Senior ministers and MKs got into a screaming match after ministers voiced
opposition to an amended “Bar Association Bill” in Monday’s Likud faction
The changes to the bill, which would retroactively cancel the
Bar Association’s selection of representatives to the Judicial Selection, were
authorized for its second and third (final) plenum votes by the Knesset
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Monday morning.
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members voted in favor and six opposition members opposed the bill proposed by
coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Israel Beiteinu faction chairman
However, during the committee meeting, the Attorney-
General’s Office voiced opposition to the amended legislation, as did Likud
ministers later that day.
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor
demanded that the Ministerial Committee on Legislation review the bill, telling
MKs that the coalition cannot pass it without government approval.
ministerial committee approved the bill in its previous version, which did not
include the article canceling election results, in November.
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Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the new bill is completely different from the
previous version, and he shouted at MK Yariv Levin (Likud), one of the
proposal’s signatories, stating that retroactively canceling election results is
a dangerous precedent.
Levin retorted that the bill will end the
“monarchic sovereignty” of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, in that it
would make it more difficult for her to choose her own successors.
Danny Danon (Likud) accused the ministers of giving into pressure from the
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat also voiced opposition to
the bill, saying it will harm the Likud. She added that it is “intolerable” to
retroactively cancel elections and make drastic changes without warning
ministers in advance.
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, as well
as Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, also slammed the “Bar Association
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remained silent throughout the
meeting, except for when he agreed to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s
suggestion that Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman be invited to weigh in on the
debate. However, Neeman was unable to make it to the Knesset at the last minute.
Later on Monday night, Netanyahu said that he would not let the bill
One MK in the Likud faction meeting, which was closed to the press,
expressed surprise that the ministers waited until after the bill was prepared
for its final readings to voice opposition.
“It seems to me that this is
mostly political – an exhibition fight,” the MK said. “Otherwise they would have
complained earlier in the process.”
The unidentified MK predicted that
the legislation won’t be brought to a vote until Elkin and the ministers come to
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein clarified on
Monday evening that he opposed the amendment to the proposed legislation, saying
that the bill raises constitutional difficulties.
In a statement issued
by his office, Weinstein reiterated that Deputy Attorney-General Orit Koren had
explained Weinstein’s position to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee
earlier on Monday.
Referring to the clause in the bill that would
overturn a recent Bar Association election, Koren said the bill clearly aims to
retroactively alter election results, simply because particular individuals are
opposed to their outcome.
At the core of the issue is the relationship
between the Bar Association bill and the makeup of the Judicial Selection
Committee, which chooses Supreme Court justices.
The new version of the
bill declares that two Bar Association representatives to the Judicial Selection
Committee will be selected via elections, in which the members of the Bar can
only choose one candidate.
Those with the highest and second-highest
amount of votes will become committee members.
Under current rules, two
Judicial Selection Committee members are elected and usually belong to the
majority faction in the Bar Association.
The new method decreases the
majority’s power in Bar elections.
Koren added that the bill was an
attempt by the Knesset to interfere in the selection process for Judicial
Selection Committee members, and thus change the balance of power in the
“The attorney-general’s position is that this is inconsistent
with the Knesset’s role as the legislative branch, and that it is using
legislative power for the worse,” the statement read.
The chairman of the
Bar Association, or a representative of his choice, would serve on the selection
committees for religious courts, as well as one more member of the Bar, who
would be elected.
The Bar Association will be required to hold new
elections for representatives of all three committees up to 30 days after the
bill becomes law. The changes to Elkin and Ilatov’s legislation mean that
elections that took place last month will be canceled.
Attorney-General Orit Koren warned that the Knesset is unfairly taking advantage
of its authority in order to influence the results of Bar Association
She added that the current version of the bill was not brought
before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which means that the government
does not have an official position on the matter.
According to government
regulations, Koren explained, legislation with no official government position
is treated as though it was rejected.
The Constitution Committee’s legal
adviser, Sigal Kogot, slammed the bill, saying that the legislation’s
“retroactive instructions” would be found unconstitutional if challenged in
court, and that it changes the process from election to appointment, due to
Elkin, however, argued that the bill simply
anchors the current situation in legislation.
He explained the
instruction to cancel last month’s election by pointing out that Constitution
Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) asked the Bar Association to
postpone its selection of representatives, and was met with a refusal, adding
that, therefore, the Bar should not complain.
At a Kadima faction
meeting, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that the Bar Association Bill and
the “Grunis Bill” were part of an attempt to appoint Supreme Court justices that
are favorable to the government.
“The government wants to cancel
democratic elections in the Bar Association, and replace them with people they
like,” she said.Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.
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