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Explosive recording of 2020 judicial selection meeting revealed

Right-wing members of the panel said they had no say in choosing judges.

Then-Supreme Court President Esther Hayut at a court hearing in Jerusalem, Sept. 28, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Then-Supreme Court President Esther Hayut at a court hearing in Jerusalem, Sept. 28, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

A recording of a Judicial Selection Committee meeting in 2020, obtained by Israel Hayom, offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the legal system and what might have been the catalyst of the tumultuous efforts to reform Israel’s judicial system.

On Nov. 15, 2020, committee members convened in the office of then-Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn following a two-year break due to Israel’s repeated national elections. The gathering, which started with handshakes, quickly turned into a shouting match.

All the tensions regarding the nature of the Supreme Court accumulated on the committee’s table. Right-wing committee members were attempting to advance the promotion to the district court of the wife of then-Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman, a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

In the recording, Likud members Miri Regev and Osnat Mark (who is no longer a member of Knesset) can be heard repeatedly pushing Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Nissenkorn to approve the promotion. This is despite harsh opinions against the judge written by then-Tel Aviv District presidents Judges Ruth Lorech and Eitan Orenstin.

Data submitted by Nava Braverman to the committee and opposing opinions did manage to decrease the judges’ opposition to the promotion, but Hayut rejected the initiative and criticized Regev and Mark for the proposal.

The Likud did not have a majority in the committee, the same as now, and it was controlled by a left-wing bloc of Supreme Court judges, the justice minister and members of the Israel Bar Association.

Mark lamented that the bloc rejected all their candidates and only selected Hayut’s nominees. “We have no influence on the committee, it’s simply absurd,” she said.

Regev, in turn, told Hayut that she “trusted” the Supreme Court president, “who told me that this is open for discussion and that you haven’t made a deal among yourselves.” Hayut immediately replied, saying: “Up for discussion, not negotiation.” Mark reacted: “What do we do in a discussion if not negotiate?” Hayut reiterated, “No, we don’t negotiate.”

The debate exploded when Regev and Osnat tried to promote Judge Ron Solkin, who is also a nominee for promotion this year. The meeting revolved around the question of the judicial activism of the judges of the magistrate’s and district courts. In the recordings, Regev claims that the judges all had “similar DNA,” to which Hayut replied: “These are empty slogans.”

Nissenkorn sided with Hayut, and the argument with Regev turned into a shouting match. Regev and Mark did not attend the next meeting, and the committee appointed about 60 judges in one sitting.

Yariv Levin, then-Knesset speaker and later justice minister, called the meeting a “disgrace” and argued that the committee should be changed. It is this attempt to reform the justice system that stirred the nation and led to nationwide protests last year.

Judicial reform was moved off the legislative agenda after a unity government was formed that included members of the opposition following the Hamas terrorist assault that began on Oct. 7.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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