Although Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told a cabinet meeting several months ago that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch supports his reform plans for the judicial system, she in fact opposes them and did so at the time of the cabinet session. The justice minister's proposal, which he has been promoting heavily, would empower the president or deputy president of magistrate's courts to order arbitration of civil complaints by private attorneys.
"Judicial delay is a phenomenon that we cannot accept," Neeman said recently in explaining the need for his reform, which he said is designed to ease the volume of cases in the court system. His proposal, in the form of an amendment to existing laws, has encountered considerable opposition, however, from those who claim it would give rise to potential conflicts of interest on the arbitrators' part and concern that the lawyers arbitrating the cases would not exercise the required objectivity.
Several weeks ago Beinisch again expressed strong opposition to the proposal at an Israel Bar Association conference that Neeman attended.
"In my view, this proposal is problematic and raises difficulties of principle," she said, stating that she believed the law would lead in practice to the privatization of legal services. It could also affect access to the judicial system and erode the most basic function of the judicial branch of government.
Haaretz has learned that on July 10, prior to Beinisch's Bar Association speech, the cabinet met to approve the proposed bill and sent it to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for further action. At that cabinet meeting, the justice minister reported that he had discussed the bill with the court administration and with Beinisch herself.
Several sources have confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Neeman at the July meeting if the court administration and Beinisch supported the measure and the justice minister replied that they did. The cabinet then approved the proposal. Sources close to Beinisch insist that her position has not changed since July and that even then she opposed Neeman's plan.
"The bill is nothing less than a government attempt to buy judicial services cheaply," said retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner. "Let's acknowledge the truth. It involves privatizing the judicial system in Israel. In my estimation, this law would not shorten proceedings. It would actually burden the system. It's a catastrophe."
This is not the first time that statements by Neeman to his cabinet colleagues have created controversy. More than a year ago, at a meeting of Likud ministers, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat asked why there were no women on the Turkel commission panel that investigated last year's confrontation between a Gaza-bound Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, and the Israeli navy. Women were approached to serve, but they all refused, Neeman reportedly replied, adding that the legal adviser in the Prime Minister's Office also disallowed five other potential women candidates.
The legal adviser in the Prime Minister's Office told Haaretz, however, that no women candidate's names were ever submitted for approval and none were disqualified.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: חוק בוררות חובה: קרב גרסאות בין נאמן לביניש
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