MK Rothman unveils changes watering down bill to overhaul judicial selections

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Commitee on March 19, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Commitee on March 19, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Key coalition lawmaker MK Simcha Rothman — who has been leading the government’s judicial overhaul legislative drive — issues a softened proposal over the bill to change the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee.

The proposal would give a governing coalition control over the first two appointments to the Supreme Court which open up during its tenure, but require the support of at least one opposition MK and one judge on the panel in order to make further appointments to that court.

Earlier legislation, which has been approved in its first reading in the Knesset plenum, would by contrast give the coalition total control over all judicial appointments without the need for support from either the opposition or the judiciary.

Rothman says his new proposal is designed to have “as many people as possible in Israel feel that the Supreme Court is theirs,” and to enable “the people to chose the judges” but at the same time “to prevent a political force from taking control of the [Supreme] Court.”

According to the proposal, the Judicial Selection Committee would be expanded from nine to 11 members. It would include three government ministers from three different parties; three coalition MKs from three different parties; two opposition MKs from two different parties; and three Supreme Court justices, including the court president.

Appointments would be made through a simple majority of six out of 11 members for the first two appointments to the Supreme Court in a Knesset’s term — which could be accomplished with only the support of all six coalition members.

After those appointments, the majority needed will remain six out of 11, but among those six at least one member of the opposition and one judge would need to support the nomination.

In effect, this would mean that two coalition-backed justices could be appointed with ease, and any remaining appointments would likely be consensus candidates.

If promised future legislation is pushed through requiring a full majority of the court in order to overturn Knesset laws, Rothman’s new proposal would still essentially sideline the court from being able to take action.

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