Judges Will Stay Home During Yehudah and Shomron Celebration

YERUSHALAYIM -

A day after the leaders of Israel’s center-left parties, Zionist Camp and Yesh Atid, denied reports they will be boycotting celebrations of 50 years of Jewish return to Yehudah and Shomron, judges of the High Court said on Tuesday that they will not attend the ceremonies, The Times of Israel reported.

Court President Mirian Naor explained that it was felt their attendance, or sending a representative on their behalf, would be “inappropriate.”

The decision was made following an appeal from Meretz MK Issawi Frej, who objected to a report that the Court would be represented there.

“Several weeks ago … Justice Neal Hendel was asked by the chief justice to represent the judges at the event,” Naor wrote in a letter to Frej. “Several days ago, a detailed invitation was received. Following that, after revisiting the topic, it was decided that it is inappropriate for a representative of the court to attend the event. Therefore, Justice Hendel will not be taking part.”

The Court said Hendel had phoned the organizers personally to apologize for not attending.

Frej was appreciative of Tuesday’s decision: “This is a controversial political event, and Justice Hendel’s participation would have undermined the trust in the Supreme Court for a large part of the Israeli public,” he said. “The court should deal with law and not politics; this is what it has done until now — and it is a good thing that it will continue to do so.”

However, event organizers were reportedly offended, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a senior member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, asked Naor to reverse her decision, according to Channel 1, arguing that it will be an official government event, not a political rally.

The ceremony, set for the industrial park in the Etzion Bloc, is being funded by the Culture and Education ministries in the amount of 10 million shekels ($2.8 million), and will feature a speech by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) denounced the decision as “shameful.”

“The political positions of the heads of the judicial system were shown today most clearly, with the unprecedented and shameful decision of the justices,” he said in a statement. “It is clear, once again, that the court judges bring a personal left-wing political agenda to the courtroom which is reflected in their rulings which repeatedly harm settlers and the settlement enterprise.”

Levin also called on the government not to extend invitations to the judges for any future official events.

Shlomo Neeman, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said he was not surprised by decision.

“Every time I am amazed to see public figures being surprised by President Naor’s view,” he said, and accused the justices of “using the lofty role of High Court judge to promote an ideological agenda.”