After weeks of angry demonstrations every Saturday night and threats of strikes against the “fascistic” legislation to reform the Judicial Selection Committee, which to date has been controlled by the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), Chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, published his bill, titled, Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment No. 3, Strengthening the Separation of Branches of Government).
Here’s the bill which is scheduled to be submitted to the plenum for the first reading next Monday:
Amendment to clause 4 of Basic Law: The Judiciary. In clause 4
Subsection (B) is replaced by the following:
The committee will have nine members, who will be:
(a) The President of the Supreme Court, as well as two retired judges to be appointed by the Justice Minister, with the approval of the Supreme Court President;
(b) The Justice Minister and two other ministers are chosen by the government;
(c) Three Knesset Members including the Chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and two MKs, one from the coalition and one from the opposition, as will be determined by the law;
(2). The Justice Minister will chair the committee.
That’s the gist of it. The bill amends the 1984 Basic Law: The Judiciary, according to which the committee has nine members, as follows:
Justice Minister – Chairman
Cabinet Minister, chosen by the Cabinet.
Two Knesset Members, chosen by the Knesset (usually one from the coalition and one from the opposition).
Two members of the Bar Association.
The Chief Justice, and two other judges of the Supreme Court (usually replaced by seniority).
The change means that instead of the Supreme Court President controlling 5 votes (the court’s and the bar’s), from now on the Justice Minister will control 5 votes. And the bar association is eliminated from the process, effectively preventing it from picking the judges before whom its members would argue their cases.
The bill goes on to say that the committee’s quorum will be 5 members (denying the Supreme Court President the ability to paralyze the committee by boycotting its meetings).
Rothman then sneaked in a clause that has nothing to do with the protocol of appointing judges, but happens to be way more important than anything written above:
Judicial Review Regarding the validity of a Basic Law:
15a. Whoever has judicial authority according to law, including the Supreme Court, is not required, directly or indirectly, to rule about the validity of a Basic Law and there will not be any validity to a ruling made in the aforementioned matter.
It means that should the Knesset decide to upgrade legislation to the level of a Basic Law, the court does not have the power to overrule, revoke, annul, or cancel it, as in the wolf who gets around to the third piggy’s brick house: they can huff and puff, but they can’t blow down the house.
I must say this: as an observer of this legislation since before the election when I interviewed MK Rothman about it, I am proud of his determination and polite, no-nonsense navigation of this bill in the face of a cacophony of raging opposition MKs, opposition-affiliated media, and opposition-affiliated supreme court president. He is unwavering, always anchored in facts, the law, and legislation history which he yanks out calmly to rub the other side’s face in it.
It looks like for the first time since the right overturned the rule of the left back in 1977, Israel has a right-wing government.