The whole damn system is out of order: 6 things to know for January 17
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The whole damn system is out of order: 6 things to know for January 17

A lawyer suspected of trying to promote judges for sexual favors puts the judicial appointments system under a cloud; and politicians continue to spew words and say nothing

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, right, with Israel Bar Association then-chairman Efi Naveh during an event in Tel Aviv on November 9, 2017. (Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, right, with Israel Bar Association then-chairman Efi Naveh during an event in Tel Aviv on November 9, 2017. (Flash90)

1. Lawyer down: The day after revelations about a sex-for-promotions scandal involving the top echelons of Israel’s law community, the press is thunderously tsk-tsking the main suspect and the justice system as a whole.

  • “Shame in a robe,” reads the top headline in the popular Israel Hayom tabloid, referring to the gown lawyers and judges in Israel wear.
  • The affair, in which Bar Association head Efi Nave is accused of trying to promote judges via his position on the state Judicial Appointments Committee in exchange for sexual favors, is called a “terror attack,” in more than one press account.
  • “A brief look at his actions, style and preferences is enough to understand that his pseudo-ideology was a thin and fragile patina that hid only passions, shady deals, the crude fulfillment of personal interests and one central agenda: promoting Efi Nave,” Gidi Weitz writes in Haaretz.

2. A broken system: Nave may be the one in cuffs, but the whole system of judicial appointments is being looked at with a jaundiced eye now that the scandal has broken, especially regarding the alliance between Nave and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to shake up the makeup of Israel’s benches.

  • “The selection system has been political for years, too political,” Ben Dror Yamini laments in Yedioth Ahronoth. “It doesn’t mean the judges were bad. But it means that when it comes to appointments, at least for the High Court, their political agenda and connections were the key to their promotions.”
  • “Judges turned Efi Nave into what he is. They are not sacred,” a Haaretz headline scolds.
  • “Even if the members of the committee didn’t know about the corrupt behavior that was exposed, one question remains: do they indeed appoint or promote judges on more than just their abilities,” columnist Akiva Bigman asks in Israel Hayom.
  • Former judge Horen Feinstein tells Army Radio that the system needs to be totally overhauled, suggesting that an appointment process like the US’s would be less open to corruption. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” he says.

3. Some, though, are defending Shaked and the system.

  • “Anyone who rushes to indict all the judges and the system of how they are picked is making a terrible mistake,” Tovah Tzimuki writes in Yedioth.
  • “The criticism of Shaked reflects the great frustration at her successful term. Shaked didn’t put Nave on the committee, he was put there by the Bar Association, i.e., all of Israel’s lawyers. So why shouldn’t she have worked with him? Because he’s supposedly a sly operator? Two months ago he wasn’t suspected of anything,” an exasperated Netael Bendel writes in Makor Rishon.
  • Israel Hayom’s Haim Shine also see the attack as part of a larger campaign against the minister because of her right-wing ideology. While he admits that the affair is “casting a shadow” on the whole judicial system, he also claims it’s part of a larger campaign by the left wing against Shaked’s drive to appoint right-wing judges to the traditionally liberal High Court.
  • “Shaked tried to diversify the atmosphere of the High Court by appointing judges who understood the limits of judicial power and the need to curb it regarding laws that represent people’s democratic choices. The left will not forgive such a campaign; a left that thinks the High Court, along with academia and the media, is its last bastion.”

4. Almost saying something: Almost breaking his silence, Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party rolled out its social media campaign, with the former army chief putting out a video in which he puts several words in a row without saying much of anything.

  • “I decided to reenlist because I put Israel before everything. Join me and we will take a new path together. Because it should be different, it can be different and we will make it different,” Gantz says in the video.
  • Despite saying little of substance, Gantz’s video still makes top news on several websites, including his joke at the end that “I think I said too much.”
  • Haaretz English edition editor Simon Spungin notes on Twitter that the party, known in Hebrew as Hosen LeYisrael, registered both the @Hosen4Israel and @Hosen2Israel accounts, which I guess was easier than just asking an English speaker which was correct.
  • The political satire show “A Wonderful Country” which kicked off its season Wednesday night, wasted little time in making fun of the quiet Gantz, joking that his acronym on voting ballots come November 9 would be three shins, or “shhh.”

5. No real substance: The social media campaign rollout comes a day after a poll published by Hadashot news showed Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party doing slightly better than Gantz, though both still trail far behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

  • Despite that, most voters see Gantz as the main challenger to Netanyahu, according to the poll.
  • The right wing’s fear of Gantz has become painfully clear with each attack on him as a supposed leftist even for the most milquetoast statements, which ToI’s Haviv Rettig Gur writes apparently augurs how the next three months of campaign will look.
  • “The 2019 election campaign is shaping up as a kind of food chain of pretended indignation, with each party from the right-most flank left-ward accusing everyone to their left of being, well, on the left – carried across the political spectrum until one reaches the actual self-described left in Meretz or the Arab Joint List, where one finds campaigns busily preparing a mirror version of the game, in which everyone to their right is revealed to be a dastardly reactionary,” he writes.
  • In World Politics Review, Avner Inbar writes that the the next three months will actually look a lot like Seinfeld — an election about nothing: “The always entertaining horse-race coverage belies a hopelessly stagnant political system, and a public discourse disinterested in policy and ideas.”

6. The Forward looks ahead: After 121 years, American Jewish publication The Forward is ending its print run.

  • The publication will still be available online — including in Yiddish — but says it is seeking to attract a younger audience that no longer buys print.
  • “It’s a sad day for the publication,” a laid-off staffer tells the New York Post.
  • Though it’s unlikely that any of them were getting the Forverts at home, many Jewish journalists and others still lament the end of the print run for the storied liberal paper.
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