Supreme Court chief slams Shaked for 'politicizing' court

Justice Esther Hayut says court shouldn't be political, blasts Bennett and Shaked's effort to add conservative justices to the High Court.

Tzvi Lev ,

Esther Hayut (left) and Ayelet Shaked (right)
Esther Hayut (left) and Ayelet Shaked (right)
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Supreme Court chief justice Esther Hayut launched an attack on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked for her efforts to pack the nation's highest court with conservative-leaning judges.

Speaking at a conference in Haifa, Hayut said that attempts to install judges on the bench due to their political orientation are "diverting the 'ship' of the court".

"Attempts to drag the court system and its judges into politics, as well as attempts by various parties to 'appropriate' judges for themselves and others, undermine these basic principles of independence that are the lifeblood of the judiciary," ٍsaid Hayut, adding that such efforts to sway the court had existed before.

"I believe that just as they did not succeed then they were doomed to failure today as well," said the judge.

In what many see as a reference to Shaked, Hayut said that "just as [newly] appointed judges have the power to sever the umbilical cord between them and those who supported their candidacy, the same supporters should be expected to sever the same rope at their end and allow the judicial system and Israel's judges to do their job professionally".

According to Hayut, the stability of the judicial system comes from its legal opinions and hit back at charges that accuse the High Court of judicial overreach. "In contrast to what they are trying to embed in the public's consciousness, the variety of opinions in the court system in general and in the Supreme Court, in particular, were not born today," contended Hayut.

"It is characteristic of our system from time immemorial, and tens of thousands of judgments handed down over the years attest to this."

Since becoming Justice Minister in 2015, Shaked has put a priority on packing Israel's High Court with justices who believe in judicial restraint. As of July 2018, 147 new judges have been appointed during Shaked's term while another 115 judges have been promoted and six of the 15 Supreme Court justices have been replaced, a third of all judges in Israel.

Shaked's efforts to turn back what right-wing Israelis say is the High Court's judicial overreach has led to criticism from Hayut, who has accused her in the past of seeking to destroy the judiciary. In December 2017, Hayut decried the way "in which some of the elected officials, ministers and members of the Knesset, express their contempt for the judiciary," which she said "are far from respectful and very embarrassing".