The so-called “compromise outline” that surfaced in Israeli media on Monday night would represent the third judicial reform agreement outline to come out of the President’s Residence.
The outline, revealed by N12, essentially calls for a freeze of judicial reform activity and sets the boundaries along which future reform activity will follow.
There would be a freeze of reform legislation for almost a year and a half. In the turbulent world of Israeli parliamentary politics, where coalitions are built like sandcastles and are pulled down by the tides, this is an eon.
The Knesset recess ends in mid-October, and many coalition members have been pushing to renew legislative activity with a new bill on the Judicial Selection Committee. The committee has been one of the key provisions of the judicial reform, and while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that he would drop other provisions, he has explicitly stated that he would pursue a new formulation for the vital panel.
According to the supposed outline, an appointment will be made by a seven out of nine majority vote. This requirement would mean that the coalition couldn’t add additional slots to the committee. Reform drafters have sought to add two additional seats to the panel, remove the two Israel Bar Association representatives, and add more Knesset and ministerial positions. The Judicial Selection Committee bill frozen in March would have given a ruling coalition the ability to select judges with an automatic majority vote of six.
The new Judicial Selection Committee
A new Judicial Selection Committee bill may replace the two Bar representatives with two coalition members, but there still wouldn’t be an automatic coalition voting bloc if the threshold was seven members in favor. Two panelists among the opposition Knesset members and three justices would need to side with the coalition bloc.
The reasonableness standard law, on which the High Court is set to deliberate next Tuesday, would reportedly be softened through a return to legislation. Sending the bill to be fixed at the Knesset is a possible outcome of the court hearing. The outline would have preempted such a move by the court, instead putting the decision in the hands of politicians.
The outline may have been scuttled by leaks, but abandoned or not the proposal hints at future developments in the judicial reform plan: Longer term development of the judicial reform, a Judicial Selection Committee without automatic majority voting blocs, and a trend of softening proposals.