Israel's High Court Rules Residents of Settlements Can Serve as Justices

Rejects petition against appointment of Sohlberg to Supreme Court bench.

The High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected a petition against Friday's appointment of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg to the Supreme Court.

The fact that Sohlberg lives in a settlement poses no obstacle to his appointment to the Supreme Court bench, the High Court ruled.

Noam Sohlberg - Nati Shohat / Flash 90 - 09012012
Nati Shohat / Flash 90

In a petition filed on Sunday afternoon against the Judicial Appointments Committee, which made the appointment, and Sohlberg himself, the Yesh Gvul movement claimed that Sohlberg's residence in the West Bank community of Alon Shvut contravenes international law.

As a result, the group said, his appointment was "invalid and must be canceled.

"Judge Sohlberg, who belongs to Israel, the occupying power, did not settle in the occupied territories because he was coerced or had no choice, making the act illegal and morally repugnant," Yesh Gvul contended. This, it said, should make Sohlberg ineligible to serve on any bench, let alone the Supreme Court.

But the High Court, in a ruling issued after only a few hours of deliberation by justices Isaac Amit, Esther Hayut and Uzi Vogelman, rejected the argument. They noted that the objections the movement had submitted to the appointments committee had reached the panel for members' perusal, "and one can assume the issue of the respondent's [Sohlberg's] place of residence was known to them."

Backed up by Basic Law

Amit, who wrote the ruling, added: "I checked the Basic Law: The Judiciary again, and nowhere did I find that the respondent's residence in Alon Shvut constitutes a hindrance to his serving as a judge, including a Supreme Court justice - not to mention that the respondent has been a sitting judge for many years. But as the petitioners themselves noted, they had never raised this claim against the respondent until now."

Amit noted there was no legal precedent for assuming that a person's place of residence is a reflection of his integrity in general, and of his judicial integrity in particular.

"Just to be sure, I also examined the judges' ethical code, and I did not find that one's place of residence constitutes an ethical violation," Amit wrote.