Yariv Levin - Olivier Pitoussi
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin. Photo by Olivier Pitoussi
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A bill that would subject potential Supreme Court judges to a hearing before a government panel is to be debated on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Under the proposal - sponsored by the chairman of the Knesset House Committee, MK Yariv Levin (Likud ), and coalition chairman, MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ) - the panel would have the right to reject any candidate. If the ministers approve the bill, it will go to the Knesset with government backing.

The bill would see all nominees for the position of Supreme Court justice subject to a public confirmation hearing - a type of hearing reserved for the highest-level judicial and executive positions - before the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, as would any justice who is nominated to be Supreme Court president.

This procedure, the bill's supporters say, would balance the veto power over candidates that is now solely in the hands of the three justices who sit on the Judicial Appointments Committee.

"This ends the reign of judges from the radical left and starts the rehabilitation of the entire judicial system," Levin said yesterday. "We are setting off on a historic path that will fundamentally change the way justices are chosen and will make it clear that the will of the public is stronger than the legal elite that has until now managed the judicial system by referring their friends."

The law, he said, "would totally diversify the makeup of the Supreme Court, whose gates would be opened before members of the Mizrahi community [Jews of Middle Eastern descent], justices from the Russian community and from the nationalist public. And it will prevent the appointment of justices with a post-Zionist agenda."

Cosponsor Elkin said the bill would increase the public's faith in the institution of the Supreme Court by giving its representatives more say in the choice of judges. "There's no basis to the allegations being made that the bill will lead to political interference in the courts, since politicians are already involved in the process through the Judicial Appointments Committee," he said. "This bill essentially exposes all the deals that are done in the dark to the light of day, and will lead to an open public debate [over judicial appointments], as is accepted in other western democracies. The transparency will only strengthen democracy and the public's faith in Israel's legal system."

Kadima strongly condemned the bill. "[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the Likud are trying to terrorize the legal system and will not forgo any means to do this," the opposition party said in a statement. "This bill is yet another expression of aggressive and brutal behavior by the party that once fought for personal liberties but today tramples on anyone who doesn't agree with its positions.

"Publicizing this bill such a short time after the memorial ceremonies for [assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin proves that while on the one hand the Likud speaks pretentiously about the rule of law, on the other hand it doesn't hesitate to damage it until it is changed beyond recognition."

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: הממשלה תדון בחוק שיחייב שימוע בכנסת למועמדים לעליון