Newly appointed Israeli Justice Minister, Amir Ohana was forced yesterday to clarify that he would uphold Supreme Court rulings after earlier saying that not all court rulings had to be enforced.
In an interview with Channel 12 News on Wednesday, Ohana was asked whether, in certain situations, Supreme Court decisions should not be followed. He said: “Not every ruling needs to be enforced, just as not every law needs to be enforced. The ultimate consideration has to be preserving citizens’ lives.”
In the interview Ohana gave the example of a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that he believed should not have been followed, in which he said the court refused to allow the military to destroy several Palestinian buildings along the Kissufim route in the Gaza Strip. Terrorists then used one of the building as cover to murder pregnant Israeli woman Tali Hatuel and her four daughters.
After the interview was published, Ohana released a statement, saying: “I gave an example of an extreme case that happened in reality. We are not talking about regular court decisions, and we are not talking about decisions that I happen to disagree with. I was talking about the most extreme instances, where a black flag flies over them, and they could cost lives. But even the obvious has to be said: We need to respect the decisions of the courts.”
Ohana’s remarks were criticised by Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut who said Ohana’s remarks were: “A preface to an assault against the Supreme Court”.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said: “In the State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state founded on the principle of the rule of law, the obligation to obey the ruling of the courts is a basic tenet that guarantees the protection of the rights of every citizen in the state. This is not an option that one can choose — it is an obligation upon every citizen and every governmental authority.”
Ohana’s appointment as interim Justice Minister has been viewed by some commentators in Israel as an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to weaken the justice system and help him in his efforts to be granted immunity from prosecution. Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted Thursday that: “Court decisions are binding upon everyone.”