Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit is planning to spring another
little revolution on us, although it is likely to have a very
Since taking office Sheetrit has been trying to bring in a
"constitutional revolution" in the area of traffic tickets and
to effect changes in the way judges are appointed.
"There are currently 132,000 unlicensed drivers on the road in
Israel. This is ridiculous. I have received heart-rending
letters by people asking for clemency. These people are not
hardened criminals, but they have accumulated large fines.
There is no reason for this to happen," said Sheetrit, in a
special interview with the journal, Orech Din,
published by the Israeli Bar Association.
Sheetrit's recommendation to drivers who have accumulated
substantial debts in unpaid traffic tickets is not to pay them
at all, saying "this is the best advice I can give . . . "
Meanwhile he plans to launch a revolution in the area of
alternatives to fines and legal alternatives in cases of
Sheetrit intends to push through a law recently tabled in the
Knesset as quickly as possible and to complete legislation on
this issue within two months.
"I was appalled to find out that because fines double every
six months, citizens can accumulate fines amounting to tens of
thousands of shekels. When the time comes to renew their
license every five years, they are unable to because they
can't afford to pay the fines. As a result, 132,000 Israelis
are driving without a driver's license."
Sheetrit also intends to change the approach to the issue of
fines. Doubling unpaid fines once is acceptable to him, but he
does not agree to the current practice of doubling fines every
six months, calling this a "draconian and unjust penalty."
Once the new law passes, he will bring traffic fines issued in
court in line with fines issued by police so that citizens
will no longer be surprised by the accrued debt.
"Every citizen will receive an annual statement of unpaid
fines in order to prevent a situation in which drivers arrive
at the License Bureau and are presented with a very unpleasant
surprise," said Sheetrit.
As Justice Minister, Sheetrit also lodges criticism against
the way judges are selected: "If you are the son of someone
famous and have the right connections, you get selected. If
not, your chances are slim.
"I'm putting everything on the table, and I would like to see
a change. Everyone should have equal opportunity. I would like
to see objective tests as well, something that does not depend
on whether I know you and whether you have connections," says
Sheetrit's big dream is to give everyone an equal opportunity
in terms of key positions in the legal commonwealth, just as
in sports. "In Israel," he says, "athletics is the most
visible example of equal opportunity. On the playing field it
doesn't matter who your father is, whether you're Ashkenazi or
Sephardi, Arab or Jew. If you can kick the ball well, you get
put on the playing field. If you can't, you sit on the
Sheetrit would like to transform the legal system in Israel
into a "playing field" as well and to put outstanding jurists
on the lineup regardless of their connections.