Supreme Court of Israel: Interviews begin for four open slots

Interviews with the 24 candidates for vacant Supreme Court positions were due to start on Sunday.

The powerful Judge Selection Committee, chaired by Justice Minister Gideon Saar, has been meeting since August and will replace four judges in this round and two more by October 2023.

By then, more than a third of the 15 Supreme Court justices will have changed, potentially shifting the course of the court in a more conservative direction as Saar generally prefers conservative justices.

There are already two gaping holes that need to be filled following the retirement of Judges Hanan Melcer and Menachem Mazuz last April, but which could not be replaced amid the freeze on all appointments under the previous government of Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud and Blue and White. Benny Gantz.

In April 2022, Neal Hendel and George Karra will retire, and by October 2023, Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Anat Baron will also have retired.

Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, October 12, 2021. (AVSHALOM SASSONI / MAARIV)

Candidates are expected to be reduced to six or seven candidates in the near future, with the committee expected to make final decisions around November 23.

Besides Saar, the committee also includes: Hayut, Judge Yitzhak Amit, Judge Uzi Vogelman, Home Secretary Ayelet Shaked, Labor MP Efrat Riten, Religious Zionist Party MP Simcha Rotman and representatives of the Israeli Bar Muhammad Naamana and Ilana Sakar.

Of all the candidates, District Judge Khaled Kabub was initially considered to have the clearest path to a nomination as there is traditionally an Israeli-Arab on the pitch, and Kabub is seen as the best candidate to replace Karra.

If selected, he would become the first Muslim on the ground, given that all Israeli Arabs to date have come from a Christian background.

However, Kabub’s candidacy could potentially be hijacked by a controversy that erupted in early October.

On October 8, the Jerusalem Post published an interview with Saar in which he said he did not want to discuss the specific allegations regarding Kabub.

The controversy revolves around whether Kabub was aware of some of the problematic activities of some Israeli-Arab activists he had met and who had worked with his father.

But Saar also did not promise that Kabub’s headquarters was 100% solid. Moreover, he said that it was even possible for the committee to add new names to the list of 24 people. The implication was that it would take an Arab-Israeli candidate to replace Kara, so if need be, a new Arab-Israeli candidate could be added.

However, Saar made it clear that this was not his preference, as the law would require a deadline to republish the updated list – and to date no new list has been released.

OTHER TOP candidates could include District Judges Ram Vinograd, Ruth Ronen, Yigal Marzel, Gila Kanfu-Steinetz (wife of former Minister and Likud MP Yuval Steinitz), Ron Sokol, Tamara Bazak-Rappaport, Revital Yafa- Katz and Michal Agmon-Gonen.

The former director general of the Ministry of Justice Sigal Yacobi, the former general counsel of the IDF army, the major general. (res.) Sharon Afek, former Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, former chief public defender Yoav Sapir are also well-known candidates.

Yacobi or Afek, if selected, would become the first openly gay Supreme Court candidate.

Afek could also be considered to replace Avichai Mandelblit as attorney general on February 1.

Although Meir Shamgar is an example of a former MAG who eventually became a Supreme Court justice, Mandelblit and former MAG Menachem Finklestein both first sought district judge positions before seeking judicial office. superior.

Mandelblit himself was unlikely to have been able to run for a seat in the High Court given he is due to serve as attorney general for the next four months, but could be eligible to fill the vacancies that will emerge in 2023.

Yinon is to be called as one of the many witnesses in the trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kobi Sharbit, Nati Simhoni, Professor Shahar Lifshitz and former government bankruptcy official David Hahn are other candidates who have been the subject of media hype.

Of the three non-Arab-Israeli posts, at least one should be a woman, and politicians have insisted that two of the three would be conservative given the leanings of Saar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

In the haggling between the generally more liberal bloc of the three Supreme Court justices, sometimes backed by the two representatives of the Israeli Bar Association, and the current more conservative political class on the committee, sometimes lesser-known candidates are selected. as a compromise between the parties.

Although conventionally the Supreme Court is classified as liberal, Shaked has already shifted it to an almost conservative majority during his tenure as justice minister from 2015 to 2019.

Given that three of the four outgoing judges in this cycle are liberals, Saar and Shaked could finally secure a majority in court, and even cement a majority by 2023 when two more moderate liberals retire.

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