Outgoing Director of Israeli Courts Administration Says Issues of Principle Don't Belong in Supreme Court

Retired judge suggests tribunal of religious, academic figures to deal with non-legal questions.

Tomer Zarchin
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In the absence of a constitution, issues of principle should be weighed by a tribunal of religious and academic figures and not the Supreme Court, says the outgoing director of courts administration. “The difficulty is with the small number of questions dealing with principles, not laws, that reach the Supreme Court,” said retired judge Moshe Gal. “As long as we don't have a constitution to cover those questions, I wouldn't dismiss the idea of those being dealt with by a single tribunal made up of the widest range of people, including religious figures and academics.”

Gal's comments were made in an interview with host Gil Solomon, and attorney, on “Diyun Nosaf” (Additional Deliberation), due to be broadcasted Wednesday evening on the Knesset Channel (TV Ch. 99). The declaration is especially noteworthy because it comes from the man who until two months ago was the director of courts administration and a key figure in the judicial elite.

Gal was appointed during Prof. Daniel Friedman's term as justice minister, but the retired judge wasn't identified with Friedman's maverick views. Friedman is known as a vocal critic of the way the judicial system as it is currently run. The position taken by Gal is similar to statements made by ultra-Orthodox Knesset members, who argued that the Supreme Court lacked the authority to deal with matters of religion and principle. In the past, there have been moves to establish a constitutional court in Israel, as part of an attempt to broaden and diversify the lineup of Supreme Court justices dealing with constitutional issues. One proposal suggested that the constitutional court be comprised of dayanim (Jewish religious court judges), Muslim cadis, academics and public figures in addition to Supreme Court justices.

In February, a Supreme Court panel headed by now-retired Supreme Court president Dorit Beinish struck down as unconstitutional the Tal Law passed a decade ago, which allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to defer their obligatory national (military) service, and that the law could not be extended beyond its August 2012 expiry date. The ruling stirred up a storm in the ultra-Orthodox sector and though the Tal Law expired on August 1, the Knesset has yet to legislate a law in its stead.

Moshe GalCredit: Emil Salman