Knesset plenum
Knesset plenumIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset approved on Monday evening the first reading of a bill submitted by MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu) and which stipulates that the representatives of the Bar Association on the Judge Selection Committee will be chosen by a majority of two thirds of the members of the Bar Association's National Council.

The bill, as it was approved, is an amendment to the original bill that was approved last week and which had originally stipulated that the head of the Bar Association will automatically be a member of the Judicial Selection Committee. The change came after some claimed that such a proposal contravenes the Basic Judiciary Law.

The bill also states that the head of the Bar Association will appoint one of the Association’s two representatives to the committees which select judges and qadis.

It has been met with opposition by the left because, while the Israeli Bar Association representatives have generally been left oriented, in the last elections religious and rightist lawyer members decided to come out and vote. Their growing numbers put a rightist at the head of the association.

In the resulting power play, an attempt was made to bypass the head by staging elections in the association to choose both of its Appointment Committee representatives. The bill mandating the choice of the elected official bar association head as representative to the Committee for Appointment of Judges was in response to this.

The Judicial Selection Committee must choose Supreme Court Judges by a seven person majority. It includes three current Supreme Court Judges who decide on a unified position beforehand, two ministers (one of whom is the Justice Minister), two MKs - one opposition and one coalition, and today by a fluke both are rightists - and two Bar Association representatives.

A second bill passed last week is dubbed the Grunis Law and it amends the present law and would allow the appointment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice with only two years remaining until retirement.

Israel's Supreme Court Chief Justices are appointed on the basis of seniority. The bill is widely seen as meant to pave the way for Justice Asher Dan Grunis to serve as the next president instead of Justice Miriam Naor.

Justice Grunis is against the activist Supreme Court policy initiated by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who claimed that "everything is judgeable" in the courts and proceeded to act upon that principle.  Under Barak, present Chief Justice Beinisch's mentor, the court changed the route of the security fence to comply with Arab claims and opened route 443 to Arab drivers, despite IDF security-related objections. 

Grunis has more years on the Supreme Court than Naor, but by February he would have slightly less than three years remaining until his retirement (Grunis will be 70 in January 2015).