A courtroom drama may not seem too exciting to Israelis right now, considering the fact that they’re at war. But there is nonetheless something cinematic about Israel’s latest move in response to South Africa’s contemptible petition to the International Court of Justice accusing the Jewish state of genocide.

The court allows for Israel and South Africa to each appoint one judge of their own to join the 15 judges already on the panel. All of this will take place at The Hague, the seat of the UN body that will be tasked with deciding whether to officially declare an equivalence between the Nazis and the nation the Nazis attempted to wipe off the face of the earth.

In a strange irony, the judge that Israel has chosen has received a rare degree of bipartisan support, yet he happens to be one of the most divisive figures in the country’s history and was at the center of Israel’s bitter fight over judicial reform last year: former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. To add one more layer of irony: it is because of this, and not in spite of it, that the selection of Barak is a clever one.

To understand how controversial Barak is, consider that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan once declared him her hero—and then had to argue during her confirmation hearings that this fact shouldn’t disqualify her from serving on the American high court.

As for why admiration for Barak is an automatic red flag: His theory of judicial power is flatly incompatible with that of a constitutional republic such as the U.S. In Israel, which doesn’t have a constitution, his aggressive campaign to disempower Israel’s elected branches of government for the benefit of the unaccountable judiciary has long stood as a cautionary tale.

One of the very few near-universally held opinions among Israelis is that Barak’s “revolution” went too far. He believed in virtually no limits on what types of cases the court can take or on who can petition the court to hear those cases. What began as an attempt to widen the net of democratic participation quickly became a way for score-settling political activists to hijack the democratic process.

Yet last year’s Likud-led reform was no less controversial. Why? Because many Israelis worried that democratizing the court at a time when right-of-center parties held a virtual monopoly on political power was just as dangerous. They believed Justice Minister Yariv Levin and others pushing the reforms were rolling toward a right-wing mirror image of Barak’s left-wing overreach: Democracy in theory would increase (this is by definition true of last year’s proposed reforms), but in practice the benefit would accrue to a small group that was subject to less oversight than before.

All of which is to say that the perilous nature of Barak’s approach to political power and accountability is immediately recognizable as soon as one is on the business end of it.

Still, the decision to send Barak to the ICJ as Israel’s judge was remarkably popular. Barak’s selection was proposed by Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the very embodiment of the country’s powerful legal elite. It was immediately approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the legal elite’s favorite target.

Netanyahu’s primary political rival and a current member of the unity war council, Benny Gantz, hailed the decision as “correct, right, and proper.” Ultra-Orthodox Interior Minister Moshe Arbel practically sang that Barak’s selection represented “another lesson to us all that in the moment of truth, what unifies is greater than what divides.”

Why would a controversial figure be such a consensus choice? The answer is that the UN court isn’t the Federalist Society. The UN could not possibly care less about constitutional balancing or limiting principles or theories of textual interpretation or the judiciary’s role in legislating. All it sees is a colleague who made sure Israeli law was explicitly, not just implicitly, organized toward maximizing minority rights.

Justice Kagan, and other judges and lawyers on the Western left, admire Barak for the results, not the process. (Kagan admitted during her confirmation hearing that “Justice Barak’s philosophy is so different from anything that we would use or would want to use in the United States.”)

In other words, it is precisely Barak’s status as a foil to the Israeli right wing that gives him unimpeachable legitimacy. For left-leaning judges, Barak is their living, breathing ideal. He is the Israel they want, and he is the Israel that they will see up on that bench.

For the right, this means that although Barak will not be arguing Israel’s case as its attorney, his participation as an Israeli delegate silences all questions about the government’s motives and intentions in the case.

There are two other things about Barak personally that must be said here. First, he is regarded by friend and foe alike as a patriot. The despicable allegation that Israel is committing genocide is not a partisan football. Israel is not a country of self-hating elites, and even his political opponents trust Barak to faithfully represent his country on the world stage.

Second, Aharon Barak lived in a Lithuanian ghetto under Nazi occupation. Anyone shameless enough to accuse Israel of genocide should have to look a Holocaust survivor in the eye while doing so, and now they will. Meanwhile, Aharon Barak’s last act will likely be his least controversial one.

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