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Judge, interior minister trade accusations amid complaint of alleged interference

Michal Agmon-Gonen alleges ‘disruption’ of court proceedings by Ayelet Shaked, who claims judge unethically asked her for support

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021, after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin for consultations on which lawmaker should form the next government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021, after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin for consultations on which lawmaker should form the next government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A judge last month filed a formal complaint to the attorney general against Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, claiming the minister acted to disrupt court proceedings, according to a report on Monday.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen’s filing alleged that Shaked asked a mutual friend to speak with the judge and recommend that she change her rulings on Ukrainian citizens entering Israel, particularly regarding the case of a Ukrainian who was denied entry by the Interior Ministry.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who received the complaint through the director of the courts, closed the case within 48 hours, explaining that her intervention was not necessary, according to a Globes report.

By law, a criminal investigation against a minister must receive the approval of the attorney general, and therefore the complaint was filed directly with Baharav-Miara and not with the police.

Shaked, who was unaware of the complaint, told Globes that she never asked Agmon-Gonen for anything, nor had she asked anyone to speak with her. In her response, Shaked alleged that it was Agmon-Gonen who had acted unethically in the past. According to the minister, when Agmon-Gonen wanted to be appointed to the Supreme Court, she turned directly to Shaked — who was justice minister from 2015 to 2019 — and the then-head of the Israel Bar Association.

Under Supreme Court procedures, incumbent judges are not allowed to approach committee members, the head of the Bar Association and the justice minister to garner their support without seeking the Supreme Court president’s approval in advance.

Agmon-Gonen’s March ruling came after a Ukrainian woman appealed a decision by the Population and Immigration Authority to deport her, due to a previous attempt of hers to stay in the country illegally.

According to the verdict, the Ukrainian citizen had submitted a request to be recognized as an asylum seeker in Israel in the past, long before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, and had been denied.

Agmon-Gonen’s ruling highlighted the difficulties experienced by Ukrainians without Jewish ties who seek refuge in Israel, as well as the obscure policy Israel has instated for dealing with refugees.

The High Court of Justice has recently ordered the state to clarify why it has been capping the number of Ukrainian refugees it is letting in, despite a years-old diplomatic agreement that allows Ukrainians to enter the country automatically with three-month tourist visas.

The petition, filed on behalf of the Ukrainian embassy, was the latest sign of the struggle the country has faced in formulating a clear policy for dealing with non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees, a policy that has largely been spearheaded by Shaked.

Illustrative: Ukrainian refugees bound for Israel at Chisinau Airport, Moldova, March 18, 2022. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Shaked’s history of clashing with Israeli courts extends to her days serving as Justice Minister, when she led reforms aimed at limiting the powers of the Supreme Court.

Responding to a 2019 Supreme Court decision to bar an ultranationalist candidate from running during that year’s April election, Shaked labeled the court as 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 Supreme Court’s judicial oversight over the Israeli parliament.

Tobias Siegal contributed to this report. 

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