New members clinch judicial appointment panel for right wing
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MK Ilatov says he won't appoint any judge who refuses to sing national anthem

New members clinch judicial appointment panel for right wing

After Netanyahu and Liberman agree to back each other’s candidates, late-night vote yields a victory for coalition

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

MK Robert Ilatov (left) speaks with Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman during a party meeting at the Knesset (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK Robert Ilatov (left) speaks with Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman during a party meeting at the Knesset (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two right-wing Knesset members were elected to the committee tasked with judicial appointments in a hard-fought early morning vote Thursday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement with opposition MK Avigdor Liberman.

MK Nurit Koren (Likud) and MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) were elected to the powerful panel, receiving 69 and 67 votes respectively.

The two beat out the opposition’s candidates — MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin of the Zionist Union — who received 42 and 52 endorsements respectively.

All 120 Knesset members took part in the secret ballot in the early hours of Thursday morning, which also saw the selection of the committee members to appoint both rabbinical and Islamic judges. Liberman and Netanyahu two weeks ago agreed to support each other’s candidates, in an effort to keep the judicial nominations under the control of the government’s right-wing members.

Hours after the vote, Ilatov told Army Radio he would not appoint any judge who refuses to sing the Hatikvah national anthem.

In 2012, Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, who is Arab, drew criticism after not singing the anthem, which tells of a Jewish desire to return to the Land of Israel, at an official ceremony. After the incident, then-MK David Rotem, from the Yisrael Beytenu party, asked to have Joubran removed.

The Judicial Appointments Committee is headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and rounded out by a minister, two other Knesset members, and two legal representatives.

Since all judicial appointments require the approval of seven out of the nine members of the committee, Shaked, Koren, and Ilatov can effectively form a right-wing bloc to create a veto. The next round of judicial appointments for the Supreme Court is in 2017, at which point the make-up of the current coalition may have changed.

For rabbinical judicial appointments, MK Yisrael Eichler of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism received 97 votes, placing him on the committee. The Zionist Union’s candidate for rabbinical appointments, MK Revital Swid, beat out the Likud’s candidate — MK Nava Boker — by four votes, a result welcomed by opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

“After a long night and a lot of work — an important accomplishment tonight for the opposition,” Herzog said. “Despite the coalition’s deal, MK Revital Swid is a representative on the rabbinical appointments committee.”

The religious group Tzohar urged the new committee members to elect rabbinical judges who would generate a “revolution” in the religious courts.

“We expect the committee will choose judges for practical considerations, based on their ability to spark a revolution in the rabbinical courts, which means closing cases quickly, imposing divorces where Jewish law and civil law permits, advancing prenuptial agreements, advancing the status of women and more,” it said.

MK Yoav Ben Zur (Shas), MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint List), and MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) were elected to the committee appointing Islamic judges, and MK Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint List) and MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) will be on the panel for Druze judges.

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