Netanyahu Postpones Controversial Bill on Vetting Supreme Court Candidates

Attorney General says bill infringes on freedom of expression and is unconstitutional.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Sunday to postpone the vote on a controversial bill that gives the Knesset Constitution Committee the right to vet Supreme Court candidates.

At the same time, Netanyahu expressed support for a different bill that would limit foreign funding for human rights organizations, but said he wants to amend it before it is brought to a vote.

Supreme Court
Emil Salman

The two bills, which cover the same ground, were submitted by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu MKs respectively.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein also voiced his objection to the vetting bill, saying it will infringe on the freedom of expression, is unconstitutional and would probably not withstand a petition to the High Court of Justice.

The Knesset is bracing for a series of votes on controversial bills this week that critics say will restrict freedom of expression and weaken the judicial system.

The bills also include a proposal to significantly increase compensation for libel and a bill abolishing the rule that a justice cannot be appointed Supreme Court president unless he is at least three years short of the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The vetting bill conditions every judicial Supreme Court appointment and its president on a hearing at the Knesset's Constitution Committee. The committee would have the power to nix any candidate from joining the Supreme Court.

The EU's ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, contacted the prime minister's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, on Thursday and warned him that passage of the legislation could harm Israel's standing in the West as a democratic country.