MK pushing for judicial overhaul floats compromise, gets flak from both sides

Simcha Rothman, chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, was criticized by both sides after proposing a compromise.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

During a Sunday night meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chairman Simcha Rothman proposed a compromise for selecting judges, then caught flak from both his coalition colleagues and the opposition.

Meanwhile, leaders of Israel’s governing coalition vowed that legislation to reform the process of appointing judges would be passed by the Knesset ahead of the upcoming Passover recess.

Rothman suggested that the government choose the first two justices to fill vacancies during a Knesset’s term, by a simple majority of the selection committee’s 11 members. Additional judicial appointments during that Knesset’s term would require the support of an opposition lawmaker and judge sitting on the selection committee.

Legislation currently making its way through the Knesset gives the governing coalition an automatic majority on the judicial selection committee. A compromise framework recently proposed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog removes that majority.

Rothman’s proposal was criticized from both camps.

Likud MK Moshe Saada tweeted, “I did not participate for two months in the protracted discussions of the Constitutional Committee, in order to end up with an outline that would effectively empty the reform of its content. If it is indeed true, then the published proposal perpetuates the existing situation and prevents the correction we wish for in the judicial system.”

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Opposition MK Merav Michaeli, leader of the Labor party, tweeted, “Appointing two judges to the Supreme Court in a direct and blunt appointment by the coalition is not a softening of the reform. It is the complete opposite.”

The governing coalition’s judicial reforms are controversial. Legislation advancing through the Knesset would primarily alter the way judges are appointed and removed, give the Knesset the ability to override certain High Court rulings, restrict the ability of judges to apply standards of “reasonableness,” and change the way legal advisors are appointed to government ministries.

Supporters of the legal overhaul say they want to end years of judicial overreach, while opponents claim the proposals are anti-democratic.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters against the reforms have been demonstrating in Tel Aviv and across the country since the new Netanyahu government took office in January. On Sunday, hundreds of IDF reservists refused to show up for duty.

President Isaac Herzog has been urging the prime minister and opposition to work towards a compromise, warning that otherwise, the volatile situation could result in a civil war.

World Israel News contributed to this report.