MK Uri Ariel
MK Uri ArielIsrael News Photo: (file)

The Knesset is set to vote Monday for its representatives on the Judge-Appointing Committee. Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin and other leading Likud members say they’ll vote for the Kadima party candidate rather than the Ichud Leumi (National Union) MK.

The nine-member Committee is headed by the Justice Minister, in this case Likud-appointee Yaakov Ne’eman. Its other members include another Cabinet minister (Environment Minister Gilad Erdan of the Likud, chosen Sunday morning by the Cabinet), two members of the Israeli Bar Association, three Supreme Court justices, including the Chief Justice, and two Knesset Members – generally one from the coalition and one from the opposition.

The coalition has already decided on its candidate: MK David Rotem of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, a yarmulke-sporting lawyer who lives in Gush Etzion. MK Eitan Cabel of Labor is also running for the spot as a dark-horse candidate.

The privilege of representing the opposition on the committee is being sought by both MK Roni Bar-On of Kadima, the largest opposition faction, and MK Uri Ariel of the National Union.  Ariel’s ideological closeness to the Likud should make him a shoo-in – but some Likud MKs have said they will vote for Bar-On.

Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, for instance, who has had a long-standing political rivalry with Bar-On, has said that his responsibilities as Speaker require him to “respect Knesset tradition” and vote for a member of the largest faction in the opposition. Minister Michael Eitan, known as a dovish Likudnik, has also said he will vote for Bar-On.

Mattot Arim Beseeches Benny Begin

The nationalist Mattot Arim grassroots organization has written a letter to another “humanist” Likud member, Minister Benny Begin, asking him to vote for Ariel.

“The votes Kadima received in the last elections,” writes Mattot Arim, “came mainly from [the left-wing], such that to vote for a Kadima MK [for the Judge-Appointing Committee] is to continue the [left-wing] hegemony over the justice system. But, in fact, we have long forgotten that the justice system is supposed to represent all the parties and opinions, and not just Meretz.”

“Please accept this letter as an official plea from Mattot Arim,” the organization writes, “a nationalist grassroots movement that has been right in every issue in which it has been involved since it began public activity in 1992. We have 15,000 activists and members from all walks of public productive life.”

Susie Dym, spokesperson for Mattot Arim, denies allegations that the candidacy of Ariel, who generally sides ideologically with the coalition, is a “trick.” “Ariel’s party was left out of the government, and he is in the opposition, fair and square,” Dym told Israel National News. “There’s no trick here.”

Elkin and Ariel

MK Ze’ev Elkin, of the nationalist flank of the Likud, is working as Ariel’s unofficial campaign manager. It is not yet clear where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stands on the issue, though Bar-On “enjoys” a long-standing rivalry with him as well. The two used to be close, especially when Netanyahu appointed Bar-On to be Israel’s Attorney-General ten years ago – an appointment that lasted only one day and became notorious as the “Deri-Bar-On affair.”

MK Ariel, a former mayor of Beit El, has had some criticism of the legal system, including what he feels is its overly-active judicial activism, lack of proportionate representation among justices for minorities, and sluggishness in hearing and deciding cases. He is among those who feel that land disputes, such as those brought by Arabs and the Peace Now organization against Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria, should not be decided by the Supreme Court, but rather by lower courts, as are other disputes between neighbors.