Three new Supreme Court justices appointed

Uzi Fogelman, Yitzhak Amit, US-born Neal Hendel named after series of selection-panel compromises.

Neal hendel 248.88 (photo credit: )
Neal hendel 248.88
(photo credit: )
Compromises of all kinds finally broke the deadlock in the Judicial Selection Committee and led to the appointment on Sunday of three new Supreme Court justices: Tel Aviv District Court Judge Uzi Fogelman, Haifa District Court Judge Yitzhak Amit and US-born Beersheba District Court Judge Neal Hendel. But the man who turned the tide and made the breakthrough possible was Justice Edmond Levy, who broke ranks with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and announced during the first meeting of the committee on Friday that he would support Hendel, even though the district court judge had not served in the Supreme Court on a trial basis. Once that barrier was broken, it became easier to choose Amit on Sunday and complete the round of Supreme Court appointments to fill the three vacancies. Beinisch got her first choice, Fogelman, whom she has known since their days together in the State Attorney's Office. At the same time, she was forced to yield on the principle that only district court judges who had served nine-month trial periods on the Supreme Court could be eligible for permanent appointments. She had reportedly favored Jerusalem District Court Judge David Cheshin as a second choice and had agreed to support Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's candidate, Beersheba District Court Judge Yosef Elon, for the third slot. However, although Beinisch never said so in public, it appeared that her only do-or-die choice was Fogelman. The right-wing bloc of politicians - Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and MKs David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and Uri Ariel (National Union) - made it clear from the beginning they were prepared to accept Fogelman and Elon, on condition that they got to fill the third slot. They apparently wanted Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, whom they had nominated as a candidate in the first place. In the end, they also compromised by accepting Fogelman, forgoing Sohlberg and supporting Amit and Hendel, both of whom come from Orthodox backgrounds. For his part, Neeman gave up Elon for the "greater good" of finally appointing new justices. Elon, who also comes from an Orthodox background, was bitterly attacked by far-Right rabbis and pro-settlement activists who claimed that despite his family, which includes his brother, former Moledet Party and National Union chairman Benny Elon, the judge was a leftist and an enemy of the settlement movement. Neeman was far more interested in finding a compromise than in promoting Elon. Indeed, Elon had originally been the choice of Neeman's predecessor, Daniel Friedmann. During Friday's deadlocked meeting, the closest the committee came to agreeing on three candidates was when the trio of Vogelman, Amit and Hendel was proposed in a simulation vote. They garnered six of the nine votes, one short of the required minimum majority of seven. But by then, it was already clear that Hendel had seven votes in his favor. On Sunday, all nine committee members were ready to unite over the three. Nohi Eyal, the head of the right-wing Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, welcomed the committee's decision and described it as "revolutionary." "Never before has a majority of the judges been chosen not at the initiative of the president of the Supreme Court and despite her efforts to foil the election," he said.