Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Mixed Messages

Justice minister extols the virtues of libertarian government, while interfering with the workings of a municipal planning committee to aid efforts to Judaize Jerusalem.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked delivers a speech during a conference in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, June 6, 2016.
Tamas Kovacs, MTI via AP

In a long opinion piece published in the first issue of the new, Hebrew-language journal Hashiloach, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked laid out her worldview. The first half is dedicated to the fight against “legislative inflation” and the need to reduce to a minimum government interference in private life.

While she was composing her learned opinion, Shaked contradicted her own recommendations. As Haaretz has reported, the justice minister and senior ministry officials interfered significantly in the planning process in order to advance the interests of Elad, a right-wing organization that settles Jews in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and operates the City of David National Park there. According to the report, an Elad official gave Shaked’s chief of staff a document explaining what the minister should do in order to reverse a decision by Israel’s highest planning body.

The decision by the National Planning and Building Council’s appeals subcommittee significantly reduced the size of Elad’s planned visitors’ center in Silwan. The document explains how to appoint a new, more favorable representative to the panel and who to pressure to change their votes. The minister did what was expected of her, and the decision to reduce the project’s size was reversed. Shaked did not break the law; she merely stretched to the limit her authority and the planning bureaucracy for Elad’s benefit.

The answer to the question of how Shaked’s libertarian worldview as laid out in her opinion piece jibes with gross political interference in the planning bodies can be found in the essay’s second half. There, she calls for the strengthening of the Jewish part of “Jewish and democratic.”

“In my vision, the Jewishness of the state does not remain a hollow symbol, but rather is imbued with a life of its own,” she wrote. By Shaked’s lights, strengthening the state’s Jewishness does not detract from its democratic character; rather, they both are made stronger.

There is no need to read her article through the eyes of an Arab citizen or Palestinian resident to understand the depth of the logical contradiction. But the piece does explain her exceptional contribution on behalf of Elad’s visitors’ center. For beyond its being a (very controversial) architectural monument and an archaeological center (that buries important findings below itself) and an entrance to the City of David National Park, it is first and foremost a Jewish building, whose nearly declared goal is to Judaize Silwan.