A senior source in the “change bloc” told Ma’ariv Wednesday morning that “During the night, progress was made in most areas, except for Ayelet Shaked’s insistence on a seat on the Judicial Appointments Committee.” The source stressed that “now it depends on Bennett and Shaked, everything else is ready.” Yesh Atid is firm on refusing to give in to Shaked’s demand and maintaining that two designated ministers will serve on the Judicial Appointments Committee – Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (right-wing) and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (left-wing). Talks are expected to continue with the hope of informing President Reuven Rivlin of the new government before 11 AM.
Shaked may be asking for a lot, considering her party, Yamina, with only six seats in the Knesset (a seventh went AWOL over joining the left in the first place), will have the prime minister’s job for the next two years, as well as several ministerial portfolios. But this is not some excuse on the Yamina leader’s part to sabotage the left-right government at the last minute, as some on the left have suggested. At stake is Shaked’s life’s work to tame the activist Supreme Court by appointing conservative justices, an endeavor she began as Justice Minister in Netanyahu’s government.
The new government’s term, should it serve its full four years, will coincide with the retirement of six Supreme Court justices at the mandatory age of 70. There are 15 justices altogether, out of whom three are considered conservative and the rest come in varying shades of activism. This activist court has been clashing with the right-wing ruled Knesset over constitutional legislation many say was beyond its authority. This is also the court which in its capacity as the High Court of Justice, has been allowing ludicrous Arab claims against small parts of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, ordering demolitions and evictions in those settlements over slivers of partially-owned land.
With six new, conservative justices who would be respectful of the equality of the three branches of government, a more sane political reality would be made possible. But not if the Judicial Appointments Committee is weighed leftward by the chairwoman of Labor Michaeli.
The Judicial Appointments Committee is comprised of the president of the Supreme Court and two justices; two representatives of the Bar Association; two government ministers; and two MKs, traditionally one from the left and one from the right. To reach her victory in appointing moderate justices as Justice Minister back in 2015, Shaked swung a deal with then chairman of the Bar Association Effi Naveh, defying the will of then-Supreme Court President Miriam Naor. Naveh has been punished since with an embarrassing scandal and lost his chairmanship.
The current breakdown of the Judicial Appointments Committee leans is in favor of the activists by 5 to 4 at best. Shaked is aiming to reverse this by replacing one leftist vote – Michaeli.
Meanwhile, according to Israeli media, one area of the law has been reversed by Lapid’s skilled negotiators in favor of the lawbreakers: the Kaminitz Law, which made it easier for police to enforce the law against illegal construction, will be revoked altogether or frozen, and some illegal Bedouin settlements in the Negev, on large swaths of land outside the recognized Bedouin domains, will attain a formal legal status, complete with infrastructure services. The winner here is Mansur Abbas, chairman of Ra’am, the Islamist party.
Incidentally, as a gift to Ra’am, the new left-right government will likely drop from its fundamental agenda the support for LGBTQ, because the Islamist party is against it. Must respect Islam…
New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar is another “stumbling block” in the path of the new left-right coalition government: Sa’ar, as the next Justice Minister, is determined to reform the role of Attorney General, whose title in Hebrew is merely Government’s Legal Counsel. The job of AG has been schizophrenic from its inception, including both that of the attorney advising the PM on the legality of new legislation and the job of head of the state law enforcement apparatus. It’s the definition of holding both ends of the stick.
By splitting the role, Israel would have a true Attorney General who supervises the work of all its law enforcement agencies, and a legal adviser to the government who might on occasion take a position against that of the AG – something which under the current scope of the job is understandably impossible.
One final heartwarming news: Labor MK Gilad Kariv demands the position of Diaspora Minister, for which he sees himself as the natural candidate. Kariv happens to be the Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and he plans, among other things, to establish in the Diaspora Ministry a new “Division for Renewed Judaism,” which is code for Reform Judaism. This will have less to do with taking care of the Reform in the diaspora – I hear they’re mostly quite well to do – but with pouring billions of shekels into the reform temples in Israel. Financially free at last, free at last.