Battle for Israel Supreme Court Enters Final Legislation Stage

The 'Grunis bill', which is to be presented for a vote before the Knesset, could pave way for the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis to the court's presidency.

A bill that will change the face of the Supreme Court is to enter the last phase of its legislation tomorrow: The so-called "Grunis bill" to pave the way for the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis to the court's presidency will be presented for a vote on its second and third readings before the Knesset. At the same time, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will prepare for a second and third reading of a bill that will change the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee.

Both bills have been stalled for the past few weeks due to disagreements among coalition partners. But an agreement last week could pave the way to complete the bills' legislation. Under the agreement, the representative of United Torah Judaism, Mordechai Eisenberg, who had received the greatest number of votes, will remain at his post, while the appointment of the second representative will be annulled and a person acceptable to Shas will be appointed instead.

Grunis, Beinisch
Tomer Appelbaum

The coalition's demand that the second appointee be a woman is one of the issues to be discussed at tomorrow's Knesset committee meeting. In addition, coalition head MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) wants a clause inserted in the bill by which the Israel Bar Association would hold new elections for its members to the committee, although elections for the posts were held only a few weeks ago. Elkin wants to ensure that there is one representative from the opposition and one from the coalition.

Sources in the Knesset say they believe the High Court of Justice will strike down the clause mandating new elections for the Bar Association.

The two bills have also been delayed because of Elkin's demand that they be moved ahead together.

The "Grunis bill," initiated by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), removes the restriction that prevents Supreme Court justices who have less than three years on the bench before retirement from being appointed court president. The restriction was written into law promoted by the previous justice minister, Daniel Friedmann. Grunis will have less than three years left to serve on the bench when Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch retires.

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. The bill 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.

Judicial Appointments Committee to meet Friday

The Judicial Appointments Committee is to meet Friday to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court, although the members have not yet agreed on their choices and it is uncertain whether a deal can be struck that will allow the selection process to go ahead. No decision on new justices was made at the last meeting of the appointments committee, in November, because Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, as well as justices Grunis and Miriam Naor, who are members of the committee, said that the "public atmosphere" was not conducive to new appointments at that time.

In the months preceding the November meeting, a deal seemed in the offing to appoint District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, an associate of Beinisch, Jerusalem District Court Deputy President Zvi Zylbertal and Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner. But the deal did not go through, and additional names were added to the short-list, including candidates from Mizrahi backgrounds.

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