Efi Naveh, allies sweep Israel Bar Association elections; promise ‘new era’ for Israeli lawyers

Naveh unseats the association’s incumbent president Doron Barzilai to become the leader of the country’s 59,000 lawyers.

June 17, 2015 16:15
4 minute read.

Gavel [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INIMAGE)

Efi Nave announced Wednesday that he and his allies had clinched a clean sweep in the previous day’s Israel Bar Association election, with Nave unseating incumbent president Doron Barzilai to become the leader of the country’s 59,000 lawyers.

Nave, writing on Facebook, promised “a new era for Israeli lawyers” and announced that his allies won the votes to become heads of the local association sections across the country, including Yinon Heiman in Tel Aviv-Central, Tami Olman in Haifa, Dani Aligon in the South, Asher Ackselrod in Jerusalem and Khaled Zoabi in the North.

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Barzilai released a message acknowledging Nave’s victory, thanked all of his supporters and referenced his various accomplishments as president over the past four years.

The Bar Association is one of the more powerful professional organizations in the country, not only because of its size, but because it has influence in choosing who fills many important positions, including judgeships and the attorney-general, and also significant influence on various kinds of legislation in the Knesset.

Nave received 65 percent of the vote compared to only 28% of the vote for Barzilai.

The remaining 7% was split between a lesser-known candidate and those who did not cast a vote for president.

The election results became official as part of their presentation to the elections commission at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Only 16,235, or about a quarter, of the country’s lawyers voted.

In his Facebook victory post, Nave, who served the past four years as head of the crucial Tel Aviv-Central Section of the association, said, “I will not waste time celebrating this victory. Starting tomorrow, we will work together in harmony with the best interests of Israeli lawyers before us.”

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky congratulated Nave and the other victors and said he was “sure that the elected leaders would guide the Bar Association is the right direction and strengthen the legal establishment and justice” in the country.

This was especially important “in light of the challenges” before the association, such as reforming the organization’s structure, Slomiansky said.

Barzilai and Nave were once allies, having teamed up to unseat the leadership that preceded them and put both of them into their current positions.

But two years ago, Nave broke ranks with Barzilai, forming an alliance with others including former association president Yuri Guy-Ron, and culminating with him challenging Barzilai for the top office.

Barzilai had pushed for a major reform of the Bar Association’s structure.

The reform would involve eliminating its local chapters, power centers of Nave and his allies, and reducing the number of National Council members from 48 to 24.

Although the reform has support from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and has passed some initial hurdles toward becoming law, its passage is far from certain in light of Nave’s victory and the likelihood that the association will now switch from support to strong opposition of it.

The election of Nave may also alter the association’s relationship with the courts.

Barzilai has had frosty relations with the courts, including over his pushing through a survey of lawyers rating individual judges, at which the courts have bristled; since the survey they have boycotted his events.

Barzilai had said that while he respects the courts’ independence, he “does not reject” all critiques of them, at times defending Shaked from attack for her statements that the courts have invaded the authority of the Knesset by striking down too many laws.

In contrast, Nave has come off more as labeling ideas for reforming the courts as “injecting politics” into the mix.

Nave will now need to navigate an opportunity to rebuild relations with the courts, while trying to avoid conflict with Shaked.

Earlier this week, Nave described other aspects of his agenda to The Jerusalem Post, to expand on the focus on lawyers in the periphery that he had during his term running the Tel Aviv-Central Section.

Nave said that under his leadership, instead of forcing lawyers in Yavne, Petah Tikva and other places to come to Tel Aviv for all continuing legal education seminars, he initiated sending lecturers to other locations.

The incoming president said his use of the local chapters to better serve lawyers in the periphery increased the number of lawyers attending seminars to 20,000 from around 5,000 and that Barzilai wanted to roll this back.

He also said that Barzilai had not fought new laws in the Knesset, which have unfairly reduced lawyers’ fees and improperly invaded the confidentiality of lawyer- client relationships – laws which he will now begin to combat.

The new haredi party Faith in the Workplace won two seats on the 48-member National Council and two seats on the Tel Aviv-Central Section Council.

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