Rivlin orders probe of legislation of 'Sohlberg Law'

Bill rushed into 1st reading before Judicial Selection C'tee meets; Opposition MKs slam “bullying” measure.

By
November 16, 2011 12:14
Knesset vote [file]

Knesset vote 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The Knesset’s legal adviser Eyal Yinon is investigating the legality of the legislative process on a controversial bill regulating the Bar Association’s nominees to select judges, which was accelerated in advance of a Judicial Selection Committee meeting next Tuesday.

MKs Yoel Hasson (Kadima), Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Isaac Herzog (Labor), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) complained to Yinon and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin following heated arguments over the bill in a Wednesday morning Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting that prepared the initiative for its first reading in the plenum, which is expected to take place on Monday.

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The opposition members said they were asked to vote on changes in the bill, but were not notified in advance or given time to discuss the revisions, which passed in the committee meeting. Rivlin then instructed Yinon to check the legality of the process.

The bill, nicknamed the “Sohlberg Law,” was proposed by Israel Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and others. It was approved in its preliminary reading on Monday, despite the opposition’s attempt at a filibuster, and is part of a package of judicial reform laws proposed by right-wing MKs in recent weeks, which include the “Grunis Law” and the law proposing a public hearing in the Knesset for potential Supreme Court Justices.

The “Sohlberg Law” will regulate the Bar Association’s choice of representatives to the Judicial Selection Committee, should it pass three more votes in the Knesset. The MKs proposed that the Bar Association appoint one coalition and one opposition member to the committee; currently, the Bar Association can choose two representatives from one side, as it has done in the past.

If it passes into law, the bill is expected to open up the doors for Judge Noam Sohlberg’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Sohlberg, who has been criticized by the Left because he lives over the Green Line in Alon Shvut, is currently a judge in the Jerusalem District Court. Opposition MKs have also accused Ilatov and Elkin for drafting a “personal bill,” because they favor Sohlberg.

Some of the changes proposed on Wednesday are that the Bar Association representative must be elected with a two-thirds majority in the Bar’s national board, and that the head of the Bar Association serve as its sole representative to the committee to choose judges for Jewish, Muslim and Druse religious courts. In the “Sohlberg Law”’s original draft, the head of the Bar was supposed to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee, but the change was suggested to prevent the need to change a Basic Law.

The bill’s first reading is expected to take place next Monday, one day before Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is expected to convene a meeting of the Judicial Selection Committee to vote on replacements for justices Ayala Procaccia and Edmund Levi, who have both retired. The committee will likely also name a replacement for Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who retires in February.

Earlier this week, Elkin said that the bill’s passage in its first reading would be enough to influence the Bar Association’s choice of representative.

During Wednesday’s Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting, opposition MKs tried to delay what the inevitable acceleration of the bill’s readings, seemingly competing over who could most creatively attack the coalition and the government.

“This is like the Italian mafia. [Disgraced former Italian president Silvio] Berlusconi should come and learn from this committee,” MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said. “You’re turning it into a ‘bunga bunga’ party. You are crushing democracy. This bill signals to the legal system: We in the Knesset have assassins, and we are going to take you out, one by one.”

MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) called the coalition “a bunch of neighborhood bullies or retarded children – no offense to the children.”

“You have a toy, it’s called the government, and you’re trying to ruin every part of it so others can’t play with it, too. The right is trying to take revenge for events from the Altalena to the disengagement,” Abesadze said.

"The Nuremberg Laws also passed by majority, despite being unconstitutional,” MK Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL-Ta’al). “Not everything is permissible. This law is wrong.”

Zvi Piron, the head of the Bar Association’s national board, asked MKs: “Why are you disrupting our democratic process? The goal is not ideological; it’s political and is being reached through greed and bullying. You are stealing the majority’s democratic rights.”

“The left is going crazy,” MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said. “I don’t understand why they oppose a bill that would allow all opinions to be represented. If they want democracy, well, this is democracy.”

Ben-Ari also called the other opposition factions “hypocritical” for opposing accelerated legislation, pointing out that “they forgot that the disengagement, which they excitedly supported, was passed with unprecedented haste.”

The meeting descended into a screaming match after committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) arrived two hours late to the meeting, directly upon his return from a trip to the Philippines, and immediately called for a vote on the changes. Opposition MKs argued that for they had been discussing the original draft, and only now are hearing about revisions.

Gal-On said Rotem is “a bully and a rude person. Put down your gavel, stop threatening us.”

“Get out! You’re not even an animal,” Rotem retorted, after which a-Sanaa accused him of leading a “reign of terror,” and Herzog called Rotem “the mafia, a gang leader.”

“If you have a new proposal, let us discuss it. Stop playing tricks – you’ve only been here for a few seconds,” Hasson said. “You’re a bully, a gangster, and you’re silencing us. You’re stealing this vote.”

Hasson was also expelled from the meeting, as was a-Sanaa.

