Curtailing the power of Israel’s court system is a matter of “life and death,” New Right party Knesset candidate Caroline Glick said Monday evening at an election panel in Jerusalem, arguing that the fact that the court allows people to petition against house demolitions can harm Israeli deterrence.
Asked how to better deal with Palestinian terror attacks, in the wake of Sunday’s fatal stabbing and shooting at Ariel junction in which an Israeli rabbi with 12 children and a soldier were killed, Glick cited the need to reform the Supreme Court, one of her right-wing list’s key campaign issues.
Since under the Israeli system everybody has “standing” before the court, “then anybody can say: Don’t destroy the homes of the families of terrorists that just butchered Jews sitting at a bus station because they’re Jewish,” Glick said, speaking alongside representatives from four other rival parties.
“Standing” is a legal term referring to someone’s ability to file a suit in court. The Israeli government’s policy to demolish the homes of terrorists is often challenged in the High Court of Justice (a specific function of the Supreme Court) by pro-Palestinian activists arguing that the practice constitutes an illegal form of collective punishment. In some cases, such petitions manage to significantly delay or even avert the demolitions of homes of relatives of terrorists, especially if it cannot be proved that they knew or were supportive of the terrorist’s act.
The fact that the court can be asked to halt demolitions allows potential terrorists to believe that no harm will be done to their loved ones if they kill Jews, argued Glick, who is sixth on the New Right list for the April 9 elections.
By contrast, “if they know that bad things will happen to their families — that is that their home will be destroyed — then we’re going to deter them from picking up a machete in the morning and going and try and kill Jews waiting for a bus,” the Chicago-born former journalist said at the English-language election panel, organized by The Times of Israel and AACI (the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).
“So when we talk about need to constrain the power of the court, we’re talking specifically about this. It’s a life and death issue; it’s exceedingly important,” she added.
Labor party activist Amos Katz rejected Glick’s comments, saying it was a “wonderful thing in a democratic state” that anybody could petition the court. “It’s well worth our while to keep our democracy intact, and to make sure that when we do do things [like house demolitions], the court has considered it,” he said.
Meretz activist Uri Zaki also took issue with efforts to weaken the courts. “The Israeli judiciary is something we have to be so proud of. And the attack we hear in the last 23 hours is so dangerous,” said Zaki, whose partner Tamar Zandberg is chair of Meretz, referring to the New Right’s campaign calling for sweeping reforms of Israel’s justice system, including a dramatic change in the way Supreme Court justices are selected. “If you relate to the Supreme Court justices as enemies — that is the destruction of the Temple,” Zaki said, presumably referring to New Right juxtaposing its goals of “reining in the courts” and “defeating Hamas.”
Former Jerusalem mayor and Likud Knesset candidate Nir Barkat largely agreed with Glick about the need to reform Israel’s legal system, but at the same time argued that the security forces have done a “phenomenal job” in fighting terrorism, noting that 95 percent of planned attacks are thwarted before they can be carried out.
“The biggest challenge, I believe, is decreasing the motivation for terror. My experience in Jerusalem is, on one hand, to really be aggressive with the bad guys; on the other hand, be really good to the good guys,” he said. “The Middle East is a tough neighborhood. And if you give a finger, they will take the whole hand.”
By way of illustration, Barkat, who is in the 9th slot on the Likud slate and thus all but certain of a Knesset seat, noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demonstrated the will to take on the Iranians, having convinced the US to pull out of the nuclear deal, and is now working to actively prevent the Tehran regime from gaining a military foothold in Syria. “At the same time, he is really good with the moderate Arab states,” he added.
At the sold-out event, which was moderated by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, the five panelists also discussed at some length the Supreme Court’s controversial decision Sunday to ban Otzma Yehudit party candidate Michael Ben Ari from running in the April 9 elections, while approving the candidacy of an Arab party slate and a far-left Jewish candidate.
“Ofir Kassif has been known to say hateful stuff, disgusting, irritating stuff,” Labor’s Katz, who is not running for the Knesset this time, said about the Hadash party candidate. “But that is no reason to ban someone. Michael Ben Ari, on the other hand, has been blatantly racist and has incited to violence. That is a bridge too far.”
Idan Roll, the 34th candidate on the Blue and White list, noted that his party’s representatives in the Central Election Committee voted in favor of disqualifying Kassif, the Arab-Israeli Balad party and Otzma Yehudit, Ben-Ari’s neo-Kahanist faction that, at Netanyahu’s behest, merged with the National Union and the Jewish Home to build the Union of Right Wing Parties.
“The Likud was once a very significant party in Israel. It called itself a national and liberal movement,” Roll said. “I think you forgot the liberal part. Because no one in his right mind… wants the Kahanists in the Knesset,” he added to applause. “Israel is a Jewish, democratic state and it must remains such. And the democracy must protect itself,” he concluded.
Asked by a member of the audience if they condemned Otzma Yehudit leaders for glorifying Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron, all did so. Barkat replied: “Yes I condemn them. And I fight violence and racism all over. And I’m going to tell you a secret: I am not going to vote for them,” he said of Otzma Yehudit.
“I also condemn many people on the other side,” Barkat added. “However, I think we have wide enough shoulders to deal with extremes. As mayor of Jerusalem I managed many extremes: right, left, ultra-Orthodox, the secular. He said he respected the decision made by the court, “although I would like to see more equality: either let them all in, or keep both extremes out.”