Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reiterated his blunt objection Tuesday to the Likud bill forbidding police from investigating a sitting prime minister for sex, violence, security and drug offenses until the remainder of their term. Speaking in a Jerusalem conference, Mandelblit said, "The role of prime minister, the highest in the land, will become a sanctuary for felons."
This marks the second time in as many days that Mandelblit has commented on the bill, saying Monday, "It creates a problem with equality before the law, and we don't want to be that kind of country. I have no doubt this issue will be taken off the agenda. It's not right, not appropriate and not befitting a country such as ours."
At Tuesday's "Legal counseling and the government" conference organized by Jerusalem's Kohelet Policy Forum, Mandelblit said, "Truth should be told, the mere fact of having to explain why (the bill) is unthinkable is unthinkable unto itself. It does significant damage to the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law and the public's confidence. The legal status quo in Israel strikes a delicate balance between competing interests relating to interrogating public officials, including the prime minister."
"The bill as it was described is completely without balance. Its injury to the rule of law and the public's trust is broad and unequivocal. It may possibly result in a sitting prime minister with a "cloud of suspicions" floating over his head that cannot be verified or refuted. Worse yet, the hypothetical prime minister's accomplices may be tried and even convicted of committing an offense, while the prime minister continues to administer his duties for several years' time," Mandelblit hypothesized.
"In a democratic country, the rule of law is the same for every man, from the common man on the street to the prime minister. That was and should continue to be the case," he said.
On a related note, the Attorney General also commented on the various investigations into the affairs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other public officials.
"The investigations are being conducted with the utmost responsibility, professionalism and full understanding of their public implications. The decisions, however, will be made by me, according to accepted jurisprudential criteria—the evidence's sufficiency to indict and the public's interest—and according to them alone," he clarified.
Speaking on the ongoing weekly demonstrations opposite his Petah Tikva home, Mandelblit said, "I've said this before as it relates to the demonstrations, and I'll say it again for anyone questioning enforcement authorities' considerations and integrity: we will not be permitting any outside considerations our undue voices to influence our decision making. Israel's law enforcement system is independent and acts as a trustee of the rule of law and the public interest alone. Before I assumed this position, I said I approach it with a definite awe."
Mandelblit then went on to speak about the cabinet's decision to approve Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin's so-called "jobs law", permitting to government ministry directors-general to appoint deputy directors-generals without tenders.
"It was made clear there is a significant legal difficulty, or perhaps even a legal block, to implement these changes as it pertains to committees tasked with appointing 'gatekeeper' positions, such as the state's attorney, deputy attorneys-general, Antitrust Authority director general, Tax Authority director general and others. The reasoning behind this difficulty is political ranks' involvement in the selection process must be restricted. The cabinet was willing to accede on this matter, and the aforementioned positions were removed from the law's purview," he said.
"We've differentiated between the basic legal difficulty of the proposed law in light of the significant expansion of tender-exempt civil service positions and the concrete terms we petitioned for, which may have blocked the law altogether if they were not met," Mandelblit added.