Knesset meeting Netanyahu and coalition 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
With Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem shockingly bounced from the crucial judicial
appointments committee, and Likud MK Yariv Levin fighting to drop one of the
judges on the committee in favor of an academic, the fight for control and the
future of the judiciary is on.
Reportedly, a back-room deal had been
reached ahead of Monday’s vote for Labor MK Isaac Herzog and Rotem to be chosen
by both coalition and opposition MKs to ensure the tradition of one coalition
and one opposition MK serving on the committee.
The deal was unexpectedly
upended on Monday, when a secret ballot vote elected Herzog, but left Rotem out
in the cold in favor of Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen.
That means two opposition
MKs – and no coalition MKs – are joining the committee.
How did the
coalition, with a clear majority, blow its one spot on the nine-person
committee? There is no way to know for sure because of the secret ballot, but
speculation has focused on the idea that Hatnua and Yesh Atid – along with some
Likud members – may have burnt Rotem.
Why? There is unconfirmed
speculation that Likud MK Reuven Rivlin rallied some supporters to veto Rotem as
perceived payback for Yisrael Beytenu ousting Rivlin as Knesset
But the much bigger issues revolve around Rotem’s identification
with a wing of politicians trying to tame or “conservatize” the courts,
following their criticism of the judiciary as too liberal and
Rotem and his followers would like to ensure that Supreme Court
President Asher D. Grunis and other soon-retiring judges are replaced by equally
conservative or even more conservative candidates.
Grunis has not been
everything that conservatives wanted, sometimes unpredictably voting in a
“liberal” manner or fighting for judicial independence.
Grunis has significantly rolled back the court’s involvement in major issues and
has moved the court in a much more conservative direction than it had been going
for decades following the reigns of Aharon Barak and Dorit
Dropping Rotem means that leftist forces in the coalition are
fighting back to possibly replace Grunis and others with more liberal-minded
Hanging in the balance are controversies over the heart of the
settlement enterprise, African migrants, electoral reform, Arab-Israeli issues,
the balance of security vs personal freedoms, religion and state, the futures of
politicians like former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Yisrael Beytenu leader
Avigdor Liberman and a plethora of other concerns.
On Tuesday, the
Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel issued a statement opposing
attempts by Levin to swap one of the appointment committee judges for an
academic. The committee is currently composed of three judges, two bar
association appointees, two MKs and two ministers, one of who is Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni.
The movement said that swapping a judge for an
academic would change the balance of the committee from five legal professionals
to five politically-interested appointees.
face, the idea of switching a judge for an academic appears to maintain five
non-political members on the panel. However, there is concern that whoever
appoints the academic representative would be more politically influenced than
the judiciary, which appoints the judges to the panel.
advancement of the proposal is also cause for concern, since he, like Rotem, has
a clear agenda of restricting judicial power and moving the judiciary in a
The final factor that will play a role in the
upcoming judicial appointments is Livni, who is considered either more liberal –
or at least less conservative – than her predecessor Yaakov Neeman.
future of the judiciary is yet to be determined. But the battle is in full