Are There Judges in Jerusalem?

The High Court itself is to blame for the way it’s been cheapened; judges who do not insist on respect end up losing it.

Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
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Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid

With the next municipal elections five years away, there must be contacts already going on between candidates and the State Prosecutor’s Office; after all, there are deals to be made. One side, the candidate, agrees to receive a small bribe and the other side, the prosecution, promises to file an indictment against him right before the election. Then justice will appear on the scene, the High Court of Justice will have its confused say, and the entire proceeding will go off successfully. Even a candidate who starts out his campaign as a long-shot is likely to come out a winner.

Nobody was really surprised that the three presumably corrupt musketeers, Shimon Gapso of Upper Nazareth, Shlomi Lahiani of Bat Yam and Yitzhak Rochberger of Ramat Hasharon, all barred from serving but not from being elected, would win a large majority in the October 22 local elections. An indictment in time is an amulet, and a harsh verdict is a lucky charm.

And not for the first time. Aryeh Deri never had it better than when he was convicted – 17 Knesset seats, no less. And we’ll be seeing how good things will be for Avigdor Lieberman next year. Because that is the assumption of choice: “Everyone is corrupt” and only the righteous are caught, only “our man” is harassed. “I’m Mizrahi” means that I’m innocent and persecuted; “I’m Russian” means that I’m a stranger and don’t belong; “I’m Ashkenazi” means that my time is up, I’ve become easy prey.

Why should we complain about the voice of the masses at the polls? After all, the disgust with the rule of law comes from the throat of the government itself: It’s the government that slanders the law; it’s the government that threatens to rein it in on all sides; it’s the government that is trying to remove it from the democratic shelter in order to place it in the Jewish pale of settlement; it’s the government that disobeys it with tricks and bypasses.

The High Court has ruled - but who is afraid? So it forbade locking up refugees who have done no wrong in collection camps for three years. Let’s be smarter and lock them up for only a year and a half - we’ll do our duty by the High Court, but we won’t exactly follow its orders. And we’ll sic the barking dogs in the convoy on the judges: If you don’t know your place, we’ll put you in your place.

Five times the court ordered the demolition of the outpost Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land. In 1997 – the first order; in 2003 and 2004 – the second and third; and in 2008 the “state” admitted: Construction on the site is illegal, the entire outpost will be demolished as soon as possible; and in 2011 it announced an evacuation no later than the end of 2012. And the order forbidding the demolition of huts and troughs in the Jordan Valley was given only after the act of demolition, because that’s how to ensure total military obedience.

But two weeks ago the state once again requested a postponement. There are endless reasons of timing that make the Amona abomination acceptable. A lazy State Prosecutor’s Office and an exhausted attorney general are lending their support to a criminal government. The voters in Upper Nazareth, Bat Yam and Ramat Hasharon have understood the message: It’s not important what the judges say, what’s important is what the Jews do. If you want, you can cast your ballot for corruption.

The High Court itself is to blame for the way it’s been cheapened. Not necessarily because of its judicial activism, but precisely because of its passivity. Judges who do not insist on respect end up losing respect and fall from their perch. The High Court – without wallet or sword – has already been wounded in the battle between the branches of power, and if it doesn’t pull itself together, it will lose that battle. Its opponents will succeed in weakening it while it continues sitting in its ivory tower. Soon it will be asked to express its learned opinion on the “Contributors to the Country Law,” as though the judges were there to make recommendations: If we like it, they’re for it; if we don’t like it, they’re against it. Let them make their decisions; it’s all in vain.

This is the same High Court that once raised black flags over illegal army orders and is now raising a white flag. Soon Israel will no longer be able to export it as a kind of sunscreen against overexposure to injustice; soon the entire world will know what Bat Yam knows already.

So are there or aren’t there judges in Jerusalem? There are, but they’ve disappeared.

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