Public Trust in Israel's Judiciary: The Effect of Political Polarization

February 17, 2021 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Israeli Supreme Court Building in Jerusalem and Knesset Building visible in background. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons; cropped; CC BY 2.0

About the Talk

During the first two decades of the 21st century, Israel's judiciary, and specifically the Supreme Court, have been under constant attack. These attacks have included, among others, hostile statements made by senior elected officials and negative coverage in several media outlets. During this period, public trust in the judiciary has been continuously declining, with many Israelis perceiving the court as being politically biased and promoting a political agenda through its decision making.

In their talk, Professor Menachem Hofnung and Dr. Nir Atmor will discuss the findings of their research which explored whether the decline in trust in Israel's judiciary stems from controversial rulings of a court favoring one side of the political spectrum, or relates to the ideological polarization of the political system and the intentional portraying of the court as a political player promoting its own ideological agenda. They will also discuss how nominations to the judiciary, as well as judicial decisions in politically charged cases, are influenced by frequent public attacks – and the danger this represents to judicial independence.

About the Speakers

Menachem Hofnung teaches at the Department of Political Science of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a visiting professor at the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies for the 2020-21 academic year. He served as the academic director of the Joint Graduate Program in Public Policy and Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and academic director of the Gilo Center for Democracy and Civic Education. Professor Hofnung is past president of the Association for Israel Studies and former chair of the Department of Political Science of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A leader in numerous academic associations, he also served as president of the Israeli Law and Society Association and chair of the International Political Science Association Research Committee on Political Finance. He also served as a member of the National Commission on Campaign Finance Reform (Levin Commission, 2000), and the National Commission on the Structure of Governmental Administration in Israel (Magidor Commission, 2006).

Nir Atmor is a lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Department at Zefat Academic College in Jerusalem. His areas of research include Israeli democracy and comparative politics. He has published several books, including Electoral Systems for Democratic Legislative Bodies (2010) and co-authored a series of books on the Israeli Democracy Index. He also co-authored Voter Turnout in Israeli General Elections (2015). Dr. Atmor received a Ph.D in Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Sponsor(s): Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, International and Comparative Law Program