Israel Supreme Court President Slams Government for 'Vitriol' Over Gas Deal Ruling

'Things were said that shouldn’t be said,' Justice Miriam Naor says, after ministers and lawmakers criticize court for nixing government's deal with natural gas firms.

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor
Ilya Melnikov

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor fired back on Tuesday at ministers and Knesset members who criticized the court for overturning the government’s deal with the natural gas companies.

“Harsh, vitriolic statements against the Supreme Court and its justices are being heard these days due to a ruling it handed down,” Naor said at the inauguration of a new courthouse in Beit Shemesh. “The statements were harsh in both style and content.”

“As I have pointed out on many occasions, substantive criticism of rulings is legitimate,” she continued. “But it’s regrettable that some of the things being said have no relationship to the ruling, and some were said even before the ruling, or even its summary, was read out.

“Things were said that shouldn’t be said. Some of the things that were said, including by people in the executive and legislative branches, are inappropriate to a Jewish and democratic state that respects the rule of law and the independence of the judicial branch. The court will continue on its path without fear or prejudice.”

On Sunday, the court overturned the gas deal because it deemed one clause unconstitutional – a clause promising that the Knesset would make no regulatory changes affecting the gas companies over the next decade. Several ministers and MKs assailed this ruling, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

“The court’s decision seriously threatens development of Israel’s gas reserves,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is seen as a country with excessive judicial intervention that’s hard to do business in. Certainly no one has reason to celebrate the fact that the gas is liable to remain deep undersea and that Israel’s citizens won’t receive hundreds of billions of shekels. We’ll look for other ways to overcome the serious damage this bizarre ruling has caused Israel’s economy.”

Shaked accused the court of “severe and unnecessary intervention in a cabinet decision, which is causing severe damage to Israel’s economy.”

“It’s inconceivable that the government has responsibility for the country’s economy and growth, but remains without the authority needed to act,” she continued. “It’s impossible to work this way in a properly run country. Those who bear the responsibility and the accountability must also be given the authority.”

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz termed the ruling “wretched” and “unreasonable,” charging that “such intervention in cabinet and Knesset decisions wouldn’t happen in other Western democracies.” He warned that the damage to Israel’s economy and energy security was liable to be “irreversible.”