An Israeli Scandal Involving Judicial Appointments Results from a Fundamentally Flawed System

Jan. 18 2019

Dominating Israeli headlines this week was the arrest of Effi Naveh, the head of the Israeli Bar Association, on suspicion of bartering judicial appointments for sex. In Israel, a nine-member panel—in which the head of the Bar Association sits ex officio—is responsible for the selection of all the countries’ judges. The panel’s other members are three sitting Supreme Court justices, another representative of the Bar Association, the justice minister, and three other Knesset members. Yitzḥak Ram argues that this system, intended to depoliticize the judicial system, in fact fosters corruption:

When such immense power is put into the hands of so very few, corruption becomes probable. . . . In democratic societies, [however], mechanisms are created to limit and monitor the government, to mitigate the concerns over potential corruption. One of these mechanisms is transparency. Sunlight, according to the former U.S. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, is the best disinfectant. [But] the judicial-selection committee is the civilian body most shielded from the sunlight. Its hearings are closed and its protocols secret. In 2008, then-Justice [and now chief justice] Esther Ḥayut ruled that the judicial-selection committee was not a “public authority” under the Freedom of Information Law, and therefore was not bound by it. [Ḥayut also co-chairs the selection committee] . . .

The concentration of power in the hands of a small committee that operates behind a thick curtain is an invitation for corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and other underhanded dealings. . . . [Its] makeup gives the judges a built-in advantage: they constitute one-third of the committee; they don’t have to deal with a coalition or an opposition; and they vote as one. . . . Due to the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” system, uniformity of thought has pervaded the Supreme Court, such that its monopoly over legal interpretation and principles has become almost entirely hegemonic. . . .

The system itself has to be changed: this pernicious committee has to be terminated. appointment power must be taken away from the judges, and judges should be appointed by elected officials in an open and transparent process, per the norm in Western democracies.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Supreme Court of Israel

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians