State prosecutors end strike after late-night deal

Knesset Constitution Committee to handle prosecution oversight bill

April 14, 2016 00:30
2 minute read.
Ayelet Shaked

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. (photo credit: REUTERS)

At 12:08 a.m. Wednesday morning, the union of state prosecutors, the Justice Ministry and the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court finally announced that the union had ended its strike following marathon negotiations.

The union attributed its willingness to return to work to the “declarations of the Justice Ministry’s director-general, the positive vibe and the understandings that were reached,” though none of the understandings were explicitly specified and most of what the court wrote in its decision was setting up a schedule for continuing negotiations over the very issues the sides still disagree on – the nature and shape of the Justice Ministry’s oversight czar.

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The union grudgingly agreed to be overseen by the two-year-old oversight body headed by Hila Gerstl, but only if her criticism focuses on systemic issues that do not invade prosecutorial independence and does not single out individual prosecutors.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked recently proposed a Knesset bill to make the oversight czar’s authority more permanent and defined, since it was initially established only by a joint decision of former justice minister Tzipi Livni and former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein.

Her bill is viewed as a compromise between proponents who want aggressive oversight over the prosecutors, including criticism of individual prosecutors, versus what the union wants.

The sides are due to meet three times for negotiations before April 21, as well as for additional meetings so as to report to the court on a more final deal by May 16, to be followed by a hearing on May 19.

In some ways, neither either side appears to have achieved a clear win, with the Justice Ministry having to tolerate a nearly two-week strike in which the court sounded-off in sympathy with the prosecutors, while the prosecutors had to drop the strike before winning publicized gains.

A related issue also announced Wednesday was an official 9-3 vote by the Knesset House committee that the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi), would dominate discussion of the new bill.

Recently, the Knesset State Control Committee led by Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) had made a push to control developments on the issue and the two committees had even fought over which committee would get to hear from key officials on the issue.

Slomiansky is believed to be somewhat more sympathetic to the prosecutors’ point of view, while Elharar and her colleague in Yesh Atid, MK Yael German, have pressed for stronger oversight.

Elharar even implied that part of the deal ending the strike was that the Knesset bill would run through Slomiansky’s committee.

“The State Control Committee deals with oversight on a daily basis… The Constitution Committee is very overloaded with many proposed bills. I do not know what agreements were reached, and how, by sudden surprise, the prosecutors’ strike ended. It would be interesting to know what price was promised to them.”

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