Panel Delays Vote on Bill to Allow MKs to Vet Potential Justices

Committee was scheduled to vote on the bill Sunday, but postponed the ballot after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers he opposed the law and the vote was delayed.

A vote on a bill that would allow the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to vet Supreme Court justices will be postponed by a week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided Sunday.

The committee for legislation was originally scheduled to vote on the bill Sunday, but postponed the ballot after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud ministers on Sunday that he opposed the controversial law and wanted the vote delayed.

Sources close to Netanyahu said Sunday they were working to change the wording of the bill to make the existing Judicial Appointments Committee hearing public, rendering a Knesset committee hearing unnecessary.

As it stands, the bill, which was co-sponsored by two Likud MKs, Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin, seeks to give the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee the power to confirm or reject nominees for the Supreme Court bench and for the position of court president, akin to chief justice.

"This is a dangerous proposal, which will lead to the total and uninhibited politicization of the Supreme Court justice selection process," said Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. "The proposal will turn the Supreme Court into a docile branch of the occasionally shifting political majority."

In addition to Sa'ar, four other ministers oppose the bill: Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, Orit Noked and Shalom Simhon. The position of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and five others remains unclear, while nine ministers are said to support the bill.

One supporter is Likud's Michael Eitan, minister for the improvement of government services, who argues that the bill would help provide the checks and balances necessary for good government.

"For many years, I have been fighting for a more suitable balance of power between the judicial and legislative branches," Eitan said. "In the vast majority of democratic countries around the world in which the courts have the power to overturn parliamentary legislation, the parliament has a significant role in the process of selecting those judges."

In the United States, for instance, nominees for the position of Supreme Court justice must be confirmed by the Senate before they can sit on the bench. The Senate must also confirm high-level cabinet positions and other appointments.

Aside from Eitan, the ministers supporting the bill include Yuli Edelstein (Likud ) and an unidentified Likud member, Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi ), three Yisrael Beiteinu ministers and two from Shas.