Leftists to choose judges as coalition suffers blow

Coalition fails to elect representative to committee that selects Supreme Court justices in secret ballot vote.

June 3, 2013 22:10
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and MKs at Knesset, 3 June 2013.

Knesset meeting Netanyahu and coalition 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition failed to elect a representative to the committee that selects Supreme Court justices, in a dramatic secret ballot vote Monday in the Knesset.

The MKs normally select one MK from the coalition and one from the opposition to the two slots on the selection committee that are reserved for MKs. But the Knesset voted for MKs Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) over the coalition’s candidate, Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem.

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Cohen is Shas’s most leftwing MK. He recently wrote to Netanyahu urging him to adopt the Arab League’s diplomatic initiative. The vote means that the judges to be selected to replace retiring justices Asher Grunis and Edna Arbel on the Supreme Court will likely be very dovish.

The vote was seen as revenge by deposed Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, who blames his job loss on Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.

Rivlin actively campaigned to defeat Rotem, a close Liberman associate.

In the race for places on the committee for appointing rabbinical judges, MK Shuli Muallem of Bayit Yehudi and MK Eli Yishai of Shas were elected as the coalition and opposition Knesset representatives, respectively.

Women’s rights groups had opposed the election of a haredi MK to the committee, since they hope to promote the appointment of liberal-minded rabbinic judges to better protect women in divorce proceedings which rabbinical courts deal with, something that such groups fear a haredi MK will seek to thwart.

MK Merav Michaeli was also an opposition candidate for the rabbinical judges committee and was promoted by the women’s rights organizations, but lost out to Yishai.

“We are very disappointed that the government that has claimed it will make efforts to promote women’s rights and fight against their exclusion, failed to elect the two women candidates as their representatives in the committee that appoints the rabbinical court judges,” said the International Coalitions of Agunah Rights in a statement to the press. “Members of both the coalition and opposition bear full responsibility for this situation.”

Speculation had persisted throughout this week that various political deals were being formulated between different opposition parties for the election of different opposition MKs to both the rabbinical judges committee and the Supreme Court justices committee, according to the priorities ascribed by the different opposition parties to those panels.

The Jerusalem Post understands that Yesh Atid MKs voted for Yishai, although this could not be independently confirmed by press time.

The vote by all 120 MKs, minus several absentees, is conducted by secret ballot, so it is not possible to determine who voted how.

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