High Court to Hear Plea for More Candidates for Own Bench

Petition asks that the meeting be postponed, that only two Supreme Court justices be chosen, and that the full list of candidates for high court be published.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman said he will not expand the list of candidates for Supreme Court slots, nor will he postpone the meeting of the Judicial Appointments Committee scheduled for November 20, whose agenda includes the selection of three new high court justices.

The battle over the committee meeting moves tomorrow to the High Court of Justice, which is to hear a petition asking that the meeting be postponed; that only two justices be chosen at this point, rather than three, and that the full list of candidates for the high court be published.

The petition was filed by former journalist Ben-Zion Citrin.

Meanwhile, a bill that would change the makeup of the Judicial Appointments Committee will not come to a vote in the plenum today, but instead will be debated only next week.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ordered the delay, noting that Arab MKs were absent this week because they are marking Id al-Adha.

The bill states that the two Israel Bar Association representatives on the appointments committee specifically be the bar association chairman and a member of the opposition faction. Currently, the two representatives are chosen in an election held among all members of the bar.

Right-wing MKs initiated the legislation, believing that an open election among bar members would lead to the choice of two who would automatically support Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch's preferences for judicial appointments.

The delay will make it very difficult to finish legislating the bill, which has yet to pass any readings, before November 22, which is when the bar is due to replace its current representatives on the committee with two new ones.

Knesset sources said yesterday that the coalition plans to try to pass it within three days next week in a marathon session, while the opposition is "readying for battle," according to MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima ).

The sparring over delaying the committee meeting continued yesterday, with Neeman and committee member attorney Rachel Ben Ari exchanging pointed letters with each other and other committee members over the date of the meeting and the publication of the list of Supreme Court candidates.

Ben Ari wants the meeting put off so that the list can be augmented with candidates of Sephardi, or Middle Eastern and North African, origin, since the retirement of Edmond Levy has left the court with no Sephardi justice.

Ben Ari had tried unsuccessfully to get the agreement, as required, of two other panel members to present other candidates, including those of Sephardi background.

The members she approached are reportedly committed to a deal arranged by Neeman, under which district court judges Noam Sohlberg, Zvi Zylbertal and Dvora Berliner would be appointed to the Supreme Court. Submitting new candidates might torpedo this deal.

In his letter to Ben Ari yesterday, Neeman noted that at the committee's September meeting he had clarified that if three of the panel's nine members or Beinisch had wanted to submit new candidates, he would have included them on the list, but this had not happened.

Neeman also rejected Ben Ari's claim that the list of candidates was "unknown," just because an updated list had not been formally published.

The petition to be heard by the High Court of Justice tomorrow argues, among other things, that Neeman had published in the government gazette that there was a need to appoint three new justices, while at present only two are needed, to replace Levy and Ayala Procaccia. A third justice, Beinisch, will retire in February and Neeman wants to appoint her replacement now.