Two controversial judicial selection reform bills passed in the Knesset late
Monday night, despite an opposition attempt at a filibuster.
and more contested bill, which regulates the Bar Association’s choice of its two
representatives on the Judicial Selection Committee, passed a preliminary vote
with 50 and 32 opposed.
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Should the bill pass three readings in the
Knesset to become law, it would require the Bar Association to appoint one
coalition representative and one opposition representative to the Judicial
There was only a brief discussion preceding the
vote, with Israel Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov presenting the bill,
as preliminary Knesset readings allow for only one opposition member to
Ilatov said the bill would make the judicial selection process
fairer and more democratic, as opposed to the current situation, in which the
Bar Association can choose two representatives from the same side, as it has
done in the past.
After the bill passed, Kadima MKs waved black flags.
Their chairwoman, Tzipi Livni, said the judicial selection reforms marked a
“black flag of unconstitutional status” that would turn Israel into a “dark
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The first bill, which passed in its first reading with 52
in favor and 35 opposed, would reduce the minimum tenure for a Supreme Court
president from three to two years.
The bill, proposed by MK Ya’acov Katz
(National Union), has become known as the “Grunis Bill,” because it would allow
Justice Asher Dan Grunis to replace Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch (when
she steps down in four months) despite having two years and 10 months before he
turns 70 and will be required to retire.
Grunis is seen as a more
conservative justice who is opposed to intervention in Knesset and government
The Knesset debated the “Grunis Bill,” which was widely seen as
less controversial and likely to pass, for three hours, in an opposition attempt
to filibuster the vote on Ilatov’s judicial selection bill, which could not be
discussed at length since it was only a preliminary reading.
defended his measure and Ilatov’s bill, saying the current Supreme Court
justices are too homogeneous, and that other groups in society and points of
view deserve to be represented.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud)
called the opposition’s claims against the bills “hypocritical.”
pointed out that justice minister Daniel Friedman, who was appointed by Kadima
and served from 2007 to 2009, “initiated and enacted dramatic changes in the
High Court, which were supported by the rest of Kadima. We’re sick of your
During the plenum debate on the bill, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) sarcastically suggested that instead of
approving laws changing the Judicial Selection Committee “perhaps the government
should save us some time and use its automatic majority in the Knesset to pass
bills with names of specific judges that they want to appoint.
that the point of the bills presented tonight?” Horowitz asked.
in the day, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon (Independence)
tried to appeal the Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s vote in favor of the
bill to regulate the Bar Association’s selection. However, he was rebuffed,
because the decision had already undergone an appeal and passed a second
Independence then announced it would vote against the
Elkin explained that although the Judicial Selection Committee
was scheduled to meet next Tuesday and Ilatov’s bill was unlikely to pass three
readings by then, approval in its first reading would probably be enough to
influence the Bar Association’s choice of committee members.
head Livni called a press conference to speak out against the measure, saying
the coalition has been proposing “piles of bills, one after the other, marked
with a black flag of unconstitutional status.”
“This is part of a process
to harm the High Court,” she said. “Kadima is fighting to protect Israeli
Livni said that when she was justice minister (2006-2007),
she had “major arguments about the judicial selection process, but I will defend
the High Court’s place as a cornerstone of Israeli democracy.”
leader said the judicial selection reforms, along with a bill to limit foreign
government funding for NGOs, are “draconian, anti-Zionist laws.”
government is worried only about its survival. The prime minister is afraid of
criticism from his right-wing extremist party,” Livni said. “The result is that
he is turning Israel into a dark dictatorship.”
Livni called for members
of all Knesset factions to “work together as a voice of fairness and balance to
defend Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.”
“The government is
taking away people’s pride in being Israeli,” she said. “We need to stop them
from turning Israel into a dictatorship that silences those who are critical of
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