Regev Responds

The future of Israel’s Judiciary has been threatened for some time

Israel’s Supreme Court Under Threat

The future of Israel’s Judiciary, its independence and authority, and the rule of law have been threatened for some time, and are especially challenged at the present time, as Israel prepares for its fifth round of elections in the last three years.

Israel Supreme Court, source: WikipediaIsrael Supreme Court, source: Wikipedia

There is no dispute about the existence of legitimate and justified criticism, the need to always be open to constructive criticism and to examine deficiencies and correct them. But that is not what the current political assault is about. We are now facing a real threat to the independence and authority of the judicial authority, which is focusing on the Supreme Court that heads it. The threat comes from two essentially different directions, but its severity stems especially from their combination. Although Hiddush refrains from dealing with political issues in our activities and publications, we note that one of these two sources of the efforts to undermine the authority of the Supreme Court is the ultra-Orthodox parties (as we have repeatedly pointed out in many past newsletters and in the articles we have published. The second is associated mostly with the right-wing political parties, though many who oppose Netanyahu and the Likud maintain that it is directly connected to his facing criminal charges].

The ultra-Orthodox parties rightly see the Supreme Court as the only barrier to the realization of their aspirations to expand religious coercion, block religious freedom and pluralism, and safeguard the preferential privileges enjoyed by the ultra-orthodox sector and the excessive funding it receives from the state coffers. When it comes to the area of religion and state and the protection of religious freedom and equality - it is very much our organizational mission.

A recent indication of the political aspect of these moves can be found, for example, in an article describing the centrality of this issue in last month’s Likud primaries, and the significance of its results. Readers may find a wider and more in-depth background to the controversy over the Supreme Court and judicial review in Israel today, outlining the opposing views, here.

Over the past few years and especially in recent days, Israel has witnessed the vulgar and threatening outbursts by MK David Amsalem, one of the leaders of the Likud, former Coalition whip and minister in the Likud government. He also demonstrates the link between the controversy regarding the “Override Clause “and the threat to the Supreme Court, on the one hand, and the issues of religion and the state on the other. In the past, we already reported his hostile views regarding religious pluralism, freedom of religion, egalitarian and women’s prayers at the Wall, and especially Reform Judaism.*


JPLAN (Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network) Message

JPLAN has expressed its concern about the recent threat to Israel's Judiciary and rule of law, and the need to be aware of them and to take a stand, adding the voice of the Jewish legal community:

“We in the diaspora legal community must raise our voices to help ensure that the rule of law is maintained by Justices chosen by a balanced set of actors, rather than by highly partisan politicians. The full authority and independence of the Supreme Court, including its ability to engage in judicial review, must be safeguarded.”

JPLAN members view the need for engagement as an expression of support and commitment to reinforcing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, while protecting the rule of law in its broadest sense, along with the values of pluralism and freedom of religion, which were not only guaranteed in Israel's Declaration of independence, but which are essential for the future partnership between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

You can read the full text of the JPLAN lawyers’ statement here.


MK Amsalem's TV interview last week

In a television interview last week (in Hebrew), Amsalem reached even new "heights", and demonstrated the connections between the issues of the rule of law and the Supreme Court and issues of religion and the state:

Either I get appointed as the Minister of Justice or I will not enter the government. The judicial system is crooked at unimaginable levels. Firstly, we will enact an Override Clause by 61 MKs. The Nominations Committee for judges will only be made up of politicians, ministers, and Knesset members. Without judges.

“Either I get appointed as the Minister of Justice or I will not enter the government. The judicial system is crooked at unimaginable levels. Firstly, we will enact an Override Clause by 61 MKs. The Nominations Committee for judges will only be made up of politicians, ministers, and Knesset members. Without judges.”

“... Mandelblit [former Attorney General] Elsheich [former Commissioner of Police], Shai Nitzan [former State Attorney] and the whole gang should sit in prison for framing the Prime Minister. We are here to fix the system. Most of the judges are from the Attorney General’s office. We will say that they will have to leave the Attorney General’s office for five years before they can be appointed. Liat Ben Ari [the prosecutor in Netanyahu's trial] should be put on trial.”

“…The Western Wall Agreement [the agreement with the non-Orthodox Movements and the Women of the Wall] … is a violation of Jewish tradition. We too proposed and budgeted [he refers to the fact that the Netanyahu government approved the Western Wall Agreement, and that Netanyahu informed the Supreme Court that he had allocated millions of shekels to improve the designated site for egalitarian and women's minyans] but we did not implement it. If someone submits a proposal , it does not mean that it is necessarily rolled out in the Knesset.” [Amsalem also refers to the issue of conversion for which he blames the current government and responds to the interviewer's comment. The interviewer pointed out that that the conversion proposal was put forth by former minister Moshe Nissim, who was appointed to do so by Netanyahu, and not by the current government.]

Amsalem further criticized the outgoing government: "They insult the Chief Rabbinate; they want to deal with the issue of conversion. They say they want to fire the “Rishon Le’Tsion” [the Sephardic Chief Rabbi], because he interfered in the issue of kashrut. So, what is he supposed to interfere with? Soccer?” [Amsalem refers to the decision of Judge Uri Shoham, Ombudsman for Complaints against Judges , regarding the removal of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from his post as a Rabbinic Judge for organizing public gatherings against the Kashrut reform that was legislated by the Knesset following the initiative of the government] Do you understand these delusional people? [They are] An existential danger to the State of Israel. Give them another year and they will destroy everything. They want to alienate people from religion. That is the story in a nutshell.” 

To Lior Kenan's question whether as a non-religious woman, does she not deserve public transportation on Shabbat or a Reform plaza at the Kotel, He replied: ”Of course not! Would someone come to a synagogue wearing a bikini and say: come on, isn’t there a place for me here?"


* Sample Past Quotes by David Amsalem

“You are a ‘Reformer;’ you are a priest. You are not a rabbi; take off the yarmulke. You simply despise religion; you have to go to America... A law needs to be enacted so that the ‘Reformer’ should return to America. Stop destroying religion here and stop provoking against the law, which is what he is doing at the Western Wall.”

“The Western Wall has been the identity of the Jewish people throughout the generations, and this is how one must treat it. Reform Judaism may be relevant to canning factories or income tax, but not at the Western Wall, where the heritage of all of Israel is now and forever.”

“I got a delusional [Supreme Court] judge… he rejected [my] petition. These are mediocre political people and even worse... If he did not drink a bottle of whiskey before writing the decision, my name is not Dudi”

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