(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must be careful about using its powers since it is about to resign, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Wednesday.
Mazuz was replying to queries from MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP), Yuval Steinitz and Limor Livnat (Likud), Attorney Yitzhak Bam of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and former Third Way Party MK Yehuda Harel. The five had asked Mazuz whether the current government should be considered a transitional government because Olmert has already announced his intention to resign, and whether or not this period should be considered "before elections."
"The government must take a cautious approach in applying the powers of the government and the ministers since the situation has certain characteristics in common with a transitional government," Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz told them.
According to Mazuz, the government is not formally a transitional government since the president is not yet consulting with the parties to form a new one. Nor is it a period "before elections" since the official date for new elections remains at the end of the current Knesset's full term of office.
Nevertheless, Mazuz quoted from High Court decisions on petitions challenging the actions of transitional governments in the past and said they should serve as guidelines for the conduct of the current government.
The court determined that, "one the one hand, the government must provide stability and continuity so that there is no government vacuum. On the other hand, it must show restraint in applying its powers in light of the temporariness of the transitional government, which does not enjoy the confidence of the Knesset. The transitional government, and the ministers in it, must show restraint in applying their prerogatives regarding matters where there is no special, urgent need for taking action during the transitional period."
Mazuz said he could not determine what exactly the government could or could not do during the period before Olmert's resignation. Each case had to be examined on its own merits, according to a balance between the degree of urgency regarding a given government action and its obligation to display self-restraint in applying its powers.
Bam had wanted to know whether the Olmert government should be negotiating peace agreements and making new appointments at this time.