Levin calls for justices who ‘understand’ why Jews don’t want to live near Arabs

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the chief architect of the suspended judicial overhaul law, reportedly told cabinet on Sunday that the Supreme Court should include judges who “understand” the Jewish Israelis are willing to live with Arabs “in mixed territories”. “Why wouldn’t you?

“Arabs buy apartments in Jewish communities in the Galilee and this causes Jews to leave these cities, because they are not ready to live with Arabs. We need to make sure the Supreme Court has judges who can handle this. Understand,” Levin said, according to the Cannes public broadcaster.

His reported remarks were meant to be an argument in favor of controversial legislation that would bring judicial appointments under political control, as part of a suspended push to overhaul the judiciary and dramatically reduce the powers of the High Court.

It came as the cabinet also discussed a proposed government resolution proposed by the far-right Otzma Yehudit party to emphasize “Zionist values” in government policy, a move that would allow preferential treatment of Jewish Israelis in housing planning and construction. would be able.

Discussion on the proposal, which was opposed by the Attorney General’s office, was eventually postponed, although it was unclear for how long.

A campaign to overhaul Israel’s judiciary was suspended in late March amid unprecedented public protests and a nationwide economic strike. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would halt plans to allow talks with the opposition under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog with the aim of finding a widely accepted compromise on judicial reform.

But months of talks have not yielded success, and pressure has grown within the coalition to resume the legislative push.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 28, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

netanyahu Said Last week, following the passage of the state budget, the overhaul was “certainly” back on the government’s agenda. Later that day, however, he added: “We will certainly continue our efforts to reach a broad consensus agreement, as far as possible, on the issue of judicial reform.”

One of the centers of the overhaul is legislation that would give the governing coalition broad control over the overwhelming majority of judicial appointments in Israel by giving it a built-in majority on the judicial selection committee.

The bill is on the verge of passing into law, and could be brought up for its final, back-to-back votes in the Knesset plenum at a moment’s notice.

However, such action is almost certain to rekindle intense public protests.

The Yesh Atid party and other opposition sources cited by Hebrew media over the weekend said they would demand that an opposition member, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharer, be elected as one of two MPs on a soon-to-be-formed judicial selection committee. Otherwise, they will walk away from the negotiation.

Karine Elharer holds a press conference in Jerusalem on May 30, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It has been customary over the years to select one coalition MK and one opposition MK to serve on the panel, although this is not mandatory and the coalition may choose to elect two coalition MPs. Earlier this month, Secretary of Government Yossi Fuchs bullied To elect two coalition MKs if there is no agreement between the government and the opposition in the settlement talks.

However, according to a Channel 12 news report on Sunday, the coalition will not select two MPs for the panel and will instead nominate one, in keeping with tradition.

A regular majority is needed to elect a lower court justice and a majority of seven of the nine members needed to elect a Supreme Court justice, meaning that neither the coalition, nor the opposition, and Nor does the judiciary have a majority on the panel, and that both the government and the judiciary have a veto on Supreme Court appointments, so the role of the next head of the Israel Bar Association will be crucial.

The Knesset must choose its two representatives by June 15. The panel also includes three sitting judges of the Supreme Court, two members of bar associations, the justice minister and another minister.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayat and other judges at a High Court of Justice hearing on January 5, 2023. (Jonathan Sindel/Flash90)

The opposition is also demanding that the committee set a realistic deadline for negotiations – by the end of June – soon after its parliamentary members are elected. The opposition says it is needed to fill dozens of judge posts currently lying vacant in various courts across the country.

Although the committee would technically be able to convene after MPs are elected by secret ballot, the power to convene panels and appoint judges rests with Levin, who is unlikely to do so before legislation to change the composition of the committee which would give the coalition more and more control over the process of selecting judges

Critics say the overhaul would dangerously erode Israel’s democratic character by giving the high court its power to act as a check and balance against parliament. Supporters say the law is needed to rein in what they see as an overly intrusive court system.

you are a devoted reader

That’s why we started The Times of Israel eleven years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we have not installed a paywall. But as the journalism we do is expensive, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help by joining our work The Times of Israel Community.

You can help support our quality journalism for as little as $6 a month while enjoying The Times of Israel ad freeas well as accessing exclusive content Available only to members of The Times of Israel community.

Thank you,
David Horowitz, founding editor of The Times of Israel

join our organization

join our organization
Already a member? Sign in to stop watching this