Fight over judicial panel inflames tensions in Knesset

Elkin: Livni acting worse than Hizbullah in defeat.

uri Ariel 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset)
uri Ariel 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset)
A day after two right-wing MKs were voted onto the judicial selection committee, Knesset members exchanged recriminations, and shouting matches broke out between the candidates. National Union MK Uri Ariel and Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem were voted onto the committee as representatives of the opposition and coalition, respectively, defeating Kadima MK Ronnie Bar-On and Labor MK Eitan Cabel in a secret ballot at the Knesset on Monday. When Rotem approached Bar-On at the entrance to the Knesset plenum on Tuesday afternoon, Bar-On called Rotem a liar and Rotem replied that the leaders of Bar-On's party were liars. Rotem later explained that he had made a deal with Kadima whereby they would support him in his race against Cabel and Israel Beiteinu would back Bar-On against Ariel. "I kept my deal, but they broke it," Rotem said. Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach also accused Kadima of dirty politics, charging that they voted for United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni for a slot on the religious court selection committee in order to help the second opening on the committee go to Kadima MK Otniel Schneller. "It should be obvious that a majority of the Knesset would prefer to have Orbach select religious court judges and not a haredi MK, but Uri received an important lesson in Israeli politics," the spokesman for the freshman legislator said. Kadima responded that they made no deals or endorsements, except for Bar-On. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni continued to accuse Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of interfering to block Bar-On's election, an allegation Netanyahu denies. "This vote is further proof that Netanyahu does not care about democracy," Livni said. "Last night proved that the real coalition includes the National Union. Netanyahu has no real policy other than political hackery. The judicial selection committee is supposed to be above that." The Likud responded that Livni failed for a third time at building a majority in the Knesset after she did not succeed in forming a government in October and no party other than Kadima recommended to President Shimon Peres that she form a government after the election in February. "Livni can blame herself for her failure," coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said. "She should stop whining and acting like a sore loser. At least Hizbullah accepted defeat respectfully." Ariel said he would use his place on the committee to stop the courts from overturning Knesset legislation and to ensure appointment from key sectors of the population that have no representation on the bench.