Judicial overhaul talks frozen as Netanyahu loses major vote

At least four coalition MKs defected, enabling the opposition to win a key seat on judicial selection committee.

The Israeli government’s attempt to impose its controversial judicial overhaul agenda has hit a major setback.

Opposition candidate Karine Elharrar, from Yesh Atid, has been elected to the Knesset’s Judicial Selection Committee, blocking the government’s desire to appoint more conservative judges.

The committee comprises three Supreme Court justices, two members of the Israel Bar Association, two government ministers, one coalition Knesset member and, generally, one opposition MK.

But the electoral upset puts only an opposition candidate on the committee. A repeat vote will be held within 30 days to choose the Knesset’s second member.

Elharrar was elected in a 58-56 vote. The opposition numbers just 56 MKs, two of whom are abroad, meaning that at least four coalition members voted for the Yesh Atid MK in the anonymous vote, against the wishes of Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu.

The events surrounding the selection of Elharrar suggest  Netanyahu is losing control of his coalition. Proposals to disband the committee and allow the Knesset to appoint judges are a key plank of the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul proposals.

In response to widespread protest, in Israel and internationally, Netanyahu had told President Isaac Herzog, Israeli opposition leaders and the Biden administration that he would maintain the status quo regarding the formation of the committee and not divert from tradition.

But on the morning of the vote, Netanyahu backtracked. He ordered coalition candidates to withdraw and told coalition members to cast their ballots against the opposition candidate with the aim to ensure that no lawmaker was elected.

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid and National Unity MK Benny Gantz argued in a press conference after the results were announced that Netanyahu had failed to ensure that the committee would convene and begin to appoint judges, and therefore there was no point in continuing the talks over the judicial overhaul.

“I am concerned, because Netanyahu collapsed,” Gantz said. “His conduct raises a large question over his judgment in fateful questions and raises a large question over his ability to control the coalition and respect agreements. In the current state of affairs, where there is no committee functioning as required, there is no point in holding talks at the President’s Residence,” he said.

The results of the vote are likely to increase the pressure on Netanyahu from his far-right partners and exacerbate the tensions within the coalition and his Likud party, which is divided on the issue of the judicial overhaul.

Weekly protests continue and polls show two thirds of Israelis oppose the changes.


Judicial reform talks frozen after opposition wins judge committee seat
(Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu’s coalition suffers embarrassing defeat in Israel (Axios)

Lapid, Gantz freeze overhaul negotiations over ‘PM’s capitulation to extremists’ (Times of Israel)

Netanyahu loses a key vote. Now a torn, troubled Israel waits for the fallout (David Horowitz, Times of Israel)
The prime minister fails to impose discipline on his colleagues and the opposition manages an improbable victory, but the judicial overhaul advocates aren’t done yet.

Photo: Newly appointed Judicial Selection Committee member, Yesh Atid’s Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid)