent his appointment.

“Trust the Supreme Court president that I won’t be chosen,” said Sapir during a recent lecture. “After all, in order to be chosen you need a majority of seven of the nine committee members, and three of them are [Supreme Court] justices, so do the calculation yourself. They won’t let it happen. The chance of my being chosen as a Supreme Court Justice is 0.0001 percent.”

He says that he isn’t interested in being chosen by the Judicial Appointments Committee, which will convene on February 22. “I want to maintain my life as it is,” he said. “To be a Supreme Court justice is life imprisonment with hard labor.”

Sapir, a senior lecturer at Bar Ilan University who specializes in constitutional law, is in the running for the second time as Shaked’s candidate. He studied at the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva (combining yeshiva studies with army service), has rabbinical ordination, founded the Disabled Rights Clinic at the Bar Ilan law faculty, and also serves as a senior fellow in the Kohelet Forum, a research institute dominated by right-wing opinions.

Sapir is considered a conservative jurist and one of the main opponents of judicial activism and the worldview of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. The last time the committee convened, the Supreme Court justices vehemently opposed his appointment.

In his lecture Sapir criticized Barak, with whom he has close personal ties despite their differences.

“Barak recently said that if they change the requisite majority on the Judicial Appointments Committee to five only, he’ll recommend that the justices resign,” said Sapir. “Nu, so he also recently suggested turning Israel’s Declaration of Independence into the constitution.”

Sapir’s comments come in response to a lecture delivered by Barak at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya two weeks ago, in which he said: “The vision presented in the Declaration of Independence is not limited to the ordinary Knesset legislation, but also applies to the interpretation of the [quasi-constitutional] basic laws themselves.”

Barak said that the laws should be interpreted in light of the declaration’s credo, which is a legal norm. He believes that the power of the Knesset as the formative assembly is not absolute – it is limited by the vision of the nation and its credo as written in the Declaration of Independence.

Sapir claims that this is Barak’s attempt to enable the justices to reject new basic laws. “It’s a bad proposal in my opinion,” he said.

“Barak’s proposal is an elegant one designed to give the justices the power to supervise Israel’s basic legislation. That saddens me, especially coming from Barak.” Sapir maintains that Barak’s proposal is not legitimate. “The Declaration of Independence is a document that was written within four days, so should it become the constitution of the State of Israel?”

Sapir declined Haaretz’s request for an interview.