What hasn’t been said about Israel’s Supreme Court? That it’s elitist, that it’s leftist, that it only represents one upscale Jerusalem neighborhood, that it’s Ashkenazi, that it’s imperialist, and that it seeks to wrest away the powers of other State organs. Indeed, the Court has been smeared in every way possible.
Most of the attackers, if you closely scrutinized their motives, were interested parties: Politicians who were already hit by the judicial system, politicians who fear indictments to be submitted against them, and settlers who took over private land in the territories and are angry at the courts, which dared order their evacuation from their homes.
And what can the judicial system do? How should it respond? The conservatives would say that judges should only talk via their verdicts. Not in media interviews and not via addresses delivered at public conferences. They should not take part in public debates.
Indeed, this was the courts’ position for dozens of years. The court was noble and enjoyed high stature, it was remote, and it remained uninvolved in disputes. It only ruled on disputes between others.
The Supreme Court was at the top of the Olympus, yet it was an Olympus entrenched at the heart of the Judean Mountains, as former Chief Justice Aharon Barak once remarked.
Assaults from all directions
However, in the past decade the Court has been under ceaseless attacks. It started with an offensive within the Bar Association, continued with mass haredi protests, and then the floodgates opened - with assaults coming in from all directions. Some brought up substantive arguments, yet many voiced demagogical charges meant to smear the judges in Jerusalem.
In recent weeks this trend turned into a political campaign aimed at changing the Supreme Court’s face. Several bills were meant to change the judge selection process. The apparent political views of judges also turned into a public issue. The purity of the judicial process was threatened. Tomorrow, when a person arrives at court, he will check who the judge is and what party the judge belongs to.
Chief Justice Dorit Beinish, who heads the judiciary, had to respond. When one is being smeared and hurt, one can turn the other cheek. When someone spits at you, you can decide that it’s just the rain. Yet when you take this path, you may lose. Aggressive elements that have been attacking Beinish could have seen it as a sign of weakness. And this was unacceptable.