Judicial Committee Split as Former Environmental Activist Lands Key Job

Haifa Magistrate's Court Judge Daniel Fisch used to be one of Israel's leading environmental activists; he once served as head of Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva veDin).

A former environmental activist has been appointed a judge on the Haifa District Court, despite the vehement opposition of that court's president and all three of the Supreme Court justices on the Judicial Appointments Committee.

Haifa Magistrate's Court Judge Daniel Fisch used to be one of Israel's leading environmental activists. At one time he served as head of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva veDin). His candidacy was strongly backed by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and the other three politicians on the appointments committee.

Judge Daniel Fisch - Courtesy courts website
Courtesy courts website.

Haifa District Court President Bilha Gillor, backed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, had wanted the open slot to go to Judge Thamar Sharon-Nethanel, who served as a temporary judge on the district court until her appointment expired this summer, and is now serving as its registrar. This is the second time the Judicial Appointments Committee has rejected Sharon-Nethanel's candidacy.

One source on the committee charged that the justices' backing for Sharon-Nethanel was personal rather than professional - they viewed her as the next in line, even though Fisch has been an "outstanding" judge who would greatly bolster the court's expertise on environmental issues, the source said. He rejected the justices' charge that some of Fisch's verdicts were not "exhaustive," saying he was known as a very thorough judge.

The committee appointed some 20 new lower court judges on Friday. One of the most noteworthy was the appointment of the first Bedouin judge ever to serve on a district court: Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court Judge Nasir Abu Taha, who was promoted to the city's district court.

Another interesting appointment was that of attorney Yoav Atar, a senior prosecutor in the southern district, as a magistrate's court judge. Atar recently prosecuted Shalom Domrani, the alleged head of a criminal organization, on charges of extortion; the case ended last week in a plea bargain under which Domrani will serve seven months in jail. Atar also served as a prosecutor in a case against the head of another major crime ring in the south, Hagai Zaguri.

Osaila Abu Assad, registrar of the Nazareth Magistrate's Court, was also appointed a magistrate's court judge. Her husband, Riad, is a member of the Bar Association's national council and is considered close to the association's new chairman, Doron Barzilay.

The committee did not make any appointments to the Supreme Court on Friday, having agreed to postpone the vote to enable new candidates to apply for the three open slots. Its next meeting will be on January 6, by which time additional candidates, on top of the seven whose names were released last week, are expected to have applied.