Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon Barak recently tried
to promote Oded Elyagon, Chief Justice of the Magistrate's
Court of the southern region, as a judge in the Tel Aviv
Regional Court. This appointment conflicts with a decision of
the Committee for the Appointment of Judges not to promote
Elyagon due to his hostile remarks about the religious and
chareidi communities and additional groups.
Barak has been spearheading an effort to appoint Elyagon to
the Regional Court in the wake of a decision of Justice
Minister Yossi Beilin not to extend Elyagon's term of office
as the Chief Justice of the Magistrate's Court of the south
for more than two terms, which Elyagon has already completed.
Actually Beilin extended Elyagon's term by half a year so
that the latter would be able to complete the transfer of the
Beersheba courts to their new building.
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin announced that at the end of
Elyagon's term of office in Beersheba he would not continue
to serve as a judge, due to his infamous speech in which he
called the religious and chareidi sector lice and parasites.
He said that they are gigantic mutations of lice, the size of
human beings. Chief Justice Barak was present when some of
these remarks were originally delivered.
Barak's proposal is supposed to be discussed at the next
meeting of Committee for the Appointment of Judges, which is
scheduled for the beginning of next month.
Sources in the judicial system say that Barak's desire to
appoint Elyagon to the regional court stems from a sharp
conflict which developed between Barak and Beilin concerning
the appointment of two judges to the High Court which is
supposed to take place in the near future.
Justice Eliezer Rivlin, who now has only a temporary
appointment to the High Court, is supposed to receive a
permanent appointment at the beginning of next month
replacing Yaakov Kedmi. However Justice Minister Beilin said
that his approval of that appointment is conditional on
agreement of Barak that the next available appointment is a
candidate of Beilin's choice. Beilin has proposed two
candidates: the president of the Journalists Council
Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, and the Attorney General,
Beilin says that it is time to change the current practice
according to which the judges of the High Court, and mainly
its Chief Justice, decide on all appointments to the High
Court. He says that until now, mainly regional judges were
appointed, but that the time has come to open the ranks of
the High Court to other sectors as well.
Barak strongly opposes Beilin approach, and at this point it
is not clear what will happen next in the appointments to the
High ranking sources said that it is because of the sharp
dispute between Beilin and Barak that the latter has decided
to try to promote Elyagon to the Regional Court. They say
that Barak's actions totally negate a decision by a majority
of the members of the Committee for the Appointment of judges
not to promote Elyagon to the Regional Court. They also say
that this decision was a compromise since members of the
committee demanded that Elyagon be fired two years ago and
removed entirely from the judicial system.
It should be noted that the Israel Bar Association also filed
an appeal with the High Court against a proposal for
Elyagon's promotion to the Regional Court some time ago, but
in its response the government announced that Elyagon's
appointment would be dropped from the committee's agenda. In
the wake of this announcement the Bar Association withdrew
its petition on this issue. Justice Eliyahu Matza said that
the Bar could re-file its appeal on this issue if it felt
that circumstances require such a measure.
In the deliberations of the judicial appointment committee
Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said if it all agreed that Elyagon
deserved to be punished for his remarks and his promotion be
denied, why shouldn't the obvious step of totally dismissing
him from the judicial system also be accepted? He said that
the official reprimand of Chief Justice of the High Court
Aharon Barak was not enough of a punishment. High Court
Justice Mishael Cheshin agreed that Elyagon's behavior
justifies his non-promotion, but he opposed divesting him of
what he was already given.
Rabbi Moshe Gafni said in response to the latest
developments: "If Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon
Barak wants Elyagon to continue presiding as a judge, then he
is correct in my opinion, because Elyagon is indeed suited to
the judicial system as Barak sees it. Elyagon offended the
handicapped, the chareidim and various other sectors, and
every enlightened state would dismiss him on the spot. If two
litigants appear before him, an irreligious one and a
religious one, Elyagon would without a doubt be prejudiced
toward the irreligious litigant. No proper judicial system
would allow such a person continue in office for even one
Rabbi Gafni added that Aharon Barak wants the exclusive right
to decide who is suitable to be a judge, and who isn't, who
will be promoted and who not, and that he himself should be
the sole power in that system. "It is not only that he
decides ideological issues, but upon seeing that he has the
total backing of a particular sector, Barak thinks that he
can also decide in an autocratic manner who will be a judge
and who will be promoted. The fact that a particular judge
called an entire sector lice and leeches and he insulted the
handicapped, doesn't bother him in the least, because if
Barak decided that he should be a judge in the Regional
Court, so must it be. In my opinion such a judicial system is
warped and Elyagon suits it very well."
Rabbi Gafni noted that the Justice Minister Yossi Beilin
recently told him that he is determined that Elyagon will not
continue in any judicial capacity after he finishes the
additional six month term, and that this is in accordance
with the policy determined in the matter of the Judge Shlomo
Bareli in Jerusalem, that judges against whom there are
justified complaints will not be allowed to continue in their
judicial positions. "I plan ask the Justice Minister again,
and hope that he will fulfill his promises."