MK Yariv Levin
MK Yariv LevinIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu backed off from presenting a law to the Knesset that would change the structure of the committee that nominates judges for the High Court. The law - popularly called the "Bar Association Bill" - which was approved Monday by the Ministerial Law Committee for its second and third reading, was to have been presented to the Knesset next Monday, but will now be shelved until further notice – meaning, observers said, that the Prime Minister would allow the bill to die, failing to pass it into law by the end of the Knesset session, even though there is no doubt that the coalition could garner enough votes to pass it.

The left sharply attacked the law proposed by Likud MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin, calling it a “putsch” by the right to change the nature of the High Court. The law would have called for a reappointment of two members of the committee who are members of the Israel Bar Association, who are close associates of High Court head Dorit Beinisch. The Likud held a stormy debate on the bill Monday afternoon, while leftist MKs took to the media airwaves to denounce Netanyahu and the right for attempting to change the makeup of the committee.

According to reports, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein convinced Netanyahu to pull support for the bill, telling him that the High Court would probably declare it as contradicting basic laws. However, several MKs on the right said that the decision was another example of Netanyahu's backing down from legislation that favors the right in the wake of a media attack. “The media knows his weak spot, and Netanyahu can be counted on to back down when enough pressure is applied,” said one Likud member.

Elkin and Levin railed against the decision Tuesday. “Freezing the bill provides an unfair gift to High Court president Dorit Beinisch right before her retirement, and gives the judges complete control over all aspects of judicial appointments,” said Levin, describing the system as a “revolving door,” where leftist judges and their supporters on the appointments committee choose like-minded judges for appointments, with the right unable to influence appointments in any way. “I respect the Prime Minister's decision, but will continue to fight for my stance in order to put an end to the unjust manner in which judges are chosen in Israel,” Levin added.