Ayelet Shaked: Justice system engaged in ‘hostile takeover’ of Israeli democracy

Ayelet Shaked warns against the justice system carrying out a “hostile takeover” of Israeli democracy.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a Knesset meeting on Wednesday, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that the justice system cannot and should not interfere in the elections that will be held in March if a government cannot be formed by midnight.

The emergency meeting was called by the Labor party’s Revital Swid on the subject of “Preserving the Rule of Law.” It followed the High Court’s order this week to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to decide whether he believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can run for re-election when under indictment in three corruption cases.

Justice Ofer Grosskopf had also asked if Mandelblit thinks the court should make a ruling before the elections.

The law as it currently stands does not force a prime minister to stand down unless and until he is convicted. As the law will not be changed by the time the Knesset votes to dissolve itself Wednesday night, barring a last-second political agreement, Shaked urged her colleagues to let matters rest as they are.

“The determination of the justice system that the prime minister cannot run and receive the mandate for forming a government is a hostile takeover by the justice system of democracy in Israel,” she said. “The public won’t accept it and I know that it won’t happen.”

“It can’t be that the law allows the prime minister to govern and the justice system comes along and invents new laws. I’m telling you, it won’t pass quietly and I’m asking, don’t do such a thing. Let the nation decide, it’s no less smart than the judges of the Supreme Court.”

In reaction, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Elyakim Rubinstein, said at the meeting, “There is no State Attorney’s Office within the State Attorney’s Office. There is no state within the state. To say that there is a legal coup – such a thing never happened. It’s a libel.”

The court’s pressure on Mandelblit came as a result of a petition filed by a group of leaders in the high-tech industry that said it’s critical for voters to know if Netanyahu can legally form a coalition before the elections, because it may well affect how they vote.

The attorney-general had ruled that since the polls are three months away, and no one knows if the right-wing bloc will have the majority to give Netanyahu the mandate to form a government, the problem was theoretical and therefore there was no need to make a decision.

Adding force to his theoretical argument, the prime minister has agreed to a leadership primary in the Likud party before the elections, to take place on Dec. 26. Only one MK has announced he’s running against Netanyahu, former education minister Gideon Sa’ar.