Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Miriam Naor sent a rare, strongly worded letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked Wednesday, comparing a bill to change the number of the majority required to elect a new judge to the Supreme Court to "putting a gun on the table" in an act of intimidation.
"The way that things stand, we—the Justices of the Supreme Court and the members of the Supreme Court Selection Committee – are unable to continue negotiating with you to try and reach an agreement. We won’t let you act like this, making up rules (for selecting Supreme Court Judges) on the fly," Justice Naor wrote.
She continued, writing "the timing that this bill is being put forth presents, under the circumstances, a type of 'gun on the table.' This means that if there are those on the council who don’t express agreement with the appointment of a certain candidate, causing the candidate in question to not get a super majority, then the 'rules of the game' will be changed so that they can win with a regular majority of votes of the council members."
The bill, which is causing significant heated debate, would enable a Supreme Court Judge to be elected via a simple majority (five out of nine council members), as opposed to a supermajority which is currently needed (seven out of nine council members).
You should have spoken to me first
"This bill is indeed a private bill," Naor wrote in her letter. "But ever since the bill was published, and ever since articles were written about it in various newspapers—according to which this bill is being put forth on your behalf—we haven't heard a single objection come from you, neither regarding the content of the bill nor its timing. Since this is the case, I believe it would have been appropriate for you to speak to me in advance."
"Therefore," Naor continued, "I feel pressured to say—on behalf of my colleagues Committee Vice Chair Rubenstein and Judge Jubran—that there is no intention to continue with you at this time neither in early dialogues nor in consultations regarding the submission of a list of candidates or regarding possible agreements. All of us will work within the Committee's framework in both a substantial and legal manner.
"I would also like to note that we are not asking to be involved in the Knesset's legislative process, despite the fact that they are changing the rules of the game while in the middle of their own processes," the letter said. "But we won't speculate on the feasibility of (changing the rules of the game) the legislative process, nor the wisdom in doing so. But it is clear that just as the legislature works on any matter to its understanding, we, the Supreme Court Judges and Members of the Supreme Court Election Committee, each work according to our own opinions, and all within the framework of the law."
The letter concluded on a particularly bitter note. "Although it pains me that we have come to this, I want to clarify that, in my opinion, there is no reason to continue our meetings nor work together, to cooperate, in anything which we were cooperating on before."
The Justice Minister's Bureau responded, saying "the Supreme Court Election Committee's meeting will continued as planned. A list of candidates for the supreme court will be published in the coming days."
Minister of Tourism Yariv Rivlin also responded to the letter, saying that "no one should be shocked by this biting letter from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, from which we can see that she doesn't believe that the Supreme Court has any connection to the country, but is above it as if the State is the Court's private property."
He continued, saying "the Chief Justice is trying to intimidate the Justice Minster, the government, and the Knesset, while using boycotts and invalidations. They are doing the same things that our enemies do when they try to attack us and weaken us."