The Judicial Appointments Committee is to convene on Friday morning, for the second time this week, but this time the agenda is the selection of magistrate's and district court judges.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has asked to place the issue of choosing new Supreme Court justices on this morning's agenda as well, in another effort to reach an agreement with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.
On Sunday Beinisch and justices Asher Dan Grunis and Miriam Naor refused to approve candidates to the bench, citing the "hostile" public atmosphere surrounding the country's judicial establishment. That decision put paid to a deal worked out over the past few months among committee members to approve the appointments to the Supreme Court of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, Jerusalem District Court Deputy President Zvi Zylbertal and Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner. They will now have to compete against additional candidates, including those from Mizrahi backgrounds.
The collapse of the agreement has caused tension among committee members, and particularly between Neeman and Beinisch. Last night one member said the bad blood within the committee would make reaching agreement over new appointments to the bench impossible or nearly so.
Beinisch said Sohlberg was a talented judge, but that appointing him would be interpreted as choosing a right-wing candidate because he had been depicted as such in the media. She said such a public perception would have dangerous implications for the Supreme Court.
Members of the Judicial Appointments Committee said the next justices might not be selected until after Beinisch stepped down, since it would take several months until new candidates were chosen and the committee was able to reconvene.
A source close to Beinisch said the Supreme Court justices were being blamed for the absence of Mizrahi candidates, and that keeping to the deal reached with Neeman and going through with the vote would make it seem like Supreme Court justices didn't want to see another Mizrahi judge on the court. Edmond Levy, who retired from the court last month, was the last Supreme Court justice of Mizrahi background.
The source said Beinisch realized the vote against Berliner, Sohlberg and Zylbertal meant she might not be one of those who vote in the next Supreme Court justices. She did not want to vote for a politicized candidate and was interested in opening the list to prospective Mizrahi justices, the source added.
After Sunday's meeting the committee decided to open the candidates' list to new names. On Wednesday seven district court judges were added to the list. Several of them are from Mizrahi backgrounds.
Members of the Judicial Appointments Committee said the next justices might not be selected until after Beinisch steps down, since it would take several months to vet and approve the new candidates.
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