Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is putting pressure on the forum tasked with selecting Supreme Court judges by threatening to block appointments completely if her favored candidate is not one of those chosen to fill two available positions, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.
The Judicial Selection Committee is scheduled to appoint two new Supreme Court justices out of 25 candidates on February 22, to fill positions that will be vacated by outgoing justices Uri Shoham and Yoram Danziger.
Shaked has threatened to block both nominations if her pick of US-based Alex Stein is not approved by the committee, the report said.
However, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut is reported to be against Stein’s nomination.
Stein, who has lived in the US for the past 15 years, is set to arrive in Israel on Thursday to attend a preliminary hearing by committee members. According to the report, Shaked has made it clear that there is no point in holding any hearings on other candidates unless there is agreement about Stein’s appointment.
The selection committee has nine members and at least seven must agree on each Supreme Court appointment.
Shaked is chairperson of the committee, which includes another cabinet member, two MKs — usually one from the government and one from the opposition — two members of the Israel Bar Association, two judges, and Hayut from the Supreme Court itself.
With her fellow cabinet member and a government-aligned lawmaker, Shaked has a three-vote bloc in the committee.
In a statement, Shaked’s office explained that she “is working for the selection of one of her candidates.”
The courts declined to give any hint as to Hayut’s views on the candidates.
“The position of the president regarding the candidates for the Supreme Court will be given in the framework of the committee deliberations of the Judicial Selection Committee and not in the media,” a statement read.
Stein is a professor at Brooklyn Law School and is an expert on evidence law. He was also a personal friend of former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak.
Shaked has recently proposed a compromise that would see the number of Supreme Court judges increased from 15 to 17, providing enough spots to satisfy everyone and making an agreement on the new appointments easier to reach, the report said. Under the plan, the upcoming meeting would select four new court judges.
The courts said, in statement, “We do not have before us any such approach or initiative on this matter, so we therefore have nothing to say.”
Hayut and Shaked also have a difference of opinion regarding the next administrative director of the Court Administration. Current director Michael Spitzer was selected in October 2017 as a judge in the National Labor Court. His term was extended by Shaked until the end of March, while his replacement is chosen.
Shaked wants to appoint the president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Avital Chen, or the president of the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s court Avichai Doron. Hayut is seeking to tap Jerusalem District Court judge Yigal Marzel, who is also one of the candidates for the Supreme Court.
Shaked’s office said in a statement that the matter is expected to be resolved soon, Haaretz reported.
In recent years, right-wing lawmakers have accused the Supreme Court of interventionist judicial activism as pioneered by Barak, president of the High Court from 1995 to 2006, after the courts torpedoed a series of Knesset laws it deemed unlawful.
Shaked, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, has frequently spoken out in favor of reining in the High Court or changing the makeup of the justices to incorporate more conservative views.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.