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Netanyahu Blocks Judge Vetting Bill

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu caved before leftist pressure and blocked a bill proposing Israel's judges be vetted by lawmakers.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/15/2011, 7:58 PM

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Eli Mandelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to a proposal by MKs Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin (Likud) that would require candidates for Israel's High Court of Justice be vetted by a Knesset committee, similar to the US Senate review of Supreme Court Justices.

"There will be a hearing for judges before politicians," Netanyahu said of the controversial bill. "The court's independence is above all."

The bill was scheduled for a vote on Sunday in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, but the vote was postponed at the last minute by Netanyahu amid a storm of criticism.

High Court president Dorit Benisch, several other Supreme Court justices, and several senior legal officials claim the bill would undermine judicial independence and constituted an "assault on democracy."

It is unclear how Israel's democracy would be undermined by the bill. Many democracies with highly independent courts, including the United States, require those nominated for sensitive and influential judicial positions be vetted by lawmakers.

Netanyahu, however, did not oppose two other bills aimed at reforming Israel's High Court, which were passed on their first plenary reading in the Knesset last night.

The first, dubbed the "Grunis Law," initiated by MK Yaakov Katz ("Ketsale", National Union) reduces the minimum number of years a prospective court president would have to serve from three years to two, aimed at allowing Justice Grunis to become Chief Justice after Justice Beinisch's term expires. Justice Grunis' interpretation of the Supreme Court's mandate is opposed to former Chief Justices Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch's controversial judicial activism.

The second orders the Bar Association Judicial Selection Committee to establish regular methods for choosing who sits on the committee - as well as mandating the President of the Bar Association be a member of the committee.