Right Wing Secures Majority on Judicial Appointments Committee

A new member of the panel, Robert Ilatov, says any candidate who does not sing the national anthem 'cannot be a judge in the State of Israel.'

Olivier Fitoussi

The two representatives of the coalition to the Judicial Appointments Committee selected in a pre-dawn vote Thursday are Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Nurit Koren (Likud), a major achievement for the coalition as it gives committee chairwoman Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) a clear right-wing bloc that can veto appointments to the courts that are not favored by the right.

Ilatov’s and Koren’s victory represents a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman that kept opposition candidates off the committee. MK Ofer Shelah of the centrist, opposition Yesh Atid faction garnered 47 votes out of 120, although he did not muster enough support even from the opposition.

“From our point of view the deal succeeded,” Ilatov told Haaretz after his victory, adding that he would bring a right-wing worldview to the committee. “Yisrael Beiteinu has an agenda and an ideology. We are a right-wing party but we will act in a statesmanlike manner. We will use every tool necessary to express ourselves in the committee.

In an interview Thursday on Army Radio, Ilatov said that a candidate for the bench who does not sing the national anthem “cannot be a judge in the State of Israel,” and that he would not appoint anyone “who opposes the principle of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Ilatov told Haaretz that there are hardly any judges from the former Soviet Union, which he regards as a drawback, considering that 17 percent of Israelis are from that region. “We will balance the justice system. We also want a proper justice system, clean and well-organized. I will consult with anyone I think I should consult, clearly I will also consult with Lieberman himself.”

Ilatov declined to say that Lieberman’s deal with Netanyahu had opened the door to Yisrael Beiteinu joining the coalition. “This deal doesn’t say anything. We will continue to work as opposition and we’ll see what’s ahead,” he said.

MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union), who also lost her bid for a seat on the committee, was critical Thursday of the Netanyahu-Lieberman deal. “You have to understand that this deal is part of a much larger deal between Netanyahu and Lieberman that is connected to the natural gas plan and the Norwegian law,” she said, the latter referring to a bill by which the seats of MKs who become ministers are given to another member of their faction.

The opposition scored a significant victory of its own Thursday when one of its members, MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) was appointed to the committee that appoints Jewish religious court judges (dayanim). Swid received 62 votes, from both sides of the aisle, overcoming the coalition’s candidate, MK Nava Boker (Likud), who is considered close to Netanyahu.

Swid, who comes from a religious Zionist family, will serve alongside MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), who won 97 votes, also from right and left. “Today we witnessed a very extensive intimidation campaign intended to persuade the coalition factions to vote against their conscience. I am glad that behind the partition, people chose to prove that ideology wins out over politics. When it’s about a committee that impacts the lives of so many women and men, the MKs voted with their conscience,” she said.

The main impediment to Boker’s appointment is her attitude toward religion. The Orthodox website Kikar Hashabbat revealed that on the eve of the elections, Boker said at a public event that although she came from a religious Zionist family, “over the years I have become secular. I believe in alternative marriage, in promoting the status of women, things that may go against the ‘regular’ religion.”

Boker also said at the time that she and her husband had preferred an alternative wedding ceremony and were not married by the rabbinate. Nevertheless, Shas chairman and Economy Minister Arye Dery met with Boker this week to try to find a way for his faction to support her. Sources in Shas said agreements had been made that allowed its members to vote for her.