The committee voted on the bill’s new version, with two opposed and seven in favor. Many opposition members abstained, saying that the meeting was run unfairly. After Herzog requested an appeal, the bill passed once again, with seven in favor and six opposed.

The Knesset’s legal adviser Eyal Yinon is investigating the legality of the legislative process on a controversial bill regulating the Bar Association’s nominees to select judges, which was accelerated in advance of a Judicial Selection Committee meeting next Tuesday.

MKs Yoel Hasson (Kadima), Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Isaac Herzog (Labor), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) complained to Yinon and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin following heated arguments over the bill in a Wednesday morning Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting that prepared the initiative for its first reading in the plenum, which is expected to take place on Monday.

The opposition members said they were asked to vote on changes in the bill, but were not notified in advance or given time to discuss the revisions, which passed in the committee meeting. Rivlin then instructed Yinon to check the legality of the process.

The bill, nicknamed the “Sohlberg Law,” was proposed by Israel Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and others. It was approved in its preliminary reading on Monday, despite the opposition’s attempt at a filibuster, and is part of a package of judicial reform laws proposed by right-wing MKs in recent weeks, which include the “Grunis Law” and the law proposing a public hearing in the Knesset for potential Supreme Court Justices.

The “Sohlberg Law” will regulate the Bar Association’s choice of representatives to the Judicial Selection Committee, should it pass three more votes in the Knesset. The MKs proposed that the Bar Association appoint one coalition and one opposition member to the committee; currently, the Bar Association can choose two representatives from one side, as it has done in the past.

If it passes into law, the bill is expected to open up the doors for Judge Noam Sohlberg’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Sohlberg, who has been criticized by the Left because he lives over the Green Line in Alon Shvut, is currently a judge in the Jerusalem District Court. Opposition MKs have also accused Ilatov and Elkin for drafting a “personal bill,” because they favor Sohlberg.

Some of the changes proposed on Wednesday are that the Bar Association representative must be elected with a two-thirds majority in the Bar’s national board, and that the head of the Bar Association serve as its sole representative to the committee to choose judges for Jewish, Muslim and Druse religious courts. In the “Sohlberg Law”’s original draft, the head of the Bar was supposed to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee, but the change was suggested to prevent the need to change a Basic Law.

The bill’s first reading is expected to take place next Monday, one day before Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is expected to convene a meeting of the Judicial Selection Committee to vote on replacements for justices Ayala Procaccia and Edmund Levi, who have both retired. The committee will likely also name a replacement for Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who retires in February.

Earlier this week, Elkin said that the bill’s passage in its first reading would be enough to influence the Bar Association’s choice of representative.

During Wednesday’s Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting, opposition MKs tried to delay what the inevitable acceleration of the bill’s readings, seemingly competing over who could most creatively attack the coalition and the government.

“This is like the Italian mafia. [Disgraced former Italian president Silvio] Berlusconi should come and learn from this committee,” MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said. “You’re turning it into a ‘bunga bunga’ party. You are crushing democracy. This bill signals to the legal system: We in the Knesset have assassins, and we are going to take you out, one by one.”

MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) called the coalition “a bunch of neighborhood bullies or retarded children – no offense to the children.”

“You have a toy, it’s called the government, and you’re trying to ruin every part of it so others can’t play with it, too. The right is trying to take revenge for events from the Altalena to the disengagement,” Abesadze said.

"The Nuremberg Laws also passed by majority, despite being unconstitutional,” MK Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL-Ta’al). “Not everything is permissible. This law is wrong.”

Zvi Piron, the head of the Bar Association’s national board, asked MKs: “Why are you disrupting our democratic process? The goal is not ideological; it’s political and is being reached through greed and bullying. You are stealing the majority’s democratic rights.”

“The left is going crazy,” MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said. “I don’t understand why they oppose a bill that would allow all opinions to be represented. If they want democracy, well, this is democracy.”

Ben-Ari also called the other opposition factions “hypocritical” for opposing accelerated legislation, pointing out that “they forgot that the disengagement, which they excitedly supported, was passed with unprecedented haste.”

The meeting descended into a screaming match after committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) arrived two hours late to the meeting, directly upon his return from a trip to the Philippines, and immediately called for a vote on the changes. Opposition MKs argued that for they had been discussing the original draft, and only now are hearing about revisions.

Gal-On said Rotem is “a bully and a rude person. Put down your gavel, stop threatening us.”

“Get out! You’re not even an animal,” Rotem retorted, after which a-Sanaa accused him of leading a “reign of terror,” and Herzog called Rotem “the mafia, a gang leader.”

“If you have a new proposal, let us discuss it. Stop playing tricks – you’ve only been here for a few seconds,” Hasson said. “You’re a bully, a gangster, and you’re silencing us. You’re stealing this vote.”

Hasson was also expelled from the meeting, as was a-Sanaa.

The committee voted on the bill’s new version, with two opposed and seven in favor. Many opposition members abstained, saying that the meeting was run unfairly. After Herzog requested an appeal, the bill passed once again, with seven in favor and six opposed.

Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.


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