The Knesset plenum yesterday passed in second and third reading the so-called "Grunis bill," which paves Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis' way to the court's presidency. The opposition slammed the bill and opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni said it was part of the coalition's conspiracy to undermine Israel's democracy and belittle the Supreme Court.

The Grunis bill, sponsored by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), removes the restriction preventing Supreme Court justices who have less than three years on the bench before retirement from being appointed court president. The restriction was written into a law promoted by the previous justice minister, Daniel Friedmann. Grunis will have less than three years left to serve on the bench when Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch retires.

The bill was blasted by the opposition for being personally tailored for Grunis, to enable him to be appointed to the lofty post rather than other candidates in line for it. Had this legislation not been enacted, Justice Miriam Naor would have been appointed next Supreme Court president. Now she is expected to get the job only after Grunis retires.

Opposition members who spoke at the plenum debate yesterday said they had nothing against Grunis himself, but against legislation for ulterior motives.

"This bill is part of this coalition's conspiracy to turn Israel into a non-democratic state, to degrade the Supreme Court, to take over the media and to gag everyone else, including the opposition," said opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni.

She said Kadima objected to the Grunis bill not because of the man himself, "who is good and deserving. But a personal bill is not worthy and nobody should support it."

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) called the bill redundant. "It is based on an error. You don't change the order of things like that. The people want stability, order ... There are rules, frameworks, and you are destabilizing things. Tomorrow someone will change it again. I ask and demand take this bill and reconsider it. I hope you scrap it."

MK Katz said, "I ask the MKs and ministers not to let Haaretz newspaper decide who the next Supreme Court president is, but the people, by means of its representatives."

"Haaretz defined the revolution that began in the Knesset today with the following headline: 'the Knesset will determine who replaces Beinisch' Indeed, the newspaper is right. Today it transpired that the outgoing president Beinisch will not be the one to decide, but the people through its Knesset representatives will decide who the next president will be. It is no accident Grunis' opponents were headed by Haaretz, the house newspaper of the Tel Avivian clique, the newspaper that fights for the justices who were appointed in the crony system and created a radical leftist guild.

"Personal laws are always bad ones, tailored for political reasons," said MK Dov Khenin (Hadash).

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said "the bill is a crude political shameless attempt of the bullying Knesset majority to dictate who will head the Supreme Court. Intoxicated by power, the coalition is trying to change the rules of the game."