Reuters / January 11, 2023
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to reorder the panel for selecting judges such that his hard-right government’s sway over Supreme Court appointments would increase, according to draft legislation published on Wednesday.
Judicial reforms sought by Netanyahu, whose nationalist-religious coalition was sworn in last month, have stirred worry within Israel and abroad for the country’s democratic health. Netanyahu says he will preserve the judiciary’s independence.
The panel for selecting judges now comprises three Supreme court justices, two cabinet ministers, two parliamentarians and two lawyers. At least a 7-2 vote is required to approve an appointment, a threshold designed to encourage compromise.
Under the bill drawn up by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the panel would be expanded to 11 members – seven of them aligned with or brought in by the government, giving it a potential automatic majority.
The number of lawmakers on the panel would be expanded to three, with two of them from the governing coalition, and the number of participating cabinet ministers would also be expanded to three. Replacing the two lawyers would be two “public figures” selected by the justice minister – just one a lawyer.
Levin’s legislation would further rein in the Supreme Court by requiring a unanimous ruling to overturn basic laws – Israel’s quasi-constitution – passed by parliament.
It would also remove “reasonableness” as a standard of review for Supreme Court rulings against government authorities.