Knesset push to investigate Supreme Court justices fails

The initiative of MK Bezalel Smotrich appeared to be gaining steam earlier in the day.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

An effort by a Knesset member to form a panel to investigate Supreme Court justices’ conflicts of interest was stymied on Wednesday when the Knesset plenum voted down the proposal 54 to 43.

The initiative of MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Yemina party, which currently sits in the opposition and is to the right of the Likud party, appeared to be gaining steam earlier in the day. Opposition party Israel Beiteinu was said to support the idea and United Torah Judaism, a member of the coalition, was also inclined in favor.

However, it’s not clear if the Likud was just posturing in order to please its base.The party may have feared a judicial panel’s formation would have triggered a coalition crisis.

Members of its coalition partner, Blue and White, immediately issued threats, repeating a line that they stuck to throughout the election campaign which characterized any criticism of the high court as an attack on democracy.

Foreign Minister and Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted: “The Likud’s decision to vote for a judicial inquiry committee in Israel is a spit in the face of Israeli democracy and the law enforcement system. This is a ‘black flag’ for us and we will not agree to such a move! If you now want investigative committees instead of dealing with the corona and working for the public – there are other ideas.”

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, also of Blue and White, said, “There are a million unemployed in Israel and more than a thousand new patients are diagnosed with corona every day, and to some what is most urgent now is to wreck the rule of law. Those who vote for the Judiciary Investigation Committee vote for the elimination of Israeli democracy. I will not allow that.”

The threats may have worked judging from the change of tone in tweets from Likud MK and Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar, Initially, he tweeted, “The Likud will vote for the Judiciary Committee of Inquiry.”

An hour later, Zohar struck a more placative note: “The decision to vote for the Judiciary Committee to investigate conflicts of interest stems solely from our desire to live up to our voters’ expectations. We do not want to go to elections. I hope a way is found to align the petitions with Blue and White. This is the order of the hour.”

The idea of investigating the Supreme Court is popular both among right-wing voters and legislators.

Right-wing voters have long viewed the Supreme Court as a bastion of the Left and especially in recent years as attempting a power-grab, increasingly interfering in decisions that belong to the legislative branch.