Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman
Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee succumbed to last-minute pressure on Wednesday and decided to postpone an emergency discussion on whether to pull from the plenum agenda a bill to change the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee had been preparing to bring the bill forward for a second a third reading, when it opted instead to accept Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin's suggestion to bring the issue back for a revote in light of a slew of criticism of the matter. It is extremely rare for a committee to cast a revote on a matter already approved in a first reading.

Within hours of announcing that decision, another wave of criticism prompted the committee to declare that it would cancel the revote altogether. Shortly after, the committee decided to postpone further debate on the matter to another date.

An increasing number of Knesset members have grown opposed to the bill, which has already been stalled for quite some time.

Following a back-and-forth discussion on whether the committee should push forward the bill or indeed cast a revote, Rivlin said he would not allow any further decisions on the matter until it was brought back to the drawing board.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) who is a member of the Knesset committee, commented on the ordeal, calling it "a circus of a coalition that is belligerently drunk."

The committee's decision to take the rare step of calling for a revote, after the issue had already been approved in a first reading, was made following harsh criticism from members of the opposition as well as disagreements among coalition partners.

The bill changing the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee is intended to strengthen the weight of the justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, in the committee.

It states that the two Bar Association members of the committee will be elected by a two-thirds majority of the members of the association's national council. This means that instead of two representatives of the Bar Association's coalition on the committee, one member of the coalition and one member of the opposition will be appointed.

A number of senior Likud ministers – Gideon Sa'ar, Dan Meridoe, Benny Begin, Limor Livnat and Michael Eitan – had voiced strong opposition to the vote after it was approved for a second and third reading.

Meridor suggested to Ne'eman that the bill, as presented to MKs, was entirely different to the one approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and should thus be struck from the plenum agenda. He demanded then that the issue be brought back to the cabinet for discussion, but Ne'eman refused.

Following their criticism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided further discussions should be held on the matter.

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