Committee appoints 61 new judges, despite 3 coalition MKs boycotting meeting

Likud’s Miri Regev and Osnat Mark refuse to take part due to selection of ‘anti-Zionist’ judges; they claim — apparently mistakenly — that panel cannot convene without them

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who lowered her face mask to speak, during a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on July 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who lowered her face mask to speak, during a press conference at the Transportation Ministry in Jerusalem on July 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Judicial Appointments Committee convened Sunday evening and selected 61 new judges, despite three coalition lawmakers boycotting the meeting over the planned nomination of two Arab justices they accuse of anti-Zionism, and claiming — apparently mistakenly — that the panel could not legally convene without them.

The committee, which is in charge of appointing all of the country’s judges, has nine members, including three sitting members of the Supreme Court, the justice minister, another minister, two lawmakers and two senior members of the Israel Bar Association.

While Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White party participated and chaired the meeting, the other minister in the committee, Transportation Minister Miri Regev of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party publicly boycotted it along with both lawmakers, Likud’s Osnat Mark and Zvi Hauser of the small Derech Eretz party which broke away from Blue and White.

They did so to protest the planned promotion of Abbas A’asi from the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to the Jerusalem District Court, claiming that in many past decisions he has repeatedly ruled against the military and police when sued by Arabs or other minority groups.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit earlier barred Regev from participating in the vote over A’asi’s appointment, citing a conflict of interests, since the judge has previously ruled against Regev in a libel lawsuit she filed against Channel 10. That decision was overruled by the Jerusalem District Court.

The other candidate targeted by the coalition MKs, lawyer Hisham Shabaita, was not eventually appointed as a judge at the Tel Aviv Family Affairs Court.

Regev and Mark subsequently sent Nissenkorn a public letter demanding that the entire meeting be postponed, citing a law that says the committee can convene “even if the number of its members has been reduced, as long as it has not been reduced to less than seven.”

Since three members were absent from the meeting, they argued, the committee cannot legally convene and its decisions “are null and void.”

“We are demanding that the process of nominating judges made in violation of the Basic Law: Justice be frozen,” Mark said in a tweet, which included the letter.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn seen during a visit at the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, Nissenkorn had consulted with the Justice Ministry’s legal adviser and other legal officials who concluded that the meeting could go ahead.

That was apparently because the law only bars the committee from convening if its total number of registered members is less than seven, regardless of how many members attend a given meeting. Since Regev, Mark and Hauser hadn’t resigned from the committee altogether, the meeting could go ahead.

Regev and Mark were considering taking the matter to the High Court of Justice or resigning from the committee, Channel 13 reported.

In a tweet after the meeting, Nissenkorn said: “The background noises and the attempts to harm the committee’s work in favor of politicking have not succeeded and will not succeed.

“We will continue working impartially to appoint judges according to professional criteria,” he added. “I will not let any ulterior motive enter that space.”

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