Coalition and opposition officials who are engaged in negotiations over the judicial reform at the President’s residence are warning the talks are going to explode next week, Reshet Ben Radio reported Monday. The reason: both sides insist the other side hand them some concession.
In the background is the presidential staff’s frantic attempt to formulate a document of general principles that’s acceptable to both parties and prevent the explosion. Both sides have so far rejected the initiative.
The coalition demands that by the time the two MKs in the committee to appoint judges are selected, the opposition would announce its agreement to advance at least one of the reform bills – either the reasonability principle or splitting the Attorney General’s role into counsel to the government and head of the judicial system. Both were high on former Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s agenda during the previous government, and both were major features of his election platform.
The opposition demands that the coalition commit to letting one opposition MK on the committee to appoint judges.
Deputy Speaker of the Knesset MK Nissim Vaturi (Likud) told Ynet the Likud faction will debate at its Monday weekly meeting whether to choose one representative from the coalition and one from the opposition to the committee to appoint judges, which has been the more common practice.
“There is a Likud faction meeting today, and we will decide,” MK Vaturi said. “I don’t rule out that we choose two members from the coalition, there have been all kinds of similar picks in the past.”
According to Reshet Bet, the Yesh Atid delegation to the talks is prepared to support a bill that changes the AG’s role, provided that Justice Minister Yariv Levin convenes the committee to appoint judges by the end of June and start running it in its old format to appoint judges to the various courts.
MK Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party (with Gideon Sa’ar) conditions any agreement on reaching agreements on the other issues of the reform, and they are not ready to separate the various issues.
Yesh Atid’s position corresponds with the coalition’s demand that at least one judicial reform issue would be passed by the end of the summer session.
The secret election of two Knesset representatives in the committee to appoint judges will be held on June 14. However, even if a coalition representative and an opposition representative are elected to the committee, Minister Levin is not expected to convene the committee at all. This is because should the committee’s composition remain as it has always been, he, Levin, would need a majority of 7 out of 9 members to elect a judge to the supreme court, with three of them being Supreme Court judges (including the court president), two are members of the Bar, who are also voting with the opposition, and one more is an opposition MK. With those odds Yariv will never be able to push through a moderate-conservative candidate – and the same goes for the next Supreme Court President, who would be picked based on seniority.
As MK Vaturi put it: “We don’t have to convene the committee, if it goes in the direction of doing the same thing as they have done all these years. Maybe keeping things as they are is better than what could happen” in the committee.