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UTJ MK defiant amid criticism: 'I do not regret my words'

Haredi lawmaker says his dream is to ‘blow up’ the Supreme Court

Coalition lawmakers and former justices slam ‘shocking’ remarks made by MK Yitzhak Pindrus of United Torah Judaism during an Independence Day panel

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindros (left) speaks during a panel held for Israel's 74th Independence Day at the Nehora high school yeshiva in the West Bank. Alongside him is Religious Zionism party MK Simcha Rothman, May 5, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)
United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindros (left) speaks during a panel held for Israel's 74th Independence Day at the Nehora high school yeshiva in the West Bank. Alongside him is Religious Zionism party MK Simcha Rothman, May 5, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Speaking during an event marking Israel’s 74th Independence Day last week, lawmaker Yitzhak Pindrus said his dream was to “blow up” the Supreme Court.

A member of United Torah Judaism, a Haredi opposition party, Pindrus made the inflammatory statement while speaking at a panel arranged by the Nehora high school yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Mevo Horon on Thursday.

Pindrus was discussing the issue of integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into broader society with fellow panel participant Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, according to a video of the discussion obtained by the Walla news site.

The Haredi lawmaker said his goal was not to fill roles in key government bodies, such as the High Court, with members of the Haredi community, but rather to increase Haredim’s study of the Torah, because that is more influential.

“Do you know what my dream is?” Pindrus said, turning to Rothman, “to bring a D-9 and blow up [the Supreme Court] building — not to position my judges there. That’s my dream,” he said.

“D-9,” in this context, is an armored bulldozer employed by the Israeli military while operating in hostile environments. It was a reference to a similar comment about the court made by another right-wing politician in 2015.

Earlier in the discussion, Pindrus argued that his responsibility as a member of Knesset was to “correct the people of Israel by increasing Torah studies” and “not through the Supreme Court.”

Right-wing lawmakers have for years accused the court of overstepping its mandate and encroaching on the legislature’s authority by striking down laws and other policies it deems unconstitutional.

Regarding the possibility of young Haredim combining Torah studies with a career as doctors, judges, or government ministers, the Haredi lawmaker suggested it was not worth it, saying that “being a Knesset member is worse than being a plumber” and taking pride in the fact that his close associates were engaged in Torah scholarship, according to the Walla report.

Responding to Pindrus after their joint panel, Rothman tweeted Monday: “My dream is to turn the Supreme Court into a court that no one seeks to blow up because it won’t deal with politics and won’t try to impose the judges’ values on the public.”

Pindrus’s harsh remarks drew criticism from several coalition lawmakers.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar called his comments “delusional,” vowing to prevent the lawmaker and his partners from realizing their “dangerous” aspirations.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv said Pindrus’s remarks were dangerous and constituted incitement against Israeli judges.

“[Pindrus’ remarks] permit violence against Israeli judges and any attempt to blur their severity will not work,” said Kariv, who chairs the Knesset’s Law and Justice Committee. “A person who has such dreams is unsuitable to serve in the Knesset.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar leads a New Hope faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar said Pindrus’s comments reflected the urgency of passing a bill proposed by Sa’ar that would prevent a lawmaker charged with a serious crime from becoming prime minister, seen as aimed at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This is another reason for passing the ‘accused bill’ and saving the State of Israel. This is the real threat to Israel if Netanyahu and his friends get back in power,” he said. “Years of incitement have made the unthinkable legitimate.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) also condemned Pindrus’s comments, writing on Twitter: “In a democratic state, the Supreme Court and the judicial branch play an important and honorable role… I am sad to see such comments uttered by a member of the Israeli Knesset.”

Former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch called the comments “shocking” and said she expected “every state institution to comment” on them.

As the criticism snowballed, Pindrus issued another statement doubling down on his earlier remarks. “I do not regret my words, the Supreme Court should be toppled,” the UTJ lawmaker said, dismissing criticism that he was effectively calling for violence against its judges.

Though his remarks were unusual in their severity, Israeli lawmakers have been known to make direct threats against the court.

After the High Court — which is what the Supreme Court is called when it adjudicates constitutional matters — ruled in favor of demolishing two illegal buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El in 2015, Knesset member Moti Yogev of the right-wing party Jewish Home, a vocal advocate of the settlement movement, railed against the decision, saying: “We have to take the blade of a D-9 [bulldozer] to the High Court of Justice.”

A day later, Yogev backtracked on his comments and said they were unnecessary.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ongoing dispute has been raging between right-wing politicians and High Court judges over the past few years, with the former claiming the top court has repeatedly overstepped its authority in rulings they deem “leftist” and “anti-democratic.”

Following a High Court ruling last year that labeled Knesset legislation that allowed then-prime minister Netanyahu to continue funding state agencies without passing a state budget a “misuse of the Knesset’s authority,” right-wing lawmakers accused the court of attempting to “carry out a coup.”

While serving as justice minister, now-Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked attempted to lead reforms aimed at limiting the powers of the High Court.

Responding to a 2019 Supreme Court decision to bar an ultranationalist candidate from running during that year’s April election, Shaked called the court Israel’s “most powerful political actor,” and said its judges had led a “coup” against both democracy and the public.

She also vowed to carry out a “legal upheaval” to dismantle the court’s judicial oversight over the Israeli parliament.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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