Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni sat side by side on Tuesday with Attorney-General
Yehuda Weinstein and State Attorney Moshe Lador in announcing the establishment
of a committee to oversee the state prosecution and other arms of the Justice
Ministry and police.
Livni made the announcement at a special session of
the Knesset State Control Committee. The initiative should find “the right
balance between strengthening the public’s confidence” in the prosecution,
“efficiency of the state’s apparatus” and preserving prosecutorial independence
from politics, she said.
The unprecedented breadth of the committee’s
role, going beyond the State Attorney’s Office to include the Attorney-General’s
Office and even parts of the police, including more direct power to discipline
public officials, makes the committee a powerhouse with no equal in government,
other than possibly the state comptroller.
After years of delay, the
announcement ended what was once a fierce all-out battle between Lador and
former justice minister Yaakov Neeman over the future direction of the
The show of unity surprised many, given Lador’s past ardent
Addressing the issue of how his past position has been
covered in the media, Lador said “the prosecution has never opposed and has
always supported creation of an oversight body.”
Later, Lador implied
that part of his agreement to support the initiative had been conditional on
guarantees to respect the prosecution’s independence and discretion, with the
new committee focusing more on administrative decisions and holding prosecutors
to the code of professionalism and impartiality.
Repeated questions from
Knesset members and other officials at the Control Committee session were unable
to pry free a concrete definition or examples from Livni, Weinstein or Lador of
what aspects of the prosecution’s role would be off-limits to the new
Mainly, Livni emphasized that: 1) as opposed to earlier
discussions of the initiative, the committee would not merely oversee the state
prosecution, but also arms of the Attorney-General’s Office as well as the
prosecutor’s office of the police; 2) that the committee would accept complaints
from members of the public as soon as it is established; and 3) that oversight
would kick in on specific cases after they were completed and not
Livni and Lador both said this was crucial to support
prosecutors’ independence and to avoid undermining their commitment to enforcing
the rule of law.
Weinstein said that he “had supported having an
oversight body over the Attorney-General’s Office and the State Prosecution from
day one” of his time in office more than three years ago.
responding to criticism of some Knesset members and others present, indicating
their desire to limit the prosecution’s independence and discretion even more,
he added that “we cannot impact the discretion and independence of the
prosecution in enforcing the law.”
During this retort, Weinstein uttered
the word “independence” three times in a matter of seconds.
Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen welcomed the new committee.
is great news,” the Shas MK said. “The public will finally have an address” for
its complaints about the conduct of prosecutors.
There were other issues
whose resolution remained fluid. For example, former justice minister Daniel
Friedmann had an exchange with those presenting the initiative about who would
head the new committee and how he would be chosen.
Friedmann said a
search committee should be created that would not include the attorney-general,
since the committee would be overseeing the attorney-general.
said the justice minister should make the appointment from a choice of at least
Livni and others appeared to take notes on Friedmann’s
suggestions, and the feedback from the suggestions appeared to indicate that
some issues were still undecided, although a statement from the Justice Ministry
indicated that Weinstein would head the search committee in spite of Friedmann’s
One area where Friedmann and Livni parted ways was the fact
that the committee is being established based only on Livni and the cabinet’s
authority, and that a Knesset law on the issue will wait, possibly
It was also unclear what the committee’s timeline would be,
but there were indications that it would start operating within a few months and
that its authority would extend to the police in six to 12 months.