Shaked has her day in court
Hebrew media review

Shaked has her day in court

The announcement that 3 conservative judges will assume a role in Israel’s most important, and traditionally liberal, judicial institution leads some to celebrate and others to wallow in fear

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seen with Supreme Court president Miriam Naor, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and members of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seen with Supreme Court president Miriam Naor, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and members of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Israel’s Supreme Court, for years considered a liberal bastion, seems to have undergone a serious makeover with the appointment of three conservative and non-activist judges — David Mintz, Yael Willner, Yosef Elron — as well as George Karra, considered a compromise candidate who gained the backing of the Israel Bar Association. The new appointees will replace outgoing Supreme Court justices Miriam Naor, Elyakim Rubinstein, Salim Joubran and Zvi Zilbertal, who are due to retire.

The editors of the various Hebrew-language media outlets make little effort to hide their feelings following the announcement by the Judicial Appointments Committee, with the headlines, depending on the particular political leaning of the publication, celebrating an all-out victory or warning of a lurking doom.

Haaretz, which sometimes takes care to avoid mixing reports and opinions, laments Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s success in securing the appointment of three of her preferred candidates, and the paper’s front page cries out that “the conservative nominees will change the face of the Supreme Court.”

Editor-in-chief Aluf Benn insists that the effort by Shaked to appoint the three conservative judges was a calculated move ultimately aimed at weakening the Supreme Court and advancing a right-wing agenda. “According to the right wing and the justice minister, the judges must back the government and not involve themselves in its decisions,” Benn writes. “[The justices are expected] to perpetuate the occupation [of the West Bank], while expanding the settlements without granting citizenship to the Palestinians.”

Ido Baum backs Benn’s analysis and further assesses that “had a jurist been asked to assemble the best list for the Supreme Court out of the 30 nominees, none of the four [who were selected] would have appeared on it.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle, Israel Hayom’s headlines reflect great satisfaction with the four appointees, as the editors of the right wing daily describe the new makeup of the Supreme Court bench as no less than a “revolution.” Haim Shine, one of the paper’s leading writers, expresses the opinion that the Supreme Court will now better represent Israeli society. “Based on my familiarity with the new judges through the tracking of their rulings one can safely determine that excellent justices were selected, which will bring honor to the Supreme Court.”

The second major development dominating Hebrew-language media’s agenda is a report that indicated that Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an, a Bedouin man shot dead as his car struck and killed policeman Erez Levi last month, was not in fact a terrorist, as the police had originally announced, but was fired upon by mistake in the chaos of a pre-dawn operation razing homes in his home village. Earlier, video footage that emerged in the hours after the incident showed the officers fired before Abu al-Qia’an accelerated, and that, contrary to police assertions, the car’s lights were on. In addition, Channel 10 reported last month that a police autopsy indicated that a police bullet hit him in the right knee, smashing it. That bullet wound may have caused Abu Al-Qia’an to lose control of his car, the TV report said.

In light of the findings, Yedioth Ahronoth accuses Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan of “running over the truth,” in reference to the official’s initial hasty conclusion that Abu al-Qia’an was a nationalistically motivated terrorist, inspired by the Islamic State group. Erdan on Thursday admitted it was “possible” he was mistaken, and said he would apologize to the family of Abu al-Qia’an if a Justice Ministry investigation concluded the incident was not a terror attack. However, Erdan also defended his earlier statements, saying he had relied on police reports from Umm al-Hiran. The final report by the ministry’s Internal Police Internal Investigations Department has not yet been released and officials say it’s still being worked on.

On a lighter note, if you feel like taking a break from Israeli or, for that matter, global affairs, NASA has some good news for you. Researchers working with the aeronautics and aerospace agency announced Thursday that they had discovered seven Earth-like planets orbiting a small star in our galaxy, and that three of the aforementioned celestial bodies are perfectly perched to harbor life-nurturing oceans of water. Israel Hayom’s corny headline announces that there is “something new under the sun (but not ours), while Haaretz excitedly reports that the discovery promises to reignite the search for extraterrestrial lifeforms outside our own planet.

According to the researchers, the proximity of the seven planets to Earth and the dimness of their red dwarf star, called Trappist-1, will allow astronomers to parse each one’s atmosphere in search of chemical signatures of biological activity. The Trappist-1 system, a mere 39 light years distant, has the largest number of Earth-sized planets known to orbit a single star.

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