MKs Approve Ousting Beinisch Associates From Selection Panel

AG issues statement expressing opposition to the bill - constitutes undue exploitation of the legislature's power and raises constitutional problems.

A bill that would change the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee provoked a storm of protest in the Knesset on Monday. The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the bill for its final readings, despite concerns raised by its own legal adviser and the Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued a statement expressing his opposition to the bill, believing that it constitutes undue exploitation of the legislature's power and raises constitutional problems.

Dorit Beinisch Yaakov Neeman - Olivier Fitoussi - 03012012
Olivier Fitoussi

During the Knesset committee's debate on the bill, deputy attorney general Orit Koren said bluntly, "This bill makes it self-evident that its purpose is only to make retroactive changes simply because the results of elections didn't find favor with various MKs. The Knesset is exploiting its right to make laws."

The bill would void the results of the recent Israel Bar Association election and order them to be repeated. Instead of the Bar's two elected representatives, a new framework would ensure that one representative comes from the leading faction of the Bar while the other comes from the opposition. This move is expected to increase the influence of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman over the appointments committee.

Another clause in the law would force the secular representative off the panel that chooses rabbinical court judges, a move that political sources say will clear the way for a candidate more acceptable to Shas.

Several Likud ministers are uncomfortable with the bill and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may reconsider it, after these ministers asked him to do so during a Likud faction meeting on Monday.

Minister Dan Meridor said he had asked Neeman to bring the bill back to the cabinet for reevaluation, but that the latter had refused.

Under the version of the bill passed by the Law Committee Monday, the two Bar representatives on the Judicial Appointments Panel would be forced to step down, with new elections held for those two slots.

Rather than each Bar member being allowed to choose two representatives, which assured that the stronger, left-wing camp's favorites always won, under the new rules each Bar member could only pick one candidate, which would allow the smaller right-wing camp to choose one of the panel members.

Under the new rules, attorney Pinhas Marinsky, an associate of Neeman's, is likely to replace current panel member Khaled Husseini Zuabi, who is identified with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch's camp.

The bill also calls for the two Bar Association representatives on the panel that chooses rabbinic court judges to step down, and would allow Bar Association head Doron Barzilai to choose both panelists himself.

Barzilai has promised to choose a woman as one of the two representatives, and leave the other, a representative of United Torah Judaism, in place. The woman, however, would be chosen in consultation with Shas.

Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ), one of the sponsors of the bill, denied that the Knesset has no right to cancel the results of elections that had already taken place.

At the party faction meeting, he and bill cosponsor Yariv Levin defended the bill, with Levin calling it "a struggle against the monarchistic selection of justices to the Supreme Court."