Israel’s controversial new justice minister gets a bodyguard
This story originally appeared on The Media Line.
Israel’s best-known satire program, Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Country) recently showed incoming Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked binge-watching the American televisionseries The Good Wife, and practicing legal phrases like “Objection!” in a thick Israeli accent. It was meant to imply that Shaked, 39, previously a software engineer, is ill–suited for the crucial job as Justice Minister.
Shaked’s outspoken positions, including a Facebook post that was seen as encouraging killing Palestinian civilians during last summer’s fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza, have sparked death threats against her, and the security services this week assigned her a full-time bodyguard. In her new role, she will decide which bills make it to the Knesset and will head the Judicial Selection Committee.
A member of the hardline Jewish Home party headed by Naftali Bennett, she is the only woman and the only non-Orthodox member of the eight incoming Knesset members for her party. She is 39, a mother of two, and has only been in the political arena since 2013 when she joined Bennett’s party. The two of them go back a long way to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s days in the opposition and according to the Israeli press, Shaked hired Bennett as Netanyahu’s chief of staff. Both have had a falling out with the Prime Minister, reportedly over his wife Sara Netanyahu.
Shaked’s outspokenness has sparked controversy, says Allison Kaplan Sommer, a journalist at Ha’aretz – controversy that has mainly focused on her gender.
“There has been an outside amount of attention being focused on her,” Kaplan Sommer told The Media Line. “In addition to being a young, up and coming politician, she is a woman, and an extremely attractive woman. She speaks with the kind of uncompromising extreme ideological stand that will cause a lot of attention.”
Shaked is one of 28 women in the incoming Knesset, the largest number to date. Unlike most of the other women parliamentarians, says Kaplan Sommer, she wears bright “almost preppy” dresses. She has supported the controversial “Jewish nation state” bill, which calls for the Israeli Supreme Court to give more weight to the Jewish character of the state of Israel, than to its democratic side.
Once sworn in, she will become only the third woman in Israel’s history to serve as Justice Minister. Her immediate predecessor is Tzippi Livni, a member of the opposition Zionist Union. Before Livni, Israel’s only female Prime Minister Golda Meir also served briefly as Justice Minister.
Israeli feminists say that criticism of Shaked’s policies are legitimate, but poking fun at her as a woman, is not.
“It’s disgusting,” Peggy Cidor, an Israeli feminist activist and journalist told The Media Line. “I don’t agree with any of her ideas, but I am ready to defend her because she is being attacked because of the fact that she is a woman and looks a certain way. Every woman should defend her on these grounds.”
At the same time Cidor, who is dovish politically, says she is concerned about Shaked’s positions.
“I think she wants to limit the power of the Supreme Court which would be a disaster,” she said.
Shaked has supported a bill that would allow the Knesset to overrule Supreme Court decisions in certain cases.
Shaked’s appointment as Justice Minister was finalized after party leader Bennett refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition unless Shaked got the job. Without Bennet, Netanyahu could not get a majority in the Israeli Knesset, and he gave in. Even with Jewish Home, his government will have just a one-seat majority and many analysts say it will not be able to serve its four-year term.