Netanyahu’s plan backfires: Opposition candidate wins spot on judicial selection panel

Four coalition members voted for Elharrar in the secret ballot, pushing Tali Gottlieb out the race.

By World Israel News Staff and JNS

The Knesset on Wednesday voted to approve opposition Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar to the Judicial Selections Committee, with 58 votes in favour and 56 votes against.

Four coalition members voted for Elharrar in the secret ballot, pushing Tali Gottlieb, a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud Party, out the race. Gotlieb was backed by 15 MKs, and opposed by 59.

Elharrar’s win marks a triumph for the opposition, which had hinged the continuation of judicial overhaul talks on the selection of its candidate to the committee.

The nine-member panel is responsible for appointing judges at all levels of Israel’s civil court system. Traditionally, one coalition candidate and one opposition candidate are chosen to fill the seats reserved for parliamentarians.

Netanyahu reportedly favors maintaining the status quo, fearing that submitting two coalition candidates, as some coalition partners demand, would undermine judicial reform talks and reignite mass protests.

The opposition had selected Elharrar as its lone candidate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised the coalition’s spot on the Judicial Selection Committee to Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party as part of their coalition agreement. Otzma’s candidate was MK Yizhak Kroyzer.

In addition to Kroyzer, eight other coalition members had advanced their candidacy. In order to guarantee votes in favor of Elharrar and Kroyzer, Netanyahu had ordered other coalition members vying for the position to withdraw their candidacy ahead of the vote, but Gottlieb had refused.

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Netanyahu therefore changed tack and attempted to use a legal technicality to delay the appointments. He asked Kroyzer to withdraw his candidacy, leaving only Elharrar and Gottlieb on the ballot. Then Netanyahu instructed coalition members to vote against both candidates, ensuring neither would receive the required Knesset majority.

According to Knesset bylaws, if two candidates do not receive a majority in the secret ballot, the vote is delayed for 30 days.

Prior to the vote on Wednesday, opposition leader Yair Lapid accused Netanyahu of “crushing Israeli democracy, the economy, security and the unity of the people.

“He broke his commitment to the president and is causing the talks to end,” Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, said.

National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz also said that his party would quit the reform negotiations being conducted under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog.

Protest organizers threatened on Wednesday to send thousands into the streets if an opposition candidate wasn’t chosen.

In a video posted to Twitter before the votes were cast, Netanyahu urged the opposition to compromise.

“Gantz said yesterday that if the coalition elected two representatives to the Judicial Selection Committee, he would blow up the reform talks. Well, that didn’t happen, but he continues to threaten,” said the premier.

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“So, I say to the opposition: Stop the threats, stop the excuses after three months of rejecting every proposal we bring; Sit down with us seriously, enter into a real dialogue and we will finally reach agreements.”