It is impossible not to make a connection between the intentional running over of the policeman this Friday night by an Arab car thief and the Shahar Mizrahi story.
A number of years ago, police officer Shahar Mizrahi felt that his life was in danger when an Arab car thief attempted to run him over. Mizrahi shot and killed his attacker and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. He appealed to the High Court, and the justices, headed by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, doubled his sentence to 30 months.
The police officers that tried to arrest the Arab car thief threatening to run them over this Friday night remembered the Shahar Mizrahi precedent well. None of them wanted to end his career in jail. One officer was run over, smashed against the windshield, thrown into the air, and seriously injured. I do not know the full extent of the police officer’s injuries, but he will probably remain crippled for his entire life, as it is not easy to bounce back from such severe injuries. It is Beinisch and her supportive colleagues in the Mizrahi verdict who are responsible for the cheapening of the police officers’ lives.
It is not only the police who are vulnerable; it is also Israeli soldiers. The High Court rulings on the procedure for arresting a suspect make it extremely difficult to take a suspect by surprise. This has made the soldiers’ lives cheaper than the lives of Israel’s enemies.
Remember the law proposed by MK Yariv Levin that would require a Knesset hearing for all High Court candidates? It was buried by the prime minister. The law dictates that the public’s representatives, who more or less proportionally represent the spectrum of views in Israeli society as expressed in the elections, would ask the candidates various questions. What do you think would be the fate of a candidate who, when asked if he or she considers it legal for a police officer or soldier who feels directly threatened to shoot in order to eliminate the threat, would answer that they have no such right? Would that candidate advance past the hearing? If High Court Justice Salim Jubran (who, for the record, refused last week to sing the national anthem at an official state event) answered no to the question of whether he would be singing “Hatikvah” at official ceremonies, would he progress past the representatives of the voters?
It is impossible to escape the feeling that the disconnection between the judges and society eventually engenders legal decisions that express scorn for the lives of Israel’s citizens.
We can certainly hope that the Hearing Law will be brought up once again for Knesset approval. New Chief Justice Asher Grunis has a much more streamlined approach to the role of the High Court, but this is still far from solving the root of the problem: The strongest system in Israel – the system that appoints itself and is not subject to public scrutiny – cannot hinge on the integrity of one particular justice.
The fundamental problem is the complete disconnect between the High Court justices and society. It will not be solved by changing the chief justice. The status of the High Court will continue to suffer until the public feels that the body that is supposed to protect it truly represents Israeli society and its values.