The Judicial Appointments Committee, headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, chose four new justices for the Supreme Court on Wednesday: Yosef Elron, George Karra, Yael Willner and David Mintz. They will assume their positions gradually, as four veteran justices – including Supreme Court President Miriam Naor – retire.
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Choosing more than a quarter of the top court in the land is a defining moment that will shape the image of the court for many years. Unfortunately, Shaked steered the committee into making less-than-optimal choices.
With no offense meant to the judges who were chosen, politics was given more weight than merit with their selections. The committee interviewed dozens of experienced, brilliant and outstanding candidates. It could have strengthened the court with judges of great stature who could shoulder the responsibility the court must bear in these difficult times for Israeli democracy.
Shaked’s true legacy is in scorning the significant quality advantage of the court system – the Supreme Court in particular – in favor of what’s acceptable in the civil service. Irrelevant considerations, including sectoral and political considerations, have always been part of the appointments committee’s work – but it has never been so blatant.
Not every decision by the justices on the appointments committee is worthy of automatic support. There was no reason to reject Judge Elron because of his fraught relations with some sitting justices, just as there was no reason to support him simply because he is Mizrahi (a Jew of Middle Eastern or North African origin) or because he grew up in an absorption camp. But now that the four new justices have been chosen, we must rise above the disputes of the past. In this context, Naor did the right thing when she publicly welcomed the new justices to the court.
As for those right wingers who rushed to rejoice as if the newly chosen justices will be their representatives on the bench – it would behoove them to hold off with the celebrations. One hopes that someone who is entrusted with upholding the law and is loyal to the truth will not make judicial rulings in accordance with a political agenda, whether he sits on a district court or the Supreme Court.