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Knesset advances bill to reduce power of the Israel Bar Association

The association "has become a completely political body," Justice Minister Yair Levin says.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin (left) addresses the Knesset during a debate on the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 20, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin (left) addresses the Knesset during a debate on the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 20, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday passed in a preliminary reading a bill to transfer much of the authority of the Israel Bar Association to a new public council.

Fifty lawmakers voted for the measure while 43 opposed it. The bill, introduced by Likud MK Hanoch Milwidsky, will now go to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee headed by MK Simcha Rothman for further review.

“Unfortunately, in recent times the Bar Association has become a completely political body, where the membership fee funds are used for political purposes that have nothing to do with the benefit of all lawyers,” Justice Minister Yair Levin said.

Attorney Amit Becher, an outspoken opponent of the coalition’s judicial reform initiative, won the Israel Bar Association election on June 20. Last week, he criticized the proposed legislation to strip the Bar Association of its powers, saying it is “a thuggish, anti-democratic, immoral law and it is also illegal. They want to dismantle a body that protects democracy.”

The bill would transfer the Bar Association’s licensing authority, ability to sanction lawyers for misconduct, and representation on the committee that selects judges to a newly created Lawyers Council.

The Lawyer’s Council would be led by a district judge appointed by the justice minister and consist of judges and lawyers from the public and private sectors.

Also on Wednesday, Levin slammed the current procedure for appointing judges via the Judicial Selection Committee.

“This is an absurd situation, unacceptable, and in need of correction,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee voted to advance a bill to end the Supreme Court’s use of the standard of “reasonableness” to cancel government decisions.

Following the 9-4 vote, the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary will head to the full Knesset as soon as Monday for the first of three readings necessary for it to become law.

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