Erdan Changes Mind on Judge

Minister Erdan withdraws support for nomination of Judge Moshe Drori to Supreme Court but says he does not suspect judge of racism.

Gil Ronen and Ernie Singer ,

Minister Erdan
Minister Erdan
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who serves on the Judge Selection Committee, announced on Sunday that he was removing his support for the nomination of Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori to the Supreme Court. Erdan was one of three committee members to sign on the nomination, along with Members of Knesset David Rotem and Uri Ariel. Three signatures are needed, so if nobody signs in place of MK Erdan, the nomination will be quashed.

Drori's nomination has met with opposition because of a recent ruling in the matter of an assault against a supermarket parking cashier of Ethiopian origin that some say reflected a racist approach. Drori acquitted the attacker because he did not want to hurt the man's chances to be nominated to a rabbinical court, and because the attacker asked for forgiveness.

According to the charge sheet, the accused and the cashier disagreed over his parking fees. The parking cashier followed him to the parking lot, stood in front of his car and demanded that he pay up. The man
"The court system cannot exhibit tolerance to offenses involving a violent attack in severe circumstances.”
got into his car and purposely ran into the cashier, who fell on top of the car's hood and held onto it. He kept driving for 20 meters and turned onto the main road. At this point the cashier fell off the hood and hit her head on the road, causing her to lose consciousness for a short time and require hospitalization. 

Drori acquitted the attacker in a 321-page long ruling in which he quoted from Maimonides and Rabbi Kook regarding the concept of teshuva, or repentance.  

The judge also opined that the attack and subsequent trial helped the cashier integrate into Israeli society. “She began her testimony timidly with the feeling that she doesn’t matter and that a man with a car treated her like a dog. Gradually she realized that a judge is listening to her every word, lawyers talk to her with respect… she understood the great improvement in her social status from the start of the trial to its conclusion,” he wrote.

Erdan: judge not racist, but...
In a letter to Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman, who chairs the Judge Selection Committee, Erdan said that he read the ruling, and does not think Drori was motivated by racism. However, he does think that the ruling reflects badly on Drori's priorities as a judge, and that its extreme length is also unjustified.

“From all of the research and checking I have done on the man, the picture I see is one of an honest and fair judge,” he wrote, “but in my opinion, his approach as it was reflected in the said ruling does not not allow me to support his candidacy for the Supreme Court.”

“Drori’s approach is completely incompatible with the approach that is necessary, and in my opinion lacking, in the Supreme Court,” Erdan explained. “Hon. Judge Drori’s approach is that, generally, when the accused has asked his victim for forgiveness (even if he did this while the sword of sentencing is dangling over his head), and the victim, who is under great emotional pressure, supposedly accepts the apology, one should adopt a forgiving approach and save the accused from a verdict that could meaningfully hurt his prospects.”

This approach is wrong, Erdan said, because “violence and intolerance are a disease that is spreading in Israeli society, and the court system cannot exhibit tolerance to offenses involving a violent attack in severe circumstances.”

“As an elected official my wish is to get a clear message across to the public, that whoever behaves violently will pay the full price for his actions,” the Likud Minister wrote.

In addition, Erdan explained, the fact that Drori took more than 300 pages to write his verdict strengthened his decision to withdraw support for his nomination, because “we require efficiency in the legal system.”