In comments made at a swearing-in ceremony for a record 54 new judges, President Reuven Rivlin attacked critics of the judicial system on Tuesday, saying some of the attacks were unlawful.
“In recent years the legal system has been severely criticized, some of which have openly crossed the threshold of legitimacy. Social media discourse drives these attacks, often while being taken out of context, ”Rivlin said.
“In addition, tensions between the professional level of the civil service, sometimes disparagingly referred to as ‘clerk’, and the political leadership in Israel are mounting and it seems that they are at an intolerable breaking point,” Rivlin said. “In the name of so-called ‘governance’, borders and red lines are being crossed.”
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The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, raised similar concerns about political interference and exposed the “violation of the independent and neutral status of the courts”.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut speaks at a swearing-in ceremony for new judges at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on January 26, 2021 (Screen Grab).
Hayut said it was “no secret” that the Judicial Appointments Committee’s work was “troubled” and tried to disrupt its actions.
“I feel it should be reiterated that there is no room for repeated attempts to drag the judicial system and the process of appointing judges into the political arena, while court decisions are being accused and the independent and neutral status of the courts is harmed” , she said.
“The argument that the courts, and especially the Supreme Court, have positioned themselves in the political arena is unfounded. The judges discuss and decide legal issues that are presented to them in accordance with the relevant legal provisions, ”said Hayut. “In my view, this is clear evidence that the court is independent, apolitical and that its decisions are balanced.”
Justice Minister Benny Gantz (R), President Reuven Rivlin (2R) and Chief Justice Esther Hayut (L) hold a swearing-in ceremony for new judges at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on January 26, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)
Before the Knesset disbanded last month because a state budget had not been passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s blue and white parties reportedly negotiated an agreement to avoid new elections that were within the powers of the then Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, a Likud, has reduced demand. Blue and White denied making such a deal.
Netanyahu is said to be primarily interested in preventing Nissenkorn from appointing a prosecutor and attorney general – two positions viewed as critical to the prime minister, whose criminal proceedings are due to resume next week – and new Supreme Court judges after his taste.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a face mask in line because of the coronavirus pandemic, is in the courtroom as his corruption trial opens in Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun / pool photo via AP)
Nissenkorn also opposed efforts by Netanyahu’s allies to reform the judicial system, appoint more conservative judges and further curtail the power of the courts.
Nissenkorn submitted his resignation after leaving Gantz’s blue and white party days before the final judges swearing in ceremony in December.
Prior to this event, Transport Minister Miri Regev, MK Osnat Mark von Likud and Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser boycotted a meeting of the committee on the appointment of two Arab judges who accused them of anti-Zionism, claiming – apparently falsely – the panel could not be legal without them be convened.
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