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Opposition freezes reform talks until vote on Judicial Selection panel

The opposition says it must fill a Knesset member's spot on the committee.

Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

The Israeli opposition has brought negotiations over judicial reform to a standstill until a June 15 Knesset vote to choose two members of parliament to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee.

Opposition officials say they froze the talks to ensure that one of the two slots reserved for Knesset members goes to their side.

Traditionally, the nine-member Judicial Selection Committee, which selects Israel’s judges, includes one coalition lawmaker and one opposition lawmaker. However, the opposition is concerned about reports that Justice Minister Yariv Levin wants to break with tradition and appoint two coalition members to ensure a majority for the government.

If the opposition doesn’t receive a seat on the committee, the temporary suspension of talks will turn into a permanent one, Channel 11 reported.

Yesh Atid, the largest opposition party with 24 MKs in the 120-seat Knesset, on Wednesday submitted its candidate for next week’s vote, choosing MK Karine Elharrar. She is the sole nominee for the opposition slot.

“In these days when democracy is under attack, the opposition stands together to defend the judicial system,” Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid said.

Elharrar stated, “As an opposition representative, I am committed to acting as a loyal ambassador for strengthening democratic values and the judicial system.”

National Unity leader Benny Gantz announced his party would not be submitting a candidate for the position. Labor Party chief Merav Michaeli followed Gantz’s move by announcing the withdrawal of MK Efrat Rayten as a candidate.

In addition to the two Knesset members, the committee consists of the justice minister, who serves as chairperson, another Cabinet minister, two members of the Bar Association, the president of the Supreme Court and two additional justices.

On Wednesday, Levin, a key architect of the coalition’s judicial reform program, criticized the process of selecting judges, saying that the current makeup of the committee is “inappropriate.”

“Many, many of the problems and injustices that we deal with come from the fact that our judicial system looks the way it looks, that the process of selecting judges is done in an inappropriate and unacceptable way—a committee with an unacceptable makeup, which is unsuitable and inappropriate in a democratic country,” Levin said from the Knesset rostrum.

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