Even amidst the fight to overcome COVID-19, we will never lose sight of our moral compass.
By Ayelet Shaked, JPOST APRIL 7, 2020
Ayelet Shaked (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
True leadership requires steering the ship of state through storms and waves without losing sight of its course and final destination. We must all cooperate to overcome the economic and public health storm created by COVID-19. But we must not do so by giving up on our core values and goals.
Today we have a historic opportunity to advance two strategic goals that will shape Israel’s future. The first is the opportunity to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. This is the next critical step in the evolution of the State of Israel.
The current US administration supports such a move. No one knows what the political situation in America will be four months from now. If we fail to act swiftly, this window of opportunity may close.
The second strategic goal is the completion of the democratic revolution that I initiated as justice minister, the goal of which is to restore Israel’s parliamentary democracy and the balance of powers. After years of creeping juristocracy, during which unelected judges worked to entrench Aharon Barak’s legacy of judicial activism at the expense of Israel’s elected representatives, I began to reverse the trend.
I worked to nominate conservative judges respectful of the division of powers and the language of the law. I was able to nominate 334 judges to all of Israel’s courts, including six to the Supreme Court, the majority of them conservative.
Barak reacted to my efforts by complaining, “in the past, justice ministers knew their place. They would simply tell the justices on the Judicial Selection Committee, ‘We don’t understand enough about nominating judges, so pick whoever you want, and we’ll vote for them’.”
He was upset that as justice minister, I didn’t ‘know my place’.
Rome was not built in a day, and neither was Jerusalem. A democratic and judicial revolution cannot be completed in one term. The next government will nominate at least four more Supreme Court justices. There is an opportunity to finally create a conservative majority on the bench.
In addition to nominating conservative judges, there are many other crucial initiatives waiting for the next justice minister. For example, I prepared regulations which would require the Histadrut labor federation to operate according to basic standards of transparency. It would be required to publish an annual report on income and expenses, and reveal its assets. The Histadrut, of course, opposes such legislation Unfortunately, the elections prevented me from completing the process. The regulations await the signature of the next justice minister.
Sadly, it appears that the opportunity to advance these two strategic goals may well go down the drain.
Regarding extending Israel’s sovereignty, Gantz’s reported attempt to insist that this be done only with the permission of Jordan was just another way of trying to undermine such a move.
Agreeing to push off the decision on sovereignty by four months could also be disastrous, given the upcoming US elections. If we are going to make the bold move of realizing our legal and national right to apply sovereignty throughout our historic homeland, the time to do so is now.
On the judicial front as well, Gantz’s close advisor, Ronen Tzur, declared that Blue and White will not allow the Right’s “wild behavior” in nominating judges. By “wild behavior” he means of course appointing highly qualified jurists with conservative philosophies who believe in respecting the rights and authorities of the Knesset and Government.
IT APPEARS that the Likud has already agreed that former Histadrut boss Avi Nissenkorn will be the next justice minister. We can be sure that under Nissenkorn, the old system of left-wing activist judges nominating friends who share the same outlook will be restored. This will influence the direction of Israel’s democracy for years to come. And no one seriously believes that Nissenkorn will demand greater transparency from the Histadrut, or take any other steps to rein in the Histadrut’s exaggerated power over Israel’s economy.
At the very least, if the Likud allows Nissenkorn to become justice minister, it must insist on changes to the Knesset Judicial Selection Committee. This must be a red line.
Giving Blue and White control of both the Defense Ministry and Justice Ministry will also undue all of our efforts to find solutions to the status of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Under Tzipi Livni and other left-wing justice ministers, the government made little effort to defend the rights of Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria against left-wing petitions to the High Court.
As justice minister, I changed this practice, personally overseeing every one of the government’s submissions to the High Court on these issues. Naftali Bennett, as defense minister, has taken further important steps to resolve the legal status of these communities. All of this progress is at risk of disappearing.
For the last year and a half, the right-wing bloc in the Knesset acted as one to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, we in Yemina did not work to preserve the right-wing bloc only for it to be used as a stepping stone to create a left-wing government.
Netanyahu must decide whether he wishes his legacy to be that of the prime minister who extended our sovereignty throughout our homeland, or the one who missed this once-in-a-generation opportunity. The Likud must decide whether it is truly committed to judicial reform, or whether it is content to give activist jurists the green light to continue implementing their agenda.
The Yamina Party will not join a left-wing government, even if Netanyahu stands at its head. If need be, we will be a strong and consistent right-wing opposition.
Leadership is revealed in times of crisis. Yamina will continue to take every step and support every measure necessary to protect Israel’s citizens and economy in the face of the current pandemic. But even amidst the fight to overcome COVID-19, we will never lose sight of our moral compass.
MK Ayelet Shaked is a former justice minister and a leader of the Yamina Party.