Israel Panel Approves 4 New Supreme Court Justices

New members Daphne Barak-Erez, Zvi Zylbertal, and Uri Shoham receive full back of Judicial Appointments Committee, while Noam Sohlberg backed by 8 of the panel's 9 members.

The Judicial Appointments Committee named four new Supreme Court justices on Friday, following a tumultuous week of power struggles and controversy surrounding Israel's court system.

The newly appointed justices are Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, dean of Tel Aviv University's law school Daphne Barak-Erez, Jerusalem District Court Deputy President Zvi Zylbertal, and Tel Aviv District Court Judge Uri Shoham.

Supreme Court
Emil Salman

All the new justices were voted in unanimously, with the exception of Sohlberg, who was backed by eight of the nine panel members. Shoham was picked to fill in the Supreme Court's "Mizrahi" slot, in light of recently sounded criticism that the list of possible Supreme Court nominees did not include a judge from Israel's North-African or Middle Eastern Jewish community.

Sohlberg and Zylbertal's appointment is to take immediate effect; Shoham will join once current Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch retires at the end of next month, while Barak-Erez's appointment will take effect with the exit of the Supreme Court's Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin in May.

As a result of his relatively young age, Sohlberg, who will turn 50 later this month, is expected to be nominated as Supreme Court President in the distant future.

Noam Sohlberg and Daphne Barak-Erez
Daniel Bar-On and Moti Milrod

A relative surprise was Barak-Erez's appointment, since they was not considered likely to be chosen by a panel which seemed in favor of appointing presiding judges as opposed to academicians. Sources in the committee indicated that the Barak-Erez nod represented an effort to balance out the right-back Sohlberg, even though the TAU professor is not politically affiliated.

The appointment came as a surprise since the Judicial Appointments Committee stood at the eye of a political storm in recent days, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday suspending a bill aimed at strengthening the right wing at the committee, following a slew of criticism not only from the left but among his own party's ministers and Knesset members.

The bill, submitted to the Knesset for second reading on Wednesday, would have lead to ousting members of the committee who are associated with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, to strengthen the weight of the rightist members. The bill would also oust the secular representative in the religious judges appointments committee, with the intention of replacing him with a representative of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, political sources said.

Read this article in Hebrew