Preparation of the judicial reform bill regarding the judge selection committee continued on Wednesday in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee while President Isaac Herzog was putting the finishing touches to his compromise proposal announcement later last night.
Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik questioned whether additional Knesset members could be added to the reform composition proposal. Critics contend that the current reform formulation would create an automatic coalition majority. Afik suggested that additional Knesset members or another division could give more representation to the opposition.
Rothman said that adding more MKs could be considered, but disagreed that appointment by the coalition was a terrible thing. He also noted that the current reform plan also codifies a longstanding government tradition of giving one of the MK slots on the panel to an opposition member.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv said that Rothman gave “representation but eliminated the role of the opposition in the committee. The opposition will be a decoration on the wall of the committee.”
Afik also noted that discussions had brought up the distinction between selection of judges for the High Court of Justice and lower courts.
The bill contains provisions for restricting the High Court’s use of judicial review on Basic Laws.
Committee chairman Simcha Rothman argued in the committee that Basic Laws are the domain of the Knesset, being the constitutional body that is supposed to enact them. The courts were never supposed to have authority over Basic Laws.
The concern arose in the committee over abuse of Basic Laws and their irreproachability by the High Court’s judicial review. Critics have expressed the view that as the courts have been restricted from interfering with Basic Laws, a coalition seeking to bypass judicial scrutiny could simply pass all its legislation as Basic Laws, as there is no special method to introduce these fundamental legal articles.
Deputy Attorney-General Avital Sompolinsky told the committee that Basic Law legislation with three readings and a 61 Knesset majority would not sufficiently limit the quasi-constitutional laws.
Negotiations, compromise continued to be matter of intense debate
Negotiation and compromise continued to be a matter of intense debate in the committee ahead of Herzog’s Wednesday night announcement.
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen said that the Kohelet Forum agreed that Rothman’s plan was not on the correct path, likely referencing the personal opinion expressed by Dr. Michael Sarel last Wednesday. He also cited Friedmann outline drafter Prof. Yuval Elbashan, who Cohen said also talked about cessation of legislation.
Rothman noted that Elbashan said negotiations should have been held anyway.
“I understand that it is difficult for you with the condition of stopping legislation, but I repeat that there were enough days in which there was no legislation and a lot of things could be done if you enter into negotiations. The demand you presented is unilateral and illegitimate.”