Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced on Wednesday that he would be convening the Judicial Selection Committee on November 16 in the face of pressure from the High Court of Justice after months in which he refused to bring the panel together.
The committee will only deal with procedural matters when it meets next week and not judicial appointments, since it can only deliberate on candidates for the courts if their candidacy was published in the official state gazette 45 days in advance.
Levin for a long time refused to convene the committee due to his stated desire to change the composition of the panel to give the government control over appointments before filling empty positions on the court benches.
Petitions to the High Court requesting it order the justice minister to convene the panel were set to be heard on Sunday, but the hearing was postponed after Levin announced that he would be holding a meeting within 15 days.
On Wednesday, the justice minister informed the seven members of the nine-member committee who are not cabinet ministers that the committee would be convening next Thursday.
On the agenda is appointments to the panel’s various subcommittees, deciding on the frequency of subcommittee meetings and establishing the working procedures of the committee itself.
Petitioners to the High Court against Levin have pointed to the severe caseload burden facing the courts system, and the fact that there will be 53 empty judgeships on the courts by the end of the month, exacerbating that burden.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the petitioners, expressed concern regarding Levin’s Sunday announcement, stating it was worried the justice minister was convening the committee simply to have the High Court hearing postponed, buying himself further time to drag his feet over actually making new judicial appointments.
Appointing conservative judges has become a cornerstone of the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul program, which Levin sought to accomplish by radically changing the composition of the committee through legislation in March that would have given the government almost complete control over almost all judicial appointments.
The justice minister has refused to convene the committee throughout his time in office, stating openly that he wants to give the government greater control over the panel before making appointments.
The petitions against him argued that he does not have the discretion to refuse to convene the committee based on political and legislative motivations, especially when there are numerous unfilled positions on courts around the country.
Levin argued in response that only he has the right to convene the committee and that the court has no authority to order him to do so.