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A new round of Supreme Court nominations officially opened on Wednesday, with several new contenders added, most of them of Middle Eastern or North African origin.

The newest names were submitted by members of the Judicial Appointments Committee - Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ) and attorney Pinny Marinsky.

The new contenders are Nazareth District Court Deputy President Yitzhak Cohen, Nazareth District Court judges Nehama Munitz and Avraham Avraham, Central District Court Judge Benjamin Arnon, Tel Aviv District Court judges Michal Agmon-Gonen and Uri Shoham, Haifa District Court Judge Yosef Elron, and Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Baruch Azulay.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch is expected to submit her list of preferred candidates in a few days. Both Beinisch and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who heads the appointments committee, can make nominations on their own; other nominations can only be made by the agreement of any three members of the committee.

Another committee member, Rachel Ben Ari, recently suggested to Beinisch that she nominate former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, but it is not clear if Beinisch will do so.

The list of nominees was reopened after Sunday's meeting of the appointments committee ended with no choices made for the Supreme Court. Beinisch and the other two justices on the committee, Asher Grunis and Miriam Naor, agreed that the public controversy over the choice of judges made it unwise to appoint anyone at this time.

They were particularly concerned that one of the nominees, Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, was being promoted by politicians on the right, and they feared setting a dangerous precedent by appointing a candidate who had been "marked" politically.

Neeman has refused to commit to a time frame for choosing new Supreme Court justices, though it will presumably happen at one of the meetings already scheduled for the coming months.

The assumption is that he will wait to see when, if, and in what form a bill is passed determining that the two bar association representatives on the appointments committee be one from the bar's controlling faction and one from the opposition.

That bill, if it passes, is expected to strengthen Neeman's position on the panel.

A source involved with the committee's work expects Neeman to raise the issue of Supreme Court nominations at tomorrow's meeting of the panel, even though the committee is meant to be choosing judges for the magistrate's and district courts.

But sources say Beinisch is likely to refuse to allow the appointment of any justices tomorrow, even if it means that her term will expire at the end of February without her input on the new appointments.