The Knesset votes on the appointment of a new state comptroller on Monday to replace Micha Lindenstrauss on July 4. The media see the decision as a head-to-head contest between Supreme Court Vice President Eliezer Rivlin and District Court Judge Yosef Shapira even though there is a third candidate.
Rivlin, 70, has 36 years on the bench, 13 of which he has served in the Supreme Court. Shapira, 67, has been in the Jerusalem District Court for nine years and served as a judge with the rank of colonel in the military court system. Israel Hayom, Maariv, and Yedioth Ahronoth run pictures and bios of the two and make it clear it is a two-horse race. Yedioth Ahronoth also prints a tiny photo and bio of the third candidate, Shlomo Calderon.
Barring any last-minute surprises, the Knesset is expected to choose Shapira, who already has the written support of 70 MKs according to Haaretz, 72 per Israel Hayom, and 80 according to Maariv. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Shaul Mofaz reportedly back Shapira. Maariv says “if Rivlin wins it will be a slap in the face for Netanyahu.”
The vote will be conducted by secret ballot and a candidate must receive 61 votes in the first reading in order to be appointed.
Haaretz writes that many of Shapira’s supporters in the Knesset don’t know anything about him except for the fact that he is a district court judge. “Many explained their support for him was due to the fact that he was the sole candidate, and they didn’t know two others exist,” Haaretz says. Some said they will reconsider, now that they know there are other candidates. Others questioned by the paper expressed indifference about the upcoming vote.
Dan Margalit reinforces Haaretz’s findings, saying in Israel Hayom that “most [of the MKs] don’t know anything at all about the actions of the candidates Rivlin and Shapira,” and that their decisions were dictated by party secretariats. Contrary to the majority of Kadima and Likud, Margalit opts for Rivlin.
“I am concerned that the Shapira lobby is characterized by those who wish to rein in government criticism” and are sick of activists like Lindenstrauss, he writes. “Rivlin is closer to the Lindenstrauss school than his competitor,” while Shapira has refrained from expressing interest in taking an activist role.
An editorial in Haaretz advocates Rivlin’s appointment as state comptroller. “Rivlin is considered an expert in civil law, particularly in damages. He is responsible for a number of significant rulings involving freedom of speech, including a petition by the journalist Ilana Dayan against the verdict of the Jerusalem District Court that she had libeled an Israel Defense Forces officer,” Haaretz writes.
Shapira has the right connections, it notes, but “the state comptroller should do his work without prejudice, without extraneous considerations, and most importantly be independent in his decision-making.”
Ben-Dror Yemini argues the opposite in Maariv. He claims that an old boys’ club, a gang of “one of us” that believes that rule by judges is equal to the rule of law, is trying to win Rivlin’s nomination.
“Their damage to proper rule, to pure ethics and the rule of law is becoming a serious problem,” he writes and insists “they must not win today” with Rivlin’s nomination.
Right-wing members of government are pressuring Netanyahu to enable a bypass of the High Court of Justice’s decision to destroy the illegally constructed neighborhood of Givat Ulpana. Netanyahu previously opposed ministers voting in support of a law to bypass the High Court of Justice and allow the settlement to remain.
Maariv says Netanyahu will now allow let ministers vote in favor of the law, but will oppose it himself. Netanyahu will thus save face internationally by opposing a bill that undermines the rule of law, but will support his intention to keep Givat Ulpana standing.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is quoted in Haaretz saying that a law bypassing the High Court of Justice will likely bring the issue to the International Court of Justice. He said that a law of this kind will have broad international legal significance, especially because the High Court of Justice is “perceived worldwide as the buffer ensuring the protection of the rule of law.”
Israel Hayom features a political cartoon showing a familiar road sign to Israelis labeled “passing forbidden,” and a second one with a car marked “High Court of Justice” with the words “passing allowed.” It otherwise makes little reference to the initiative.
New peace talks and new evidence
Haaretz reports that Netanyahu again wrote to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling for renewed peace talks. This time he is quoted saying that the formation of a unity government with Kadima provides both sides a new opportunity for progress in the peace process.
Maariv reports that police investigators succeeded in enlisting the one of the suspects in the rape accusations against Kiryat Malachi Mayor Motti Malka to testify against him. The paper also reports that Malka’s legal counsel, Zion Amir, quit the task of defending the embattled mayor.
Yedioth Ahronoth features the graphic published on Sunday night by AP that reportedly proves Iran is working toward nuclear weaponization. It notes that the image from Iran’s Parchin site was leaked to the press a mere 10 days before the talks between world powers and Iran were set to reconvene.
Israel Hayom runs a short feature about a 72-year-old man who serves in the IDF above and beyond the call of duty. He still serves a month each year in reserve duty, though he is decades older than the legal requirement. The man served as a sniper in a combat unit years ago and continues to train snipers when he puts his uniform on.