Mandelblit Denounces Proposal for Political Appointments of Legal Advisors

Attorney General of Israel Avichai Mandelblit at Elyakim Rubinstein's resignation from the position of Deputy President of the Israeli Supreme Court. Jun 13, 2017. Photo by Noam Moshkovich/Pool

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit blasted a proposal to change the way government ministries choose their legal advisors, telling the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Monday that a proposal tabled by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would emasculate the legal advisors’ ability to effectively do their jobs.

The proposal would require government ministries to choose from a list of approved lawyers to head their legal departments, and to obtain the approval of the attorney general for the appointment. The list of acceptable candidates will be chosen by a search committee headed by the director general of the relevant ministry, replacing the current system of publishing public tenders for the positions in order to ensure professionals appointments.

But Mandelblit said the bill was a threat to the rule of law.

“In the State of Israel public service is professional and does not express its personal views,” Mandelblit said. “I came here to uphold the rule of law. (The proposed bill) is a threat to the rule of law in the country…(it) could enormously damage the role of legal advisers as gatekeepers.”

Shaked countered that she expects legal advisers to represent their minister’s political outlook.

“We need to trust the political leaders,” said Shaked. “We are not criminals. When a minister is replaced the legal advisor should reflect the policies of the new minister.”

The Chairman of the Law and Justice Committee, Shaked fellow Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky, said the current situation makes it difficult for ministers to execute the policies they were voted into power to carry out. “We must find a better balance ministers to govern without harming the independence of legal advisors and their role as gatekeepers.

Several government watchdog NGOs, including the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, as well as a range of leading jurists including former Supreme Court presidents Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch; former Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir; and former Supreme Court justices Edna Arbel and Gabriel Bach came out strongly against the bill.

“This is another attempt to run over the gatekeepers, as part of a series of bills designed to promote the idea of ‘governance,’ which in fact is aimed at creating an autocratic leadership while harming the independence of supervisory bodies representing the public interest,” the Movement for Quality Government said.

Zamir told the Law and Justice Committee that the proposal poses a “great danger” for the State of Israel.”

“The proposal contradicts a basic principle of the public system: Conflict of interest. It is unacceptable that the audited party will appoint the auditor,” Zamir said. “The law may create a situation in which the public will suspect the legal advisor because of his appointment by the minister. For the sake of the State of Israel as a state of law, do not advance this proposal.”

By: TPS Staff