PM said to tell ministers current bill for coalition to control judicial panel is dead

Netanyahu reportedly informs coalition heads Levin-Rothman legislation to restructure Judicial Selection Committee won’t be enacted, other parts of package will be advanced instead

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 7, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 7, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told ministers over the weekend that the coalition’s current legislation aimed at securing control over the Judicial Selection Committee, which was suspended in late March just prior to being enacted, will not be revived.

The legislation — which would give the coalition near-complete control over the appointment of all Israel’s judges — is one of the central planks of the judicial overhaul, crafted by the package’s architects Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Constitution Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman.

It was nearly voted into law in March, with the coalition clearing it for final votes. But amid a public outcry prompted by his (later rescinded) firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to temporarily pause the entire judicial overhaul effort and enter negotiations with the opposition aimed at a compromise.

According to a Sunday report in the Kan public broadcaster, Netanyahu told fellow ministers at the weekend, “Everyone understands that the previous law regarding the Judicial Selection Committee will not be advanced.”

He also reportedly claimed that he had been planning to submit a more moderate bill restructuring the committee but that this effort was delayed by renegade Likud MK Tally Gotliv who refused to rescind her candidacy for the panel last week in what led to an embarrassing parliamentary defeat for the coalition.

Likud MK Tally Gotliv peeks from behind a curtain as she casts her vote for candidates to the Judicial Selections Committee, at the Knesset on June 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gotliv, in turn, claimed Sunday that the loss was Netanyahu’s doing, claiming his office had sought to convince her to vote for the opposition’s candidate to serve on the panel.

While Netanyahu conceded defeat on the coalition’s original bill to reshape the Judicial Selection Committee, Kan reported Sunday that the premier told ministers that he would soon advance another two bills of the overhaul package instead: one limiting the ability of the judiciary to review government decisions and appointments through what is known as the reasonableness test, and another limiting the authority and standing of government legal advisers, who frequently trigger right-wing ire by blocking radical ministerial policy initiatives.

Those two bills, while substantive, are much less far-reaching than other central elements of the coalition’s suspended overhaul package. That slew of bills includes ones that would give the governing majority almost complete control over all judicial appointments, drastically constrain the High Court’s capacity to protect basic rights and largely prevent it from serving as a brake on government abuse.

The heads of the coalition parties are scheduled to meet on Monday to flesh out the details of the legislation the government will advance.

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