Shaked predicts political comeback, hails changes to ‘DNA of justice system’

After failing to make it into Knesset and being axed in cabinet shakeup, minister says farewell to Justice Ministry, says she ‘definitely’ plans to return as more work to be done

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seen during her farewell ceremony, at the Ministry of Justice offices in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seen during her farewell ceremony, at the Ministry of Justice offices in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Outgoing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked hinted at a political comeback on Tuesday as she bade farewell to colleagues after four years at the helm of the ministry.

“I had planned to continue my work here for another four years… but unfortunately, that plan went a little wrong,” she said at a farewell ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem.

In remarks directed to her yet-to-be-named successor, Shaked said: “Take care of this office, because I definitely intend to return.”

Turning to her tenure at the Justice Ministry, Shaked said there had been a change in the legal branch’s “DNA” but there was more work to be done.

“The structural changes that are needed in the legal system will continue,” said Shaked, who pushed to nominate more conservative judges during her term in office.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit praised Shaked and said her reforms were meant “to strengthen the [legal] system.”

“You came to change and you definitely changed things,” he said to Shaked. “Change is not a dirty word.” He said the two sometimes disagreed, which was natural, but noted that their disagreements were dealt with “with respect.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu fired Shaked along with her co-leader at the New Right party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, on Sunday in a cabinet shakeup ahead of the September elections.

The move was widely seen as a way to prevent the once-popular right-wing ministers from using their positions to bolster their campaigns ahead of the snap polls.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (left) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett hold a press conference of the New Right Political party, in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

In April, Bennett and Shaked’s New Right party failed to clear the electoral threshold, leaving the ministers out of the Knesset. But with Netanyahu failing to form a coalition and the announcement of new elections on September 17, they now have a second chance to be elected.

After the firings, Bennett announced he would run in the September elections as the leader of the New Right. Shaked, who was noticeably absent from his Sunday night press conference, has not indicated if or with whom she will run.

In recent days, reports had proliferated that Shaked was interested in running as a member of Netanyahu’s Likud.

Shaked’s placement on Likud’s slate was seen as a potential boon for the party, but Hebrew media reported Sunday that the prime minister had ruled out any such move. Channel 13 reported that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, vetoed Shaked’s return to Likud during coalition negotiations last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Initially, the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu would temporarily assume the roles of education and justice ministers until replacements were found, but after backlash over him holding the latter portfolio with corruption indictments hanging over his head, his office backtracked and announced that interim ministers would be appointed by Tuesday.

According to a television report, Netanyahu plans to fill the vacated cabinet seats with members of his own party.

Likud’s Yariv Levin, currently minister of tourism as well as immigration and absorption, has long been angling for the Justice Ministry, but on Sunday said he had no interest in serving there in an interim capacity.

Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich (center) arrives for a Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties in recent days has called on Netanyahu to appoint him as Shaked’s replacement, but his comments this week calling for Israel to be ruled by Jewish religious law drew ire from Likud and opposition lawmakers.

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily on Tuesday quoted members of Netanyahu’s party as saying that Smotrich “can forget about the justice portfolio now. After those statements, Netanyahu won’t let him be justice minister.”

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