Barak keeps Independence away from judicial bill vote

Coalition chairman Elkin (Likud) vows move will bring sanction against faction; party could be ejected from coalition.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311 (photo credit: Linoy Elihai / Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311
(photo credit: Linoy Elihai / Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence faction announced Monday it would not vote with the coalition on a judicial selection reform bill, a move coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) vowed would bring sanctions against the party.
The Independence faction was not present in the plenum during the vote which took place late Monday night.
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In addition, not voting for the bill, which would require the Bar Association to appoint one coalition and one opposition representative to the Judicial Selection Committee, could lead the party to leave or be ejected from the coalition.
“This bill will harm the High Court and undermine judicial superiority,” Barak said. “It’s important for the Independence Party to defend the court’s independence.”
According to the defense minister, “any decision weakening the High Court is bad for Israeli democracy.”
The party said in a statement that coalition discipline on the vote defies agreements between Independence and the coalition.
“The Independence faction decided not to support a bill that will change the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, especially when there’s an attempt to pass the bill so it will influence the committee’s meeting in 10 days,” faction chairwoman Einat Wilf said.
However, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said the coalition agreement with Independence gives the faction the right to veto Basic Laws or elections laws, neither of which is on Monday’s agenda.
Otherwise, Elkin said, the party is required to vote with the coalition when there is discipline.
“I’m willing to listen to Barak’s criticism. After all, we disagree on many topics, but that doesn’t release his party from the coalition agreement.
“They may as well leave the coalition today, because that’s what it’ll mean if Independence votes against this bill,” Elkin said. “If they want to remain ministers, they need to understand that the Knesset will no longer view them as part of the coalition, and will vote against their ministries’ bills, and we’ll pass bills they oppose.”
Elkin is known to be a strict enforcer of coalition and faction discipline, to the extent that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at a recent Likud faction meeting that he “doesn’t know how to lose.”
No bills with coalition discipline have failed during this Knesset, and no opposition bills have passed without government approval.
“If Independence tries to break the coalition agreement, we don’t owe them anything anymore, and we won’t help them,” he said.
If Independence leaves, the coalition will still have 61 members, but will find itself in a precarious situation, making it difficult to pass legislation.