Government legal advisers and Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) clashed at the committee’s Sunday session over changes to the judicial system that the advisers said would threaten the balance of power.
Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik warned that changing the way MKs on the Judicial Selection Committee were chosen would turn most of the Knesset into a “passive player” at the mercy of coalition agreements.
Deputy Attorney-General Avital Sompolinsky on Sunday reiterated her office’s opposition to the entire judicial reform, following Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara’s opinion on Thursday.
“When examining the proposed arrangement, both from the committee chairman and in the draft memorandum, the result is not a balanced relationship but the removal of checks and balances from the Knesset and the government, without any creation of a balancing regime alternative,” she said.
There are many models of checks and balances in the world, Sompolinsky said. While there was a need to find a model that would work in Israel, many other checks and balances did not exist in Israel and required that they consider what Israel did have before changing the system, she said.
“These things are even more true, given the Israeli parliamentary structure and the inherent weakness of the Knesset vis-à-vis the government, which places the court as the only authority [that is] independent and can really be a brake on the actions of the government vis-a-vis the individual,” Sompolinsky said.
In response, Rothman said: “In the understanding of the current coalition, the balance has been drastically violated here, and the one who violated the balance over the years is the High Court [of Justice], so we are trying to restore the balance by limiting the branch that violated the balance.”
He said he believed in the separation of powers and that he would not force Supreme Court President Esther Hayut to express her opinion on the reforms.
Later on Sunday, Hayut said she would not speak before the committee.
Likud and Yesh Atid's responses
Likud MK Tally Gotliv said representatives of the Israel Bar Association needed to be replaced by politicians on the Judicial Selection Committee. She cited allegations surrounding former Bar Association chairman Avi Himi, who allegedly masturbated in front of a female lawyer seeking a judgeship in a video call. He resigned soon after.
“We are listening here patiently and wish to make it clear that we received the people’s mandate to act for the benefit of all citizens,” Gotliv said.
In response, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar said: “Receiving the mandate from the people does not mean taking liberties from people. The economists are against the lawyers, the doctors are against [it], countries in the world are against [it]. This is a bad reform, and your attempt to compare it to other countries has no place because the checks and balances in Israel are different.”
Gotliv also condemned incitement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At a protest on Saturday night, former fighter pilot Ze’ev Raz said Netanyahu and his followers were mortal, adding that he would not hesitate to use live fire if forced to live in a dictatorship.
Likud MK Moshe Saada called on his “brothers” in the opposition to condemn violent rhetoric. When a woman mailed a bullet to former prime minister Naftali Bennett’s family, she was “rightly” arrested, he said.
“Where have we gotten to?” Saada asked. “Where are the members of the opposition?”