Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked let loose an unprecedented broadside against the Israeli High Court on Monday, charging that its decision to strike down the natural gas deal does great harm both to the economy and the judiciary system itself.
“The High Court ruling on the natural gas plan is a move in the wrong direction. The ruling striking down the government’s gas plan is liable to cost billions of shekels. I hope the world does not interpret the ruling as meaning that Israel abuses its investors,” Shaked said in a speech at an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat.
But as bad as the economic fallout, Shaked contended the legal fallout was worse.
“I regard the legal result of the ruling as more serious than the enormous economic damage the ruling caused in the gas sector. The Court has once again become a place for adjudication of purely political and macroeconomic questions that should be decided in other places by Knesset vote, not in Court.”
The justice minister argued against the logic of the Court’s ruling too, which would, if applied in other cases, lead to paralysis in government.
The judges said that the stability clause in the gas agreement, which provided the gas companies with a 10-year pledge not to change the terms of the deal, was unacceptable because it ties the hands of future governments in making gas policy.
Shaked said, “I don’t understand why the same reasoning did not deprive the government of the right to sign the Oslo Accords and other agreements,” which binds the state of Israel to long-term policies.
The remarks provoked criticism of Shaked not only from the Israeli opposition, but from other senior officials.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said that “the High Court’s position and independence must be defended.”
“Even if one disagrees with the High Court decision on natural gas, it has spoken its word and it must be followed,” said Mandelblit. “It is one thing to have a serious issue-related disagreement, and another thing to directly attack the Court.”
MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Camp) demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu fire Shaked.
“Shaked is trying to destroy the justice system’s independence, to scare and to threaten the judges. This is unfortunate conduct for someone who is supposed to strengthen the High Court in Israel, one of the best courts in the world.”
In response, Shaked took a swipe at what she regards as the hypocrisy of the Court’s defenders.
“I am disappointed that those who are always talking about the need for free expression tend to restrict it when it comes to things with which they disagree and that are difficult to hear.”