(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The opposition may have a shot at victory in Wednesday’s vote to determine which MKs will be on the committees to appoint candidates to judicial positions.
The coalition teamed up with Yisrael Beytenu for a combined 67 votes for their candidates, but the vote is by secret ballot, and larger coalitions have failed.
The candidates for the Judicial Selection Committee are MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Ayelet Nahmias- Verbin (Zionist Union), Nurit Koren (Likud) and Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid).
Also at stake are positions to appoint candidates for the Jewish religious courts. In the running are MKs Yisrael Eichler (UTJ ), Nava Boker (Likud) and Revital Swid (Zionist Union). In both votes, MKs must choose two candidates, one of whom must be female.
A senior opposition source said they hope the haredi parties will vote against the coalition, perhaps because of discomfort with Yisrael Beytenu’s secularism, as no other coalition parties have an interest in doing so. Kulanu MKs are too new and afraid to vote against the coalition and Bayit Yehudi has no desire to do so, because they share Yisrael Beytenu’s positions on the judiciary, according to the source.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous coalition suffered a defeat in June 2013, when the Knesset voted for opposition MKs Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) over the coalition’s candidate for the judicial selection committee, Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem.
But sources in the coalition said they do not believe they would lose this time, because the right-wing parties, represented by 67 MKs, are committed to having as nationalist a judicial selection committee as possible. They also said Rotem lost because at the time there were MKs like current president Reuven Rivlin who wanted to take revenge against Rotem’s mentor, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman.
Zionist Union faction chairwoman and opposition coordinator Merav Michaeli was not sanguine about the opposition’s chances to win.
“It won’t be simple,” she said. “The coalition is making a serious effort. This is a coalition that fears for its life. It has a siege mentality.”
There was shouting and fighting between opposition parties in the plenum on Monday night. Zionist Union MKs flexed hawkish muscles at Joint List lawmakers, who called a bill increasing the punishment for throwing rocks at moving vehicles racist. Nevertheless, Michaeli said the opposition worked well together and that the selection of candidates on the same evening went smoothly.
Two of Wednesday’s votes will be uncontested. The candidates for the subcommittee to select judges to Muslim religious courts are MKs Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas), Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) and Esawi Frej (Meretz) and to Druse courts are MKs Abdullah Abu Marouf (Joint List) and Hamad Amer (Yisrael Beytenu). All five MKs will be on the committees, because the candidates all meet the exact criteria of who needs to be chosen.
Sa’adi, a lawyer who has represented Palestinian terrorists, comes from the Ta’al Party and not the Islamic Movement’s United Arab List, which usually puts a candidate on the Muslim judge selection committee.
The choice came after continued infighting among the parties making up the Joint List and successful political maneuvering by Ta’al chairman MK Ahmad Tibi, who is also Sa’adi’s brotherin- law. In the same round of negotiations within the Joint List, Tibi maintained his position as Deputy Knesset Speaker, which he held in the previous Knesset, and MK Masud Gnaim was named the Joint List faction chairman.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.