Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is preparing for the next showdown with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit next week when she brings before the Knesset Ministerial Committee on Legislation a proposed bill designed to alter the way in which legal advisors are appointed to government ministries.
According to the proposal, instead of an appointment taking place through a tender, in which a minister is unable to influence the outcome of the nomination, candidates will be selected by a search committee and will require the consent of the relevant minister and the attorney general.
Mandelblit however, has been forthright in stating his fierce opposition to the proposal which he deems inappropriate, which Shaked argues will serve to strengthen methods of governance tighten the link between the minister and the implementation of policy which he or she was elected to implement
“It is natural and proper that both the minister and the attorney general are partners in his election,” Shaked said on Tuesday as she attempted to justify the bill.
“Most of the legal advisors in my government ministry are good and professional. The legal advisor to the ministry accumulates more and more power because unfortunately everything has become a matter that falls under the court’s jurisdiction,” she argued.
“This is a job that today is extremely significant and the ministers need to be part of the selection process. Just like in other appointed senior posts in the search committee, it will also be that way here.”
Mandelblit however, made clear his opposition in a public forum to the move.
Admitting that he does not consider the current, or any other selection process as ideal, he promised that he would not agree to a process that would compromise standards expected of the advisors.
Increasing the weight of the political echelons in their election, he posited, would have that effect.
“There is no basis to this claim,” Mandelblit said, dismissing Shaked’s reasoning.
“From conversations that I hold on the matter I can say that as a general rule—among most of the ministers—there is satisfaction with the legal advisors to their ministries. The ministers are privy to quality legal counsel, and we work all the time to improve it.”
According to Mandelblit, when disagreements arise, he personally intervenes to settle them. “These legal advisors were chosen by way of a tender, in accordance with the existing system, and they do their jobs well.
“Naturally, there are instances in which the legal advisors to the governmental ministries find that there is a legal impediment in an activity that the minister is requesting that they carry out. As I said earlier, that is a central part of their job,” he noted.
As was published recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, a string of former senior officials in the justice apparatus sent last August a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shaked and Mandelblit. protesting the bill proposal.
Among the signatories of the letter were former legal advisors and retired Supreme Court judges such as Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Dorit Beinisch, Yitzhak Zamir Edna Arbel and Gabriel Bach.
“In our opinion, the nomination of a legal advisor by the minister in charge of a ministry and not by the Civil Service Commission as is the norm today, according to the recommendation of the ministry director and not the tender committee, will not strengthen the legal advisor, but do the opposite. It will weaken him and harm the rule of law,” the letter read.
The letter went on to implore Shaked to reconsider the proposal. “Since the law may cause serious damage to the rule of law and to the proper administrator, we suggest that you consider it afresh. In our opinion, it is the proper thing to do to unequivocally oppose the promotion of the idea.”