Knesset panel okays ‘Grunis Bill’ for 2nd and 3rd readings

November 29, 2011 05:34

Bill reduces the minimum tenure for a Supreme Court or National Labor Court president from three to two years.

2 minute read.

Israel's Supreme Court

Israeli Supreme Court 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)

The “Grunis Bill” was approved for its second and third (final) readings in a speedy Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on Monday. The bill is now expected to be put to a final vote in two weeks.

Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) held the vote within the first five minutes of the meeting, before all of the committee members arrived, following last week’s attempt by the opposition to filibuster discussion of National Union leader MK Ya’acov Katz’s bill.

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The initiative, one of a series of controversial bills regarding the judicial system, reduces the minimum tenure for a Supreme Court or National Labor Court president from three to two years, reversing an order from 2007 by then-justice minister Daniel Friedmann.

Katz has been accused of proposing a “personal bill,” because it would allow Supreme Court Justice Asher Dan Grunis, an opponent of judicial activism, to replace Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch when she retires at age 70 in February. Politicians on the right believe that Grunis’s views on the judiciary make him less likely to order the dismantling of West Bank homes and to go against other decisions made by state authorities.

The bill was approved within minutes, in a mostly empty committee meeting.

“Apparently, the opposition MKs only come to committee meetings because of the media, and weren’t here because they didn’t see the press,” Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) quipped. “Last week we had a long and intense discussion [of the ‘Grunis Bill’], so all we needed to do this week was vote.”

On Wednesday, Kadima MKs used Knesset regulations to move and delay the bill’s discussion, until it was postponed to Monday.

Katz said that the bill’s approval “prevented a major injustice, in that a talented judge will not be prevented from serving as Supreme Court president just because of a matter of 41 days.” “Slowly, slowly the justice in the Supreme Court will increase, as so many Israeli citizens wished,” the National Union MK added.

In response to the committee’s decision to approve the bill for its second and third readings, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, whose stated aim is to protect human rights and ensure sound government, said that the judicial selection committee’s role is to choose the most suitable candidate for the role of Supreme Court president.

“We have nothing against Justice Grunis, but the most appropriate candidate must be chosen to be Supreme Court president, not the most senior one,” said attorney Nachi Eyal, the Legal Forum’s director. “It’s time that the ‘seniority method’ [of selecting the Supreme Court President] was scrapped.”

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