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Chief Rabbi Metzger: Appoint Solberg to Supreme Court

Israel’s Chief Rabbi: Gush Etzion resident Judge Noam Solberg should be appointed to the Supreme Court. Diiversity needed in the courts.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/21/2011, 2:15 AM

Rabbi Yona Metzger at Deputy Mayors' Conference
Rabbi Yona Metzger at Deputy Mayors' Conference
Limor Karadi

Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rav Yona Metzger, said on Sunday that Justice Noam Solberg, the hotly debated candidate, is more than worthy of being appointed to serve on Israel’s Supreme Court.

Rav Metzger made the comments at the opening ceremony of a conference of deputy mayors held in Eilat.

“The Committee for Appointment of Judges is currently discussing the appointment of a judge whom I know personally and whose only ‘disadvantage’ is that he wears a kippah and living in Judea and Samaria,” he said. “The Supreme Court will not lose anything by appointing a religious judge. The Supreme Court does not always understand the religious issues with which it deals, including issues of kashrut, marriage and other religious matters. It is important that we have judges with an extensive judicial horizon and with knowledge of Torah, so they can understand our problems.”

It should be noted that Israel's Supreme Court once saw to it that an expert in Mishpat Ivri (Jewish Civil Law), such as former Chief Justice Menachem Elon, was a member of the high court.

Rav Metzger made the comments as the Committee for Appointment of Judges convened in Jerusalem in a stormy showdown between leftist forces led by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and centrist-nationalists.

The committee of nine, which must choose Supreme Court Judges by a 7 person majority, includes three current Supreme Court Judges who decide on a unified position beforehand, two ministers (one of whom is the Justice Minister), two MK's - 1 opposition and 1 coalition, and today by a fluke both are rightists - and two bar association representatives, who would naturally not want to antagonize the judges before whom they appear. Due to this configuration, decisions are made by reaching agreements, more accurately  known as barter.

It should also be noted that the Israeli Bar Association representatives have generally been left oriented. There was an unwritten understanding that one of the two was the elected head of the association, the other chosen by a vote, until the last elections when religious and rightist lawyer members decided to come out and vote. Their growing numbers put a rightist at the head of the association. In the resulting power play, an attempt was made to bypass the head by staging elections in the association to choose both of its Appointment Committee representatives. The recent attempt to pass a Knesset law mandating  the choice of the elected official bar association head as representative to the Committee for Appointment of Judges was in response to this. 

Three vacant Supreme Court positions wait to be manned but Beinisch, who is due to retire in February, is fighting with all her might to prevent the court from changing its leftist and activist hue. Through leaks to the press provided by “sources close to Beinisch,” she has come out publicly against Solberg’s appointment, although he is a respected and highly regarded, justice, apparently because he lives in Gush Etzion and does not have a leftist orientation.

Beinisch reportedly said in Sunday’s discussion that she has “no problem” with Solberg’s appointment but that in the present atmosphere it is impossible to select judges. The selection process has become too political and charged and decisions cannot be reached, she said.

The meeting ended at around 8:00 p.m. with no agreement having been reached. The next sessions will be held in January and February.

In his remarks, Rav Metzger also called on the government to solve the social crisis and the interns’ strike soon.

“The current situation cannot continue,” he said.

The Forum of Deputy Mayors holds an annual conference to discuss issues related to local government. The theme of this year’s conference is social justice in local government. Rav Metzger was honored at the opening of the conference for his work in favor of local government in Israel.