Newly appointed Israeli justice minister seeks limits on judicial power

Ayelet Shaked made the comments during a ceremony welcoming her to the justice ministry on Sunday.
By Fred Lambert  |  May 17, 2015 at 6:04 PM
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JERUSALEM, May 17 (UPI) -- Israel's newly appointed justice minister made comments about limiting the supreme court's powers over the country's legislative and executive branches during a ceremony on Sunday.

"It is with great excitement and anticipation that I begin my task as justice minister in charge of the judicial system, which sanctifies law, truth and peace," the Jerusalem Post quoted Ayelet Shaked, a 39-year-old member of Israel's right-wing Jewish Home party, as saying during a welcoming ceremony to the justice ministry in Jerusalem.

"The justice system is a foundation of our existence as a democratic society; I will not be the one to soften its bite," she continued. "But I will also not allow it to eat away at the legal authority of the legislative and executive branches. We must find the formula for the right balance between the branches."

Officials swore in Shaked as the country's justice minister on Thursday. The appointment was seen as one of the most controversial by Israel's newly elected government, which is headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party and holds only one seat over left-wing opposition in parliament.

Since her election to parliament in 2013, Shaked has backed bills seeking to limit court powers, including a law proposed by Netanyahu's right-wing coalition that would make it easier for legislative and executive powers to override judicial decree and another that would require all 15 justices to consider whether a law should be thrown out.

The New York Times characterized Shaked as the "Michele Bachmann of Israeli politics" due to her appearance and right-wing stance, quoting her as saying she seeks "to strengthen the Jewish identity" of Israel and "to have a democratic, Jewish, strong state."

The former software engineer supports occupation of most of the West Bank, the deportation of African refugees and blocking foreign funding of advocacy groups, which would put at risk domestic organizations critical of Israeli policies, the Times reports.

She also backs a nationality bill that critics say would disenfranchise the state's non-Jewish population, according to the Times.

Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi told the Times that Shaked's appointment "is not only a threat to peace and security, but generates a culture of hate and lawlessness."

However, the justice minister's efforts may be hampered by the new government's minor one-seat majority in parliament.

"She has no majority," Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister from the left-wing Labor Party, told Israeli media. "My concern that she could take the Israeli justice system back to dark days exists, but it is minor."

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