The photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the lobby of the Jerusalem District courthouse minutes before his trial opened, surrounded by around half of Likud’s Knesset faction, their faces masked, became part of Israeli iconography as soon as it was published. It’s hard to think of a more representative image for the end of the Netanyahu era: the ruling party standing behind its criminally indicted prime minister, supporting him as he lashed out at the judicial system like the most common of criminals.
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Many wondered about the unknown woman who was standing among David Amsalem, Yoav Gallant, Tzachi Hanegbi and Yisrael Katz, and how she had merited the dubious honor of accompanying the accused during his difficult moment. It turned out to be Osnat Mark, who was destined to enter the Knesset and gain a seat on the Judicial Appointments Committee. Now the public can finally understand why she was found worthy of this lofty position.
Mark opposed the promotion of two judges whom she thought held views that were too far to the left on the political map. In an interview with Israel Hayom over the weekend, she said she planned to choose candidates based on their political views, but would make sure to conceal that in her explanations. “I won’t appoint leftist judges, don’t worry, there’s no way,” she declared. When asked what she would do if she were accused of only promoting right-wing candidates, she said, “So I won’t say ‘right-wing,’ I’ll say ‘conservative.’ I’ll go with the whitewashed word.”
The judges are Ido Druyan, an acting judge on the Central District Court, whose sins include “volunteering to help weak populations in south Tel Aviv,” and attorney Shay Shalhevet, a substitute military court judge, who once acquitted a Palestinian accused of a shooting attack that caused no deaths. A decision on Druyan hasn’t been made yet, while Shalhevet’s advancement has been frozen for two years.
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Under the Israeli system of government it is extremely important for judges not to be identified politically. Undermining the political neutrality of the judicial system would be a fatal blow to its reliability and credibility. It would weaken public confidence in court rulings. Political affiliation can’t be a criterion for an appointment or promotion. Judges are meant to serve based on their professional abilities, excellence, experience and wisdom.
But these concepts and values are foreign to Mark. To our great horror, this is exactly why she was chosen for this role. Her committee membership was not an error in judgment, but a well-planned political plot. Netanyahu fought with Kahol Lavan over her appointment just as he fought for the appointment of his loyal servant Amir Ohana as public security minister. With Mark and Miri Regev on the Judicial Appointments Committee, and Ohana in charge of the police, Netanyahu can rest easy. They will protect the interests of Israel’s No. 1 defendant.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.