Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan spoke with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked today to suggest a compromise regarding the proposed legislation of MK Robert Ilatov requiring that a simple majority of 5 out of 9 votes from the Judicial Selection Committee would suffice to appoint new judges to the High Court.
Rabbi Ben-Dahan suggested to Shaked that the proposed law be amended so that a majority of of six votes be required to approve nominees to the High Court.
Currently a special majority of seven votes are required to approve a nominee to the High Court. Three of the nine members of the committee are representatives of the High Court, giving them effective veto power over any nominee since three votes are all that is required to ensure that a candidate is not approved,
Rabbi Ben-Dahan explained his proposal to reduce the number of votes required to approve a nominee to the High Court, although by one rather than two votes. "In a democratic state there is a separation of powers between the judiciary and legislative branches."
"I respect the High Court," Rabbi Ben-Dahan elaborated, "but with all due respect, it cannot tell the Knesset what to legislate and what not to legislate. And her support for this law is certainly not a reason to stop cooperating with the Justice Minister."
High Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor sent a sharply worded letter to Shaked Wednesday saying that she and the other High Court justices "have no intention of continuing our interaction and pre-consultations" with the Justice Minister about candidates for the High Court.
Despite his criticism of the High Court's response to the proposed legislation, Rabbi Ben-Dahan does not approve of the bill himself.
"I am opposed to the bill as it was presented by MK Ilatov because it returns us to the days when court officials were able to decide on a justice for the High Court without the involvement of the public or the politicians." he said.
"I do not want a situation where the selection of a judge who is crucial to the fate of Israeli citizens is decided only by judicial officials or only by politicians. I suggest a compromise, in which High Court Justices are approved by a majority of six, not five as MK Ilatov is proposing, and not seven as is currently the case. This way the various representatives on the committee will be able to have their say."
The judicial selection committee includes, besides three Supreme Court justices, two representatives of the Israeli Bar Association, the Justice Minister who heads it, two MKs chosen by the Knesset - usually one from the coalition and one from the opposition and a Cabinet Minister chosen by the Cabinet. Although Shaked's proposal would allow the selection of a nominee whom the three justices and the opposition MK do not want, it also allows another scenario, in which only the justices and the representatives of the Bar Association have the ability to appoint a nominee.