Israel Reopens Supreme Court Candidate List After Dispute-fueled Hiatus

Israel Bar Association seeking new contenders after members of the vetting panel objected to its choices

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem.Credit: Noam Rivkin Panton
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced Tuesday that he is reopening the candidates’ list for the Supreme Court, in the wake of disagreements in the Judicial Appointments Committee. The list will remain open through January 6.

Haaretz has learned that the Israel Bar Association is searching for new candidates from the private sector, after some members of the vetting panel objected to nominees put forth by the organization. One of the bar association’s candidates, Yaacov Sharvit, was moved from the list of Supreme Court hopefuls to the list of nominees for the Tel Aviv District Court’s finance division. Sources in the bar association said the organization remains adamant that an attorney from the private sector be appointed to the Supreme Court immediately.

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The court is short two justices following the retirements of Menachem Mazuz and Hanan Melcer. On December 2 Sa’ar appointed Judge Shaul Shohat temporary justice, for a six-month term. Shohat is deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court.

The last temporary appointment to the Supreme Court was in 2007, when Uzi Fogelman was given a one-year term. He later received a permanent appointment.

A few days after Shohat’s appointment, Haaretz reported that Sa’ar and Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut were considering making another temporary six-month appointment, and holding discussions on the matter. Sa’ar and Hayut will only refrain from making another temporary appointment if the committee reaches agreement soon on the permanent appointments of new justices.

The Judicial Appointments Committee was scheduled to meet in late November to choose permanent new justices, but the meeting was postponed due to the disagreement.

“Despite many efforts to reach an agreement on appointing justices in accordance with the demands of the law, they have not succeeded as of yet,” Sa’ar said at the time. He added that he was aware of his responsibility to make balanced choices, but noted that this was impossible given the current mindset of committee members.

The two main articles of contention are over appointing conservative or liberal candidates, and the bar association’s demand that one of the four justices to be appointed come from the private sector. Committee members Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) are set on appointing conservative justices who won’t hasten to intervene in cabinet resolutions and laws passed by the Knesset.

Committee chair Sa’ar supports appointing a balanced panel of justices. The justices who are members of the committee, the bar association representatives and MK Efrat Rayten (Labor Party) are averse to selecting judges who are considered conservative.

In addition to replacing Mazuz and Melcer, the committee needs to find replacements for Justices Neal Hendel and George Kara, who are slated to retire next year. The committee may select two justices to replace Mazuz and Melcer and wait to select the two other justices, or it could make all four selections at once.

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