In Washington this week for the AIPAC Convention, Hamodia conducted an exclusive interview with Israel’s rising political star, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Shaked discussed her views on the peace process, her work on legal reform, and her prediction on whether the current, tenuous coalition can be maintained.
At the AIPAC conference, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr said, “We must all work … toward that future, two states for two peoples: one Jewish with secure and defensible borders and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future.” What do you think of that statement?
I think that AIPAC needs to lead the policy of the government of Israel, and it’s true that our prime minister is talking about a two-state solution, but we definitely think it’s not a feasible solution, and it can lead to the establishment of a failed state. We did a trial in Gaza; the trial failed. A terror organization took over the Gaza Strip. We got only terror, tunnels and missiles, and we’re not going to do this experiment again.
I think we should apply the Israeli law to the Israeli towns and villages [in Judea and Samaria], and to normalize the life there, and in the far future, to apply the Israeli law in Area C. In Area C, there are a half-million Israelis and 100,000 Palestinians; they will have citizenship with full rights, of course, like myself. And that Area A and B will be part of a confederation with Gaza, with Jordan.
Many in Israel are applauding President Trump’s announcement that he will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. But he later said, “Israel will pay for that,” indicating that in return for the embassy move, Israel will have to make concessions. Do those comments concern you? Will Israel have to make concessions for the embassy move, and if so, will the move have been worthwhile?
I think that President Trump moved the embassy not for Israel, but mainly for his political base. It was his promise before the election. He is a man of honor, and he is working to fulfill his promises. His own political base demanded it, and he’s definitely thinking out of the box, and is not locked into old paradigms of the State Department.
This is, of course, also a huge step for Israel, and we are very thankful for that. We thank him for his courage and his determination. I don’t want to talk about things I don’t know about, and to assume that something will happen, as far as concessions are concerned. As I said, he did it mainly for his own political base, and also for Israel.
Who specifically are you referring to by “his own political base”?
I don’t want to interfere in American politics. But you know that it was one of his promises before the election. So he actually did what he promised to his voters.
I’d like to discuss some of your work as justice minister. You have been described as supporting judicial conservatism as opposed to the judicial activism of Aharon Barak.
In the last 20 years there was a judicial revolution in Israel, led by former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, in which the Court interfered in many subjects that in my opinion are not relevant for the courts. They are micromanaging government decisions, interfering with Knesset legislation.
I had the opportunity — one which I think has never happened before — that a justice minister can lead the selection of six judges out of 15 on the Supreme Court. That’s 40 percent — the equivalent of a U.S. president nominating to the Supreme Court more than three justices in four years.
Definitely, when I chose the judges, I chose conservative judges who will not interfere in the Knesset, in government decisions, unless it’s a really severe case like affecting human rights or illegal action. Only in those cases, I think, should the judges interfere.
We will know only in the future, because with judges, you can never know what’ll be their verdict, and of course they have total judicial independence.
So, of course, we’ll only know in the future if we’ve succeeded, but I nominated not only six judges to the Supreme Court, but also 250 judges out of 750 in the system. I put a lot of effort into that; it was my first goal as minister of justice.
You’re also proposing a law that would allow the Knesset to redraft and re-legislate a law after the Court struck it down.
The Supreme Court never got a specific approval from the Knesset to cancel law. We call what they did a “revolution” because they just took this authority. In other countries, the Supreme Court has written in the Constitution that they can interfere and cancel law. In Israel, that never happened; they just took the authority.
So I want to promote a Basic Law that will make order, and set the relationship between the three branches of government.
On the one hand, the Supreme Court will get the ability to cancel laws, and on the other hand, the Knesset will be able to override and legislate again a law that the Supreme Court canceled, after four years. This is the Canadian approach, and we adopted it in 1994 in one of our Basic Laws – in the basic law of freedom of occupation.
Are you proposing that Israel should draft sort of an American-style constitution?
Of course, it would be best if Israel had a constitution, but realistically it can’t be done, because Israel is a very tribal society. I don’t see a way that today [a constitution would be drafted]. After the judicial revolution in which the Court took power for itself, there is a lot of suspicion between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. And there are many factions that don’t want to legislate a constitution because they are afraid the Supreme Court will interpret it very broadly. So realistically, there is no chance that we’ll have a constitution.
If Israel would make a constitution with a Bill of Rights similar to America’s, besides the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature, there are other basic rights that constitutions have, which may not exist in Israel now…
We have the Basic Law of human dignity and freedom.
I’m specifically asking because Israel has something now that I don’t think any Western democracy has: the six-month administrative detention, in which terror suspects have been held without charges. What do you think about this law? Is it a good policy for a free state to have?
Yes, because Israel is a villa in a jungle. Neither the United States nor Europe are sitting in the Middle East, where Assad has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people on our northern border; we had, until recently, ISIS all over; a terror organization rules in Gaza – Hamas – which is also trying to assert itself more and more in Judea and Samaria. So we are surrounded by terror organizations, and in the reality of the Middle East, it’s definitely necessary.
Last week, you met with the Am Echad mission, a group of American Orthodox Jews seeking to gain recognition as a significant segment of American Jewry connected to Israel, and therefore worthy of a seat at the table when American Jewry engages with the Israeli government. How will you seek to connect with the Orthodox American Jews?
I have a good relationship with them, and I’m also very close to the ultra-Orthodox in Israel; they asked me to meet Am Echad. I have a very good relationship with Yehadut HaTorah, with Shas.
It was a nice conversation.
What do you believe is the solution regarding the issue of drafting yeshivah students?
This interview actually interrupted me – I was in middle of trying to draft a bill!
I think this is a fake crisis because we definitely can achieve a proper version that the ultra-Orthodox will be able to accept and the coalition will be able to accept.
Let’s wait a few days, and I’m sure everything will be okay.
I’d like to ask about the BDS movement, which is supported not only by non-Jews who are anti-Israel, but by many leftist Jews as well, including some in the Reform movement. What do you say to the BDS movement? And specifically, do you believe that they are really only against the settlements, or are they against Israel totally?
The BDS movement is just another form of the old anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, there are Jews who fail to distinguish, but it’s just the same anti-Semitism in a different shade. They cover themselves in very liberal values of human rights, etc., but in reality they are against the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
However, they have failed in all the courts around the world. In any legal battle that we had with the BDS movement, they failed.
I think that also in the United States, they exist on the college campuses, but they do not exist outside the campuses.
I am very sad when I see Jews cooperating with them.
Finally, how long do think this government will survive?
I hope it will survive until 2019. We are working on the drafting bill; we’ll [know more once the bill is presented] on Friday.