MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) has backtracked on statements he made when appointed to the Judicial Selection Committee, in which he called for those who refuse to sing Israel's national anthem not to be tapped as judges.
Two months ago, shortly after being elected to the committee, Ilatov told Army Radio that, in his view, “a judge who refuses to sing Hatikvah cannot rule on cases in Israel."
In response, attorney Haim Satnger and public relations agent Ben-Zion Citrin petitioned the Hight Court to have Ilatov removed from the panel, asserting his comments indicate he would discriminate against Arab candidates when issuing judicial appointments.
Ilatov responded to the petition on Wednesday, Haaretz reports, arguing it should be dismissed in light of a recent letter to the Knesset's legal adviser explaining his position on the matter.
“The statement attributed to me wasn’t meant literally,” Ilatov wrote. “I said, as I thought, and still think today, that a precondition to serve in the lofty position of judge in Israel is a person's commitment to the fundamental values of the state’s legal and constitutional system."
“I’m not a judge in a song competition; it isn’t the song that’s important to me,” he added. “Anyone who interprets what I said literally is committing an offense against intelligence and integrity."
“The anthem is an expression of these values, not a value in itself,” Ilatov contended. “Anyone who accepts the fundamental values of our system is suitable for a substantive examination of his qualifications to serve as a judge – whether he's Jewish, Muslim or Christian.”
The issue over judges singing Hatikvah became widely publicized in 2012 when Arab-Israeli Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran refused to sing the anthem at the swearing-in ceremony of former Chief Justice Asher Grunis, later calling Israel a "racist society."