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Justice system reform dialogue resumes after budget passes, focus on Judicial Selection Committee

Opposition reportedly proposes agreement for two reforms in exchange for pause in selection committee negotiations

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, then-Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and then-Minister of Energy Karin Elharar hold a press conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, October 12, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Judicial reform compromise talks between coalition and opposition representatives have reportedly reached a crucial point.

Following the coalition's successful vote on the two-year state budget last week, the focus is now on the Judicial Selection Committee.

The reform legislation, which would give the coalition significant control over judicial appointments, has been on hold since late March to allow time for negotiations. With the budget approved, however, pressure is mounting within the coalition to resume.

The Judicial Selection Committee bill has already been approved for final reading, which means it could be passed whenever the coalition chooses to.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is still giving compromise negotiations a chance to reach a consensus.

“We will of course continue with our efforts to arrive at a broad consensus agreement, to the extent possible, on the issue of judicial reform,” Netanyahu said.

If the compromise talks fail and the bill is brought to vote, protests will likely increase across the country.

The opposition, led by the Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, has reportedly demanded that one of its members, Knesset Member Karine Elharrar, be included on the Judicial Selection Committee as one of the two parliament members represented on the panel. The opposition has threatened to walk away from the negotiations if this demand is not met. Typically, one coalition member and one opposition member serve on the panel, however, it is not a legal requirement. The Knesset must choose its two representatives by June 15.

The opposition also said Judicial Selection Committee meetings must resume by the end of June to address the numerous unfilled judicial positions across the nation.

According to Israel’s Reshet Bet radio on Sunday morning, the opposition has proposed a deal to the coalition to delay the Judicial Selection Committee bill.

The proposal would see the coalition advance two parts of the judicial reforms in return for delaying the committee bill.

The opposition wants the coalition to delay changes to the Judicial Selection Committee until 2026, potentially making it part of future election campaigns.

The coalition is reportedly willing to delay through October 2023, which would allow Israel's Supreme Court President Esther Hayut’s replacement to be chosen, according to the current system.

There are two reforms the opposition is allegedly in favor of.

One is to do away with the ‘reasonability doctrine,’ which has been used increasingly by judges to dismiss laws they do not agree with.

The second reform they support is to divide the attorney general’s office into two distinct positions; one role as the government’s attorney and the other as the supervisor of the legal system.

Currently the attorney general’s responsibilities cover both roles, making current Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara one of the most powerful unelected officials in the world.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners are increasingly pushing to advance reform legislation without a compromise, due to pressure from their political base. Recent polls have seen a decrease in support for the coalition, in general, and some believe the window of opportunity to pass reforms may soon be closed.

Critics argue that the proposed reforms would diminish the power of Israel’s High Court of Justice and weaken democratic checks and balances. Judicial reform supporters say reform is necessary to address an unbalanced court system.

If negotiations fail, Netanyahu is reportedly willing to consider changes within the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.

Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar of the Likud party said in an interview with Channel 14 news on Saturday, “If we don’t pass the judicial reform during this term, we should get ready for many long years on the opposition benches.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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