Lawyers' Representative Calls on Neeman to Cancel Court Appointment Meeting

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman expected to rebuff attorney Rachel Ben Ari's request, as deferring the meeting would reduce chances of pushing through his preferred appointees.

The battle over the upcoming round of Supreme Court appointments is heating up: On wednesday, one of the Bar Association's two representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee asked that a meeting planned for November 20 be canceled on the grounds that the bar's representatives are due to be replaced a few days later, and lame-duck decisions would have no "moral validity."

But Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, the committee chairman, is widely expected to rebuff attorney Rachel Ben Ari's request, as deferring the meeting would reduce his chances of pushing through his preferred appointees.

The November 20 meeting is slated to choose three new justices - two to replace Edmond Levy and Ayala Procaccia, who recently retired, and one to replace Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who is due to retire in February.

Usually, new justices are chosen only after the old one has left.

The timing is critical because a new justice must be approved by seven of the committee's nine members. Currently, Neeman believes the balance of power on the panel is conducive to winning approval for his preferred nominees - Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg and Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner - in exchange for one appointment favored by Beinisch: Jerusalem District Court President Zvi Zylbertal.

But the bar representatives' terms expire on December 2. And they are the swing votes between Neeman's bloc, comprising the panel's four politicians, and Beinisch's bloc, comprised of its three justices.

While Ben Ari is considered a Beinisch ally, the other bar representative, Pinhas Marinsky, is considered a Neeman ally. But since the bar's national council, which will choose its new representatives on November 22, is now controlled by a Beinisch ally, Marinsky is likely to be replaced. Ben Ari, in contrast, is expected to be reappointed.

That means that instead of Neeman's bloc having a 5-4 edge over Beinisch's bloc, the reverse will be true.

In her letter to Neeman, Ben Ari argued that following the bar's November 22 decision, any decisions by the lame-duck representatives will be devoid of "moral validity." Therefore, she said, the November 20 committee meeting should be canceled.

"Neeman has lost it," said one source involved in the committee's work. "What's so urgent about appointing three justices now, and especially a replacement for Beinisch, who will retire only in another few months? In any case, the chosen justice won't be able to take his seat on the Supreme Court until February. It's all to get Sohlberg's appointment through."

But Yeron Festinger, a member of the bar's central committee who is considered closer to Neeman's views, said he thinks Marinsky is likely to be relected in any case, because Marinsky's camp won the recent bar elections, even though the opposition controls the national council. "It's inconceivable that the opposition [in the bar] should have both representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee," he said.