Opposition suspends legal reform talks

Yair Lapid  credit: Shlomi Yosef
Yair Lapid credit: Shlomi Yosef

After today's Knesset vote to choose its Judicial Selection Committee representatives ended inconclusively, opposition leader Yair Lapid said: No committee, no talks.

An inconclusive result in today’s vote in the Knesset to elect its representatives on the Judicial Selection Committee has led opposition leaders to declare that they will withdraw from the talks being held under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog aimed at reaching an agreed formula for changes to the legal system. At a press conference after the vote, Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid said, "Today, Netanyahu prevented the formation of the committee, and put an end to the pretense that he had chosen the path of dialogue. Once, Netanyahu was a strong swindler; now he’s a weak swindler. The committee was not formed, the threat to democracy has not been removed.

"Netanyahu knew precisely what the consequences would be. They were made clear to him by the President and by us. Without a Judicial Appointments Committee, we will not come to the President’s residence. No committee, no talks. Netanyahu gave his word to the President, but then collapsed under his partners’ pressure. He lost in the vote because even in his coalition there are decent people for who democracy is important and who decided to put an end to the lies."

Lapid was backed by National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, who said, "What happened here today is that the prime minister decided to go against the country. I’m concerned, because Netanyahu collapsed. Netanyahu surrendered to the extremists. He surrendered to the barn burners who want to dismember Israeli society. His conduct raises questions about his judgment on fateful matters."

Netanyahu responded to the opposition’s move by saying, "Today it finally became clear that Gantz and Lapid were looking for any way of breaking up the talks. They did not enter into genuine dialogue. The rejected every proposal, even the most minor one."

In a vote to elect members of the Judicial Selection Committee today, the Knesset chose MK Karine Elharrar from the opposition Yesh Atid party, but failed to elect a candidate from the coalition. In the secret ballot, Elharrar received 58 votes, with 56 votes against her. The result means that at least four Knesset members from the coalition voted for her. Just 15 Knesset members voted for MK Tally Gotliv, the candidate from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, while 59 opposed her.

Netanyahu earlier tried to have the vote postponed for thirty days and to persuade Gotliv to remove her candidacy, but she refused. He and the coalition party heads then told their members to vote against both Gotliv and Elharrar, a move explicable by Netanyahu’s agreement with Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir that a member of his party would be the coalition representative on the committee. At any rate, the result of the exercise is that the committee will not be formed since only one Knesset member has been elected to it.

In its current format, the Judicial Selection Committee has nine members, comprising the Minister of Justice, who chairs the committee, another government minister, three Supreme Court judges, two representatives of the Israel Bar Association, and two members of Knesset. Traditionally, one Knesset member from the coalition is chosen and one from the opposition, but this is not a legal requirement.

The composition of the Judicial Selection Committee is probably the most contentious issue in the reform of the legal system that Minister of Justice Yariv Levin seeks to introduce. Levin seeks greater political control of the selection of judges. He had said that he would not convene the committee until the changes he sought were legislated, but opposition parties said they would withdraw from the cross-party talks at the President’s residence unless the committee met to start clearing the backlog of some 80 vacant judicial positions awaiting appointments in Israel’s courts.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 14, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Yair Lapid  credit: Shlomi Yosef
Yair Lapid credit: Shlomi Yosef
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