Battle on for control of Israel's Supreme Court


Left and right are fighting it out in the Knesset over the future composition of the senior bench of Israel's judiciary.

Next week, the Judiciary Appointments Committee will select three new judges for the Supreme Court in Jerusalem and the politicians are trying to influence its decisions.

Those on the right have called on the committee to ensure that more religious judges who live across the Green Line are appointed to the court.

Meanwhile, from other flanks, including some members of the committee itself, there have been calls for the selection to be postponed. They argue that the committee is already weighted in favour of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's candidates.

Mr Neeman is thought to be in favour of appointing the right's candidates and is trying to act before the current membership of the appointments committee changes.

Another battle raging over the Supreme Court is the question of who will lead it over the next few years.

Current President Dorit Beinisch will reach retirement age in mid-2012, and by law her replacement will be the second most senior judge, Asher Grunif. However, since Judge Gronis will be 67 at the time of Ms Beinisch's retirement, he will himself have less than the necessary three years to go before his own retirement.

Right-wing MKs would like to install conservative Mr Gronis rather than the next most senior judge, Miriam Naor, a liberal. To enable Mr Gronis to preside, they are pushing through an amendment to the law which waives the three-year minimum tenure for Supreme Court presidents.

While the left believes this is an attempt by the religious-right to take over the Supreme Court and weaken the balance between the government and the judiciary, many politicians on the right are convinced that they are merely achieving balance within the court where "the judges have for too long been perpetuating themselves", as one Likud MK said this week.

Despite the diversity of Israeli society, there are complaints from many sectors that Supreme Court judges do not represent Israelis as a whole.

This week, a group of Mizrahi academics wrote to the appointments committee pointing out that not only were all current Supreme Court judges of Ashkenazi origin, there were no Mizrahi candidates being considered for the highest court.

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