Tachles with Aviel – Netanyahu asks archenemy for help

Only together can Israel win – not only on the battlefield, but also before the international courts.

By Aviel Schneider | | Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza, Judicial Reform
Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak during a press conference with families whose loved ones were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and have been held in Gaza since October 7. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak during a press conference with families whose loved ones were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and have been held in Gaza since October 7. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Who would have thought that the right-wing government coalition would nominate their left-liberal archenemy Aharon Barak to represent Israel before the International Court of Justice in The Hague? Barak, who was blamed by right-wing ministers and voters for all the ills of Israel’s judicial system, is now expected to work for the right-wing government that so despises him. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally appointed Aharon Barak as Israel’s representative. Barak would have had reason enough to politely decline this appointment after Netanyahu’s right-wing colleagues gave him hell last year. But no, Barak is a patriot and Israel is in need. He looks first to his people. The right-wing ministers have all remained silent, so far.

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, 87, will represent Israel as a judge at the hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague later this week. He will be the 16th member of the panel alongside a judge nominated by South Africa, which had accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Demonstration in front of Aharon Barak’s house in the period before October 7th. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Last year, up until the outbreak of war in October, Aharon Barak was insulted and cursed around the clock by the right-wing coalition ministers led by Benjamin Netanyahu for his activist and liberal legal system. Minister Dudi Amsalem almost shouted in a Knesset session that Barak belongs in prison. Almost weekly there were loud and sometimes violent protests in front of Barak’s apartment in Jerusalem by reform supporters and right-wing Likud voters who saw him as a symbol of left-wing sin in Israel. Bibi actually didn’t do anything about it. Barak has been repeatedly attacked by Netanyahu’s coalition members and their supporters for rulings in the 1990s that they said saw the Supreme Court overstep its authority. The Israeli legal system is fundamentally left-wing and has repeatedly managed to restrict Israel’s right-wing governments, but also left-wing government coalitions. I am not one of those who have criticized Israel’s Supreme Court as a left-wing defect in Israeli society. It is true that reforms and changes must move with the times, including in the judicial system. But I also know that the separation of powers is urgently needed in a country like Israel, especially when a right-wing religious coalition governs. There are good and bad people on the right, but also on the left. And now, in times of need, the right-wing government is relying on its left-wing archenemy, who was the trigger for the controversial judicial reform.

Barak confirmed his appointment to N12 yesterday, saying: “I will be the judge on behalf of Israel in the indictment filed.”

The first hearing of the trial will take place next Thursday and Friday. There has always been a special relationship between the prime minister and the senior legal advocate, which was marked by numerous disagreements over the constitutional revolution that he led during his term as head of the Supreme Court between 1995 and 2006. Netanyahu often viewed himself as the guardian of Israel’s legal system, even though the legal system had a different understanding of Israel. It was only with the right-wing-religious coalition and the controversial judicial reform that Benjamin Netanyahu found himself in a cauldron with the Supreme Court, which is largely thanks to Justice Minister Yariv Levin. He was obsessed with pushing through judicial reform at any cost, which plunged Israeli society into a catastrophic crisis. And then Israel was attacked.

Old acquaintances – Then President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak (r) in conversation with then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 1998 during a ceremony in the Supreme Court. Photo: Aviv Ohayon/GPO

From 1975 to 1978, Aharon Barak was also prosecutor general in Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s right-wing Likud government. Aharon Barak survived the Holocaust as a child in the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania. Because the lawsuit is based on allegations of “genocide,” a term that developed in international law after the Holocaust, the naming of a Holocaust survivor is particularly significant. Netanyahu knows that Aharon Barak, the Holocaust survivor, will carry greater weight than the other justices of the court. Barak is also considered the most respected Israeli lawyer in the world.

The defendant and plaintiff countries have the right to appoint a judge on their behalf, allowing Barak to attend the hearing as the 15th judge and a South African judge as the 16th judge. In Jerusalem there are fears of an immediate unilateral cessation of fighting in the Gaza Strip. Israel is a signatory to the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” hence the prime minister’s decision to appear before the court. I respectfully view the fact that Netanyahu has chosen Aharon Barak as a representative before the International Court of Justice as a positive thing. Maybe this is a yellow or green light for a new direction in politics, for more unity. We have written several times in the last few days that there is an enviable unity and willingness to fight on the battlefield, but not on the home front, in politics and in the media. Now I would like to hope that this unity, right and left, will be of real help to the State of Israel. Ultimately, all of Israel will be accused before the International Court of Justice, left and right, secular and religious Jews. And with Aharon Barak, the right-wing government coalition has the best lawyer – whether left or right.