By DAN IZENBERG
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday rejected one controversial right-wing bill and sent another back for discussion by the coalition.
The committee voted 10-6 against a private member's bill submitted by Likud MK Yariv Levin and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union Party) to expand the Supreme Court from 15 to 18 members.
Meanwhile, it sent another bill, calling for all MKs to take an oath of loyalty to "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state" back to the coalition on the grounds that the bill was an amendment to the Basic Law: Knesset, and as such, required the support of all parties belonging to the coalition.
The bill was initiated by Israel Beiteinu MKs Robert Ilatov and David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Law Committee.
Sources close to Labor cabinet ministers Isaac Herzog, Avishay Braverman and Shalom Simhon told The Jerusalem Post that Labor would veto the bill.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman led the opposition to the proposal to expand the Supreme Court.
"As the person who stands at the head of the judicial system, I cannot pass this bill," he told the committee. "It is neither a good nor worthy bill."
Neeman's personal spokesman denied reports that the justice minister had threatened to resign if the committee approved the proposal.
Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor told the Post afterwards that he had also voted against the bill.
In the explanation to their proposal, Levin and Ben-Ari charged that the court was currently too homogeneous and ideologically one-sided.
"The bill is aimed at making possible a genuine variety in the composition of the Supreme Court, which has suffered in recent years from a homogeneous human composition and from a failure to properly reflect the variety of streams in Israeli society.
"The need for heterogeneity is greater given the increasing tendency of the Supreme Court to deal with issues of policy and ideology. Increasing the number of judges will make it possible to choose judges of different backgrounds in such a way as to faithfully express the various viewpoints current among the Israeli public."
The MKs also maintained that enlarging the court would provide an opportunity to appoint justices with expertise in various areas, thereby "contributing to the professionalism of the court and its professionalization in a wide spectrum of legal areas that are brought before it."
Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who voted in favor of the bill, said, "As a member of the Judicial Selection Committee, I have often seen that when someone wants to introduce representatives of new sectors into the court, such as academia, he is told there is no room. The bill would allow greater pluralism in the court.
"Furthermore, it would ease the existing heavy burden on the court. Today, hearings are scheduled for dates a long way off. The bill would make it possible to achieve justice faster."
In related news, MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) was removed from a Channel 1 studio at the behest of Erev Hadash host Dan Margalit on Thursday, after he accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of listening to classical music while children were being killed in Gaza.
The Movement for Quality Government on Sunday evening demanded that the attorney-general open a criminal investigation concerning Zahalka's comments about Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel Radio reported.
The movement asserts that the comments qualified incitement, thus justifying an attack on Barak.
Watch the video:JPost.com staff contributed to this report
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