Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and his minions -- Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud), MK Yaakov (Katzeleh) Katz (National Union), MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu) -- concocted legislation on Monday afternoon in an effort to gain control over Israel's Judicial Selection Committee. Their efforts included a move that is unprecedented in the history of Israel: retroactively nullifying the appointment of Israel Bar Association representatives to the committee in order to appoint someone from their own camp. Retroactively? Retroactive moves can perhaps be acceptable when enacted in some small way in financial legislation, but over a small thing like the appointment of representatives to serve on the Judicial Selection Committee? That giant of democracy, Menachem Begin, is turning over in his grave.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor (Likud) waved a flag of mutiny on Monday and a string of ministers lined up beside him on the "good guy" side – Ministers Michael Eitan (Likud), Benny Begin (Likud), Limor Livnat (Likud), Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) and Yuval Steinitz (Likud). And then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put a stop to this erosion of democracy and said he would reconsider the legislation -- a victory for the forces of light, or at least a time out.
It was embarrassing because, as the ministers pointed out, the government has never before approved a law that retroactively revokes an undisputed Israel Bar Association appointment. It was doubly embarrassing because MK Yariv Levin (Likud) – whom I may not agree with but whose integrity I don't dispute – said that Neeman told him and MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) that this terrible law was what the government wanted. So "why are you doing this to us?" he was asked. And, in addition, there was a little war of words between himself and Sa'ar.
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Why not just change the voting rules of the Bar Association? Want to change them? Go ahead: Legislate now and take a vote after the current term ends. Especially in light of the fact that one of the representatives, appointed 40 days ago, is an Israeli Arab. For the first time in history the committee has an Arab member and he is immediately unseated – by no fault of his own. After this, we can watch Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman try to explain to The Guardian that there is no racism in Israel. Even revered former chief justice Aharon Barak wouldn't be able to do that.
At the start of the new year, 28 days before the Likud primary and at a time when the next general election could be imminent, the Knesset is under a heavy cloud of legal-constitutional maneuvers which, if approved, will be welcomed with cries of joy from the extreme right, but will also fuel Western incitement campaigns against Israel. They will also anger a significant number of Israelis, not the majority, but a large minority.
Every week brings another Neeman or Katzeleh (Nation Union MK Yaakov Katz) scandal and, compounded, they inflict heavy damage on the nation and its citizens in the global arena. There is no reason to doubt Netanyahu's declaration that he won't actively seek early general elections, but the turmoil within various parties is reaching a boiling point, thus dictating a different reality, and general elections may be in order to reset the national political scene. The wise thing to do would be to postpone the vote on changing the face of the law enforcement system until after the election. That way, during the campaign every party will have to commit to a certain stance on the issue – whether of light or darkness.
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