Regev Responds

Tiberias mayor: a lightning rod for Israel's battle over religion and state

Renewed Haredi assault on the Supreme Court

This week temporarily halted the removal-from-office procedure, which Interior Minister Deri (Leader of Shas) initiated against Mayor of Tiberias Ron Kobi. Kobi has become a symbol and lightning rod, as a crusader against religious coercion.

Aryeh Deri, source: WikipediaAryeh Deri, source: Wikipedia

Kobi has become a symbol and lightning rod, as a crusader against religious coercion. He launched a number of initiatives in his city of Tiberias, which challenged the long-held prohibitions martialled by Deri, et al., regarding "blue laws" and Sabbath restrictions.

While the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the merits of the issue and has only temporarily postponed Kobi's removal until further review of his budget be conducted and his claims of conflict-of-interest against Minister Deri be explored, this did not stop senior Haredi spokespeople from using this Supreme Court intervention from renewing their assault on the Supreme Court in an attempt to further delegitimize it. These attacks included, for instance:

    MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) - "The Supreme Court's decision to grant immunity to the mayor of Tiberias, thanks to a crazy anti-Haredi campaign, shows the animosity of Supreme Court Justices who encourage hate against ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Denial of the Minister of Interior's authority proves that there are dictators in Jerusalem." (Eichler deliberately misrepresented the Court's ruling - the Justices did not grant the major immunity.)
    MK Michael Malchieli (Shas) - "Unfortunately, it has been proven again that in Israel 2019 there is no reason for the citizens of Israel to go to the polls. There are Justices who will silence everything, particularly if they have an opportunity along the way to override elected officials who are legally elected. Needless to say, the Supreme Court Justices trampled over all professional decisions required by law, contrary to all logic.
    MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) - "Regretfully, the Court provides assistance to a man unfit for the office of mayor... only because he is waving an anti-religious flag. The Court that lacks public trust demonstrates again that it's enough for the Justices that one use an anti-religious flag in order to legitimize an unfit individual."
This is not democracy; this is the ugly face of the Court Junta's rule. It's unbelievable.
    MK Ya'akov Asher (UTJ faction head) - "One is left to realize that if this involved a Haredi mayor, the enlightened Supreme Court Justices would have summarily rejected this surreal petition, push him out the door, and depose him without keeping him in office for one more hour... this is not democracy; this is the ugly face of the Court Junta's rule. It's unbelievable."

We have repeatedly alerted our readers in recent months, prior to the elections in April, of the pending treat to the civil judiciary and especially to the Supreme Court that emanates from the previous Coalition partners, who plan to include the dangerous "override" clause and other measures in order to intimidate and erode the independence and powers of Israel's Supreme Court. The political realities following the April elections frustrated these plans. Given this week's strong reactions from the Haredi Knesset members, it is clear that as far as they are concerned, it's "don't confuse me with the facts - my mind is made up". The Supreme Court would be doomed if they once again gain a position in the Coalition, enabling them to dictate and implement their plan to undermine the beacon of light for the rule of law and block out its rays.

Fortunately, the unfolding political picture indicates the almost unprecedented possibility that this effort may be reversed, and a civil Coalition may be formed, as we have indicated before, for this enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews.

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