Muslim man, Mizrahi woman picked to serve as Supreme Court justices, both firsts

Judicial Selection Committee makes 4 new appointments, including 2 women; justice minister says appointments represent ‘a variety of opinions, genders and ethnic backgrounds’

Recently appointed Supreme Court justices, from L-R: Khaled Kabub, Ruth Ronnen, Gila Kanfi-Steinitz, and Yechiel Kasher, February 2022. (JUDICIAL AUTHORITY, TOMER JACOBSON)
Recently appointed Supreme Court justices, from L-R: Khaled Kabub, Ruth Ronnen, Gila Kanfi-Steinitz, and Yechiel Kasher, February 2022. (JUDICIAL AUTHORITY, TOMER JACOBSON)

The Judicial Appointments Committee on Monday appointed four new Supreme Court justices, among them the court’s first Muslim and first Mizrahi woman.

The four new justices appointed to the 15-member court are Judge Ruth Ronnen, Judge Khaled Kabub, Judge Gila Kanfi-Steinitz and attorney Yechiel Kasher.

“The four new justices elected to the Supreme Court are excellent,” Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said following the announcement of their appointments.

“They were selected according to the three criteria I set: excellence, balance and diversity. A variety of opinions, genders and ethnic backgrounds,” he continued. “I am responsible for this vital system. I have not received and will not receive grades or dictates from extremist or opposition parties.

“Most people understand that the justice system needs repair and not destruction, and appreciate the commitment to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

The committee was headed by Sa’ar and also consists of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is No. 2 in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party; liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices Esther Hayut, Uzi Vogelman and Yitzhak Amit; Israel Bar Association attorneys Ilana Seker and Muhammad Na’aman; MK Simcha Rothman from the far-right Religious Zionism party; and MK Efrat Rayten from the center-left Labor party.

Gideon Sa’ar speaks in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shaked, a former justice minister, opposed the appointment of Ronnen and abstained from voting for Kabub, saying she was not pleased with the appointments.

“If I had served as chairman of the committee today, the results would have been different. It is no secret that I wanted to appoint other judges,” Shaked wrote on Facebook. “The chairman of the committee, the justice minister, led a different line, but insisted on the important principle of balance and that there should be two candidates for each [political] side.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, October 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Judge Kanfi-Steinitz, 63, is the vice president of the Jerusalem District Court. She will be the Supreme Court’s first female Mizrahi justice.

She was appointed to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in September 1993. In May 2006, she was appointed as a judge on the Jerusalem District Court and in March 2016 was made vice president of the court. She is the wife of Likud MK Yuval Steinitz.

Judge Kabub, 63, who currently serves as vice president of the Tel Aviv District Court, will be the Supreme Court’s first permanent Muslim justice. All previous Arab Israeli justices have been Christians.

In September 1997, Kabub was appointed as a judge to the Netanya Magistrate’s Court. In June 2003, he was appointed a judge of the Tel Aviv District Court, and in September 2017was appointed as vice president.

His most significant ruling was the 2016 conviction of former billionaire Nochi Dankner for manipulating shares in his company.

Judge Khaled Kabub seen at the Tel Aviv District Court during the opening session in the State prosecution against former Chairman of IDB Group Nochi Dankner, July 13, 2014. (Lior Ben Nisan/POOL/Flash90)

Judge Ronen, 60, clerked for former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and was appointed in June 1995 as a judge in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.

In May 2005, she was appointed a judge of the Tel Aviv District Court. Since 2010, she has been a judge in the economics department of the Tel Aviv District Court.

Kasher, 60, is a partner and head of the litigation department at the Tadmor, Levy & Co legal firm, which is where new Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara worked until recently.

Kasher and Kanfi-Steinitz are considered conservatives, while Kabub and Ronen are considered more liberal.

Supreme Court justices arrive for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two of the new appointees will immediately replace justices Menachem Mazuz and Hanan Melcer, who recently retired. The other two will replace Justices Neal Hendel and George Karra when they retire later this year.

Their appointment process has dragged on for months, repeatedly being delayed by disagreements among the committee members.

Last November, Sa’ar froze the committee’s activities after no consensus could be reached on nominations. After ongoing infighting, the politically diverse panel was then unable to agree on any of the 24 candidates presented to it.

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