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Israel Bar Association elections expected to impact judicial reform

Voter turnout is higher than in the past with the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee at stake.

Amit Becher, currently interim chairman of the Israel Bar association, casts his ballot for the head of the association at a voting station in Tel Aviv, June 20, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Amit Becher, currently interim chairman of the Israel Bar association, casts his ballot for the head of the association at a voting station in Tel Aviv, June 20, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Tuesday’s Israel Bar Association election attracted more attention than usual given the impact it likely will have on the Judicial Selection Committee, responsible for appointing judges at all levels of Israel’s civil court system.

More than 77,000 active, dues-paying Israeli attorneys were eligible to vote at 106 polling stations nationwide. Election turnout is running higher than in years past with polls closing at 8 p.m. (though a request to lengthen the hours has been submitted).

Results are expected as early as Tuesday evening or Wednesday.

The two leading candidates vying for the Bar Association chairmanship are interim chairman Amit Becher and former chairman Efi Nave. Becher, the front-runner, has aligned himself strongly with the anti-judicial reform movement, even speaking at its protests.

Nave is viewed as friendly by the Netanyahu coalition but has been careful not to present himself as such. The reason, in part, is that the government’s judicial reform calls for removing the two IBA members from the Judicial Selection Committee.

Bar Association members will also cast ballots for the 44-member National Council, the association’s executive body. The National Council chooses the two Bar representatives who will sit on the Judicial Selection Committee.

The Bar Association chairman also has a seat on the National Council and will presumably influence the choices for the Judicial Selection Committee.

The Judicial Selection Committee had become a major sticking point in negotiations over the coalition’s judicial reform program.

Reformists say the three Supreme Court justices on the committee (chosen by the president of the court) have veto power over appointments as they can count on the automatic support of the two IBA representatives, giving them a five-vote bloc on the nine-member committee.

Five votes is enough to appoint judges to all the civil courts except the Supreme Court, which requires the support of seven committee members.

The committee consists of two Cabinet members (one of them the justice minister), three Supreme Court justices, two members of Knesset and the two members of the Bar Association.

It should be noted that Nave, when he previously served as Bar Association chairman, broke with tradition and supported then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in her efforts to appoint more conservative judges.

While Shaked enjoyed some success, reformists say the committee requires more fundamental structural change.

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