Justice Minister Ohana fires ministry's director-general Emi Palmor

Ohana has already caused several shake ups during his short time in office, having to explain attacks on the Supreme Court and of his own ministry staff.

July 23, 2019 21:57
2 minute read.
Emi Palmor

Emi Palmor, director-general of the Justice Ministry, addresses the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia, yesterday. (photo credit: JUSTICE MINISTRY)

Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana surprised the legal establishment on Tuesday by firing the ministry’s director-general, Emi Palmor, with little warning.

Ohana has been switching over administrative staff in his bureau from those who worked for his predecessor, Ayelet Shaked, and technically, Palmor is not guaranteed tenure.

However, since Ohana himself is only a temporary appointment dating from June 4, it was surprising that he would fire a director-general, a position usually left in place as part of the professional staff of a ministry, even if the minister changes.

This was even more surprising after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit issued a standard warning that even permanent ministers should not make major personnel or other changes pending the upcoming election.

Palmor survived the switch from Tzipi Livni to Ayelet Shaked four years ago, the last time the baton was passed.

Finally, the director-general of the justice ministry is thought of as an even more professional career position (Palmor came from the bureaucracy of the ministry, not as a political appointee), and Palmor herself went out of her way to give an embracing welcome to Ohana at his inaugural ministry ceremony.

Many still expect Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to become justice minister on a permanent basis after the September 17 election, as he was offered the job before Ohana and only turned it down as he did not want a temporary appointment.

Ohana has already caused several shake-ups during his short time in office, having to qualify attacks on the Supreme Court and on his own staff.

Shaked praised Palmor for her service to the state.

A spokesman for the Blue and White Party, as well as Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, condemned the firing as an example of Ohana and the Likud running roughshod over the legal establishment and disregarding all precedents and norms.
The NGO Movement for Quality Government in Israel threatened to file a petition to the High Court of Justice if Palmor is not reinstated.

On the flip side, Otzma Yehudit candidate and activist Itamar Ben-Gvir praised Ohana for sending a message to the legal establishment that the new government would exercise its authorities and not be dictated to.

Some observers indicated that Ohana might be firing Palmor since this is one of the few significant actions he can take given his limited status as an acting minister.

It was reported later on Tuesday that Yair Netanyahu had sent out a tweet calling for Palmor’s firing, labeling her as a leftist.

Multiple facts cited by Netanyahu in the tweet, including who Palmor previously worked for and who appointed her, appear to be incorrect.

With some accusing Netanyahu of interfering with ministry business, the Likud responded that “almost every new minister replaces the director – the opposite is the exception, not the rule. It is an integral part of proper governance and democracy. A left-wing justice minister would have switched directors in two hours to insure his/her policies were executed. Justice Minister Ohana decided to replace the ministry’s director a few weeks ago, and any claims trying to connect his decision with posts from two days ago is nothing more than fake news.”

Palmor headed the state commission to combat racism, and dealt with the Ethiopian issue, the complex issues of Bedouin polygamy, defending Israel before UN committees, and diversifying the ministry’s employees.

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