The state believes the procedure for electing dayanim to 15 vacant positions was flawed and should be carried out again from the beginning, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday. Mazuz made the statement in a response to four petitions demanding that the High Court nullify the elections conducted by the Dayanim Election Committee on March 18.
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The committee elected 12 haredi rabbis and three national religious rabbis to the religious courts out of 53 candidates. It consisted of its chairman, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, two representatives of the Israel Bar, two members of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and two MKs.
Tzohar, an organization of national religious rabbis; Emuna, the national religious women's movement; the Israel Religious Action Center of the Progressive Movement and the Israel Bar petitioned the High Court, charging that the elections had been conducted unfairly and that the majority of six haredi representatives had agreed on all 15 candidates to be elected in advance.
Mazuz sidestepped the petitioners' arguments by finding other flaws in the procedures which, in his opinion, warranted nullifying the election and repeating the entire procedure. According to the attorney-general, 14 of the 15 appointees lacked valid certificates attesting to their eligibility to serve as dayanim on the day of the election. Furthermore, there were flaws in the way the subcommittees of the Dayanim Election Committee had interviewed the candidates, and regarding the information they had provided the plenary committee on the day of the election.
"The attorney-general's position is that the procedures in the subcommittee and the plenary of the Dayanim Election Committee should be repeated with regard to all the candidates in accordance with the procedures as defined in the rules of the committee," Mazuz said.
Friedmann added a letter to the state's response. He said he did not believe the complaints raised by the petitioners or the procedural flaws discovered by the attorney-general justified annulling the election. One of the nominees, Shlomo Stetsman, did have a valid certificate on March 18 and therefore, "there are no grounds for canceling his election," he added.
Friedmann said he had no objection to holding new elections for the other 14 vacancies and left it to the High Court to decide.