The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided on Sunday to postpone its vote
on a controversial judicial selection reform bill, proposed by coalition
Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and MK Yariv Levin (Likud).
The decision to
postpone the vote on the bill came after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein
expressed his opposition to it on Sunday morning, telling Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman that the proposed law
raises constitutional difficulties and concerns about the politicization of the
The proposed bill, if passed into law, would require
candidates for the Supreme Court Judiciary to be appointed only after a public
hearing before the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which
would be able to veto the potential judge.
Currently, Supreme Court
justices are elected by a ninemember committee, as stipulated in Basic Law on
The Judiciary (1984), which emphasizes the substantive and personal independence
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On the committee are the justice minister (the chairman); a
second cabinet minister (currently Environmental Protection Minister Gilad
Erdan); two Knesset members, currently Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice
Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) from the coalition, and MK Uri
Ariel (National Union) from the opposition; two members of the Israel Bar
Association (Rachel Ben-Ari and Pinhas Marinsky), Supreme Court President Dorit
Beinisch; and two other Supreme Court justices (currently Edmond Levi and Asher
A candidate requires a majority vote of seven out of the
nine committee members to be elected a Supreme Court justice.
committee, the majority of whose members are lawyers, is designed to enforce a
high professional standard of appointees, while ensuring that both the coalition
and opposition have a say in the selections. However, some politicians –
particularly on the Right – have argued that professional considerations are
given too great a weight in selecting justices because the Supreme Court in its
role as the High Court of Justice rules on petitions opposing Knesset laws and
The bill is part of a series of laws proposed by
Likud and Israel Beiteinu MKs meant to reform the judicial selection process.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved one such bill, which
regulates the selection of Bar Association members of the Judicial Selection
Committee and it is expected to be put to a preliminary vote in the Knesset on
Those opposed to the bill say it will erode the independence of
the judiciary and politicize the Supreme Court.
“This dangerous proposal
threatens the delicate balance of judicial supremacy,” Defense Minister Ehud
Barak said in Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “It endangers the independence of
Supreme Court justices, and therefore it cannot pass in a democratic state such
Before the vote was postponed, ministers from Barak’s
Independence Party announced they would oppose the bill.
the topic of its weekly non-confidence motion to “The Netanyahu government’s
attempts to politicize the judiciary and the media in Israel,” following the
Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s decision.
“The Likud is
threatening to harm one of the foundations of democracy in the State of Israel,
which is based on separation between branches of government,” a party spokesman
said on Sunday.
Lawyer Dan Yakir, legal adviser to the Association for
Civil Rights in Israel slammed the bill as heralding the “end of democracy” and
the “tyranny of the majority” in Israel.
“The bill will severely harm the
principle of separation of powers fundamental to a democratic state, according
to which the courts must be independent from the political majority, because of
their role in protecting the human rights of individuals, minorities and
politically weak groups against decisions made by Knesset and the government,”
said Yakir. “If the court turns into a reflection of the Knesset then it has no
function, it is the end of democracy, and will result in the tyranny of the
Yakir also said diversity in the Supreme Court Judiciary is
also very important, and Mizrahi Jews, Arabs and women are currently
“However, we must not confuse the issue of
representation with the erosion of democracy and the separation of powers,” he
Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government (MQG) announced
Sunday it would petition the High Court of Justice against the bill, should the
Ministerial Committee approve it.
“The proposed law will mean the
politicization of the judicial system. It will violate the delicate balance
between the various authorities and substantially damage the duty to keep the
Supreme Court and its judges apolitical,” said MQG in a statement. “The bill is
dangerous for Israeli democracy. [The judiciary] is a professional body whose
power and authority is limited, and whose role is to protect the minority and
criticize government operations.”
However, the bill has received support
from rightwing legal advocacy group the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel,
which says it is tasked with protecting human rights and ensuring sound
Legal Forum lawyer Yossi Fuchs said the bill was “not
politicization, but professionalization of a political system that does not
fully reflect the composition of the Israeli public.”