The People of Israel vs. the Judiciary: A Crisis of Confidence

The People of Israel vs. the Judiciary: A Crisis of Confidence

Simha Nyr, Adv.
14.02.2010 23:31
Democracy with no Mirror

Democracy with no Mirror


The Israeli judges lose public trust, but they don’t want to look at the mirror *** They would like to have the public replaced, but, alas, in Israel there exists no alternative public.



The Judiciary in Israel, including, maybe mainly, the Supreme Court, experiences a continuous loss of the public confidence.  It has been thus always, but since the mid-nineties, when Justice Aharon Barak took the presidency of the Supreme Court, the rate of losing confidence became higher and higher.  Now, after Barak’s successor, Justice Dorit Beinisch, took this office in 2006, it seems that the judiciary has completely lost control.

The “explanations”

In the beginning, the judiciary and its spokespersons denied that they were losing public trust, but later, when statistical studies showed the bitter truth, they started to give changing explanations to this situation.

The first “explanation” was that the other public systems were also losing public trust. It is true, but irrelevant.  It’s irrelevant because if, say, the political system has but 50% of public trust, it’s common and understood, because politicians everywhere are regarded as people whose only concern is their own jobs, etc., but if the legal system has but 80%, it’s “the end of the world”, because, as Barak himself used to say, the judiciary has nothing but the public trust.

Moreover, in multi-annual perspective, surveys show that the decline in the public trust in the judiciary is significantly steeper than as to the other public bodies.

The next explanation was that “the very fact that the public turns to us shows that the public trusts us”, but this is a false conclusion. It is not true, because the public has no other alternative. Moreover, we never know what might happen if the public had more trust in the judiciary.  It is more probable that in such a case the public would have flooded the courts, letting them collapse from the burden.

The next explanation was that “our critics don’t read our verdicts”, but that is nonsense:  They read, and read, and read – and find nothing.  One argues something, and in the verdict there is no reference to one’s arguments.  Many of the verdicts have basically not more than two words:  nacha da’ati, which mean “I am rest assured”, but they give no reasons for their being “rest assured”.

One explanation is missing

Trust, like love, is an emotion, a feeling.

When you lose the love of your beloved ones, you can’t blame them. You have to look at the mirror, and ask yourself why did it happen to you, what have you done, or failed to do, that brought you to that point.

The Israeli judiciary doesn’t have – and doesn’t want to have – a mirror. Dorit Beinisch and her colleagues will never admit that they share at least some of the responsibility for their failure in public trust. They would like to have the public replaced, but, alas, in Israel there exists no alternative public.

A shoe at their face

Ten years ago, under the title “Aharon Barak is neither an angel nor a monster, but he has a problem of public trust”, I warned that within five years the judiciary will get a “hard and painful blow”. I gave examples for that blow, some of which are physical attacking of judges, including murder.

Nobody has listened to the warnings.

It took less than four years until a judge was murdered in Israel, and in the very last days a shoe was thrown at the face of Justice Dorit Beinisch, the Supreme Court President, while she sat on the bench in a courtroom.  A few days later, a car of another judge was set on fire.

Why does the Judiciary Lose Confidence?

Our law teachers used to quote, every now and then, the saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  The Israeli judges enjoy absolute power, absolute immunity, de jure & de facto, either in criminal law or in civil law, and even disciplinary measures against judges are extremely rare.

What happens to those teachers when they themselves become judges? They “forget” their own mishnah.

Moreover, there is a very strong belief in the Israeli public that the judges, especially in the Supreme Court, are politically left-oriented. Being not politically identified, I don’t want to enter this issue, but I can say positively that this belief is not groundless.

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