After a dramatic Israel Bar Association election on Tuesday with record turnout, judicial reform opponent and interim Bar chairman Amit Becher won the race on Wednesday morning.
Becher received 28,000 votes in favor of his remaining as chairman, out of 39,150 votes cast. The election saw record turnout, with 50.8% of the almost 77,000 eligible voters flocking to polling stations on Tuesday. Queues were so long that polling station opening hours were extended twice.
The new chairman’s list also swept in the elections for the Bar’s National Council, securing 16 seats. The Zionist Legal Initiative list had three seats, and former Bar head Efi Nave took two. The National Council is able to appoint two representatives to the Judicial Selection Committee, the panel that lies at the heart of judicial reform debate since the beginning of 2023.
Becher thanked his supporters in his victory speech, saying it was a historic day and an important day for Israeli democracy.
“Tonight I promise them and all of Israel’s citizens that we will live up to the expectation, we will work starting tomorrow for all lawyers, from the Right and the Left, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, we will bring about historic achievements for the lawyers in Israel and will fulfill our mission to maintain the rule of law and protect democracy,” said Becher. “I call on Justice Minister Yariv Levin to act as quickly as possible to convene the Judicial Selection Committee in order to staff up and add additional standards in the judicial system.”
Becher said the association had to be on guard, with a new “Bar Association Law” to reduce the organization’s influence set to be discussed at the Knesset on Sunday.
Political supporters congratulated the new Bar chairman and determined that the outcome would have significant repercussions for the state’s judicial reform debate.
Opposition MKs send congratulations to new Bar head
Opposition head Yair Lapid congratulated Becher, and said that together with the new chairman and the National Council they would fight together for democracy.
“The lawyers in Israel proved that the liberal camp is stronger than ever,” said Lapid. “Amit Becher’s victory is a win for justice, truth and democracy.”
National Unity head Benny Gantz said he wished Becher success in promoting the needs of Israeli attorneys.
“The Bar Association plays an important role in maintaining the independence and strength of the legal system in Israel, and especially at this time, I am sure that Amit will lead it in the correct and responsible way,” said Gantz.
Yesh Atid MK Ron Katz said Wednesday morning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should note the vote outcome.
Anti-reform protest groups also congratulated Becher early in the morning, seeing his victory as a success against the reform.
“The democratic camp achieved a tremendous achievement on the way to saving Israeli democracy,” said protest group leaders in a statement. “We congratulate Amit Becher on his overwhelming victory.”
The protest groups said that civil society had made great progress in political engagement to protect democratic systems, as shown by attorneys and other professional communities such as hi-tech workers. A hi-tech workers protest said Becher’s win showed that most of society was opposed to the judicial reforms.
Former Bar head Efi Nave, a controversial candidate due to his past criminal convictions and sex scandal, won second place with 7,683 votes.
Nave conceded in a bitter statement on Wednesday evening, saying “judicial reform or judicial coup – one thing is not disputed: The main losers from the election are attorneys.”
Politicization was bad for lawyers and the Bar as a professional association, said Nave, and politicians would now seek to use it in service of their agendas rather than forward the professional interests of attorneys.