National unity and judicial impartiality were at the top of the agenda in Israel on Thursday.
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern made an overture to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who has just announced he’s running at the head of a new party, called The Israelis, to merge, Stern told Channel 12: “I’m in favor of unity.”
He stipulated, however, that if they do combine, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid would have to be No. 1.
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, who left Blue and White to be Huldai’s No. 2, claimed at an induction ceremony for new judges on Thursday that during his tenure there was a “serious attempt to politicize the appointments of the High Court, in an attempt to make the justices dependent on the whims of the politicians.”
“We stopped it,” Nissenkorn said.
At the ceremony, High Court President Esther Hayut, appeared to be on the same wavelength: “There were those who tried to thwart” the work of the Judicial Appointments Committee for “other considerations,” said Hayut.
In a swipe at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other right-wing critics of the judiciary, she continued:
“For all those seeking to make political capital on our backs, I would recommend you look inward. The court system must remain outside the political game, because the attempts to drag it, and its judges, into the political arena are dangerous.”
Praising her colleagues steadfastness: “In the midst of the political chaos and instability in governance which have been a part of our lives for an extended period, I permit myself to say that despite the repeated attempts to uproot the foundations on which we [the judiciary] are built, the judicial branch has remained an island of stability and a space for respectful, proper and apolitical dialogue.”
Meanwhile, as the politicians continue to maneuver ahead of the March elections, Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay notified Blue and White leader Benny Gantz he’s leaving the party, the seventh member to do so since the Knesset dispersed last week.
Shay thanked Gantz, and said: “I admire Benny, respect him very much and wish for Israel to have more leaders like him — with modesty, honesty, personal example, and unconditional sacrifice for the good of the state.”
Blue and White MK Ram Shefa, also announced his departure, now in talks to become one of Huldai’s “Israelis,” according to the Kan public broadcaster.