Ironically, Amit Becher's victory in the Israel Bar Association election may not be as beneficial for the anti-judicial reform camp as expected, as it is likely to push the coalition towards controversial legislation to alter the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee.
Becher is starkly against the government's judicial reforms, and participated a number of times in protests against the reforms in recent months. He is expected to lead the Israel Bar Association away from any compromise with the coalition on issues connected to the judicial reform, chiefly among them – the selection of judges.
The Israel Bar Association currently has two representatives on the Judicial Selection Committee. The IBA represents all of Israel's lawyers, and the rationale of their membership on the committee is that their professional opinion as those who appear before the judges should be taken into account.
However, the IBA nearly always sides with the three Supreme Court Justices on the committee, and pro-reform politicians, academics and pundits have argued that the lawyers have a vested interest in not opposing the judges before whom they appear in court.
Only Efi Naveh broke the alliance with the judges
The only IBA head to break the alliance with the judges on the committee was Efi Naveh, who sided with then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in 2015. This led to the appointment of a number of conservative judges to the Supreme Court and lower courts.
Naveh ran once again this week, and lost. Had he won, the coalition likely would have tried to use Shaked's strategy to appoint additional conservative judges. However, since Naveh lost, Justice Minister Yariv Levin will not have a majority in the committee.
The option to appoint conservative judges without changing legislation is thus off the table. This raises the chances that the government will attempt to pass a controversial bill that would alter the Judicial Selection Committee makeup by, among other changes, removing the IBA representatives.
An indication of this direction was evident on Wednesday after it became apparent that the government will bring up a bill on Sunday in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that would remove much of the IBA's power by forming a separate, political council that would be responsible for admitting Israel's lawyers onto the bar and granting them licenses to practice law, authorities which currently belong to the IBA.
According to the bill proposal, which was proposed by Likud MK Hanoch Milvetsky, the IBA would only remain as a voluntary representative body for lawyers who are interested.
The bill also includes a clause that would remove IBA representatives from the Judicial Selection Committee and from other committees responsible for electing judges for religious courts.
Milvetsky attached a letter to the bill proposal requesting from the ministerial committee that this clause be removed, so as not to irk the opposition and protest movements. But it could be returned at a later date.
According to the coalition, the bill also would not apply immediately so it does not appear as if it came directly as a result of Naveh's loss in the election. But this speaks to the fact that, appearances aside, it came precisely because of Naveh's loss. Had Naveh won, the coalition may not have been so quick to advance the bill, since it may have been able to reach some of its goals by negotiating with Naveh instead of battling him.
In conclusion, while Becher's sweeping win is a morale boost for the anti-reform camp, ironically, his win could push the coalition towards one-sided legislation to alter the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, likely during the Knesset's winter session, which begins on October 15.
For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Becher's victory is a double blow. First, it shows that his plan to slowly proceed with the reform is very unpopular amongst Israel's lawyers. And second, it will fuel the hard-liners in the coalition to increase pressure to alter the Judicial Selection Committee – which will lead to more protests, more chaos, and more of what the country witnessed between January and March.