Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The High Court of Justice essentially ruled on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must stay out of the process of appointing the next police chief in order to avoid a conflict of interest in light of the corruption probes pending against him.
The actual decision froze the appointments committee process for selecting the next police commissioner because two members of the committee may be viewed as being close to Netanyahu.
During oral arguments over the petition filed to freeze the appointments committee process, Justice Menachem Mazuz said it would be problematic for Netanyahu to be involved in appointing the next police chief.
The decision confirms the position Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit expressed in May in a letter to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. But unlike Mandelblit’s guidance, Thursday’s ruling is legally binding.
In his May letter, Mandelblit made two points.
On one hand, he said that to date he had rejected requests to block Netanyahu and other ministers under investigation from involvement in the appointment process, he noted those requests were premature when no process had started.
On the other hand, he said that once Erdan began the process in the future, he should first consult with Mandelblit so that the attorney- general could, “evaluate the conflict of interest issues connected to members of the government who are currently under police investigation, and to give directives accordingly.”
Current police chief Roni Alsheich is not expected to have his three-year term extended after a recent rocky relationship with Netanyahu and Erdan.
Ordinarily, Erdan would recommend a replacement candidate to the cabinet, which would typically approve the recommendation.
However, with such senior level appointments, especially with the cabinet voting, the prime minister is usually influential in determining who the public security minister recommends.
Mandelblit hinted to Erdan that since Netanyahu is under investigation in Case 1000 – the Illegal Gifts Affair, Case 2000 – the Yediot Ahoronot-Yisrael Hayom
Affair, and Case 4000 – the Bezeq-Walla Affair, his involvement in selecting the top police official who could impact those cases would be a conflict of interest.
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