Is new comptroller panel about diversity or protecting PM? - analysis

Critics of the committee have slammed the appointments as motivated entirely to help Netanyahu get permission to use donations from tycoon allies to pay his legal defense.

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August 14, 2019 03:16
2 minute read.
Is new comptroller panel about diversity or protecting PM? - analysis

Matanyahu Englman. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Were the new members of the State Comptroller Committee, which polices public officials regarding monetary transactions selected to promote diversity or to protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

New State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman released a statement on Monday highlighting the diverse backgrounds of the new members, including: an Ethiopian, a haredi and two retired female judges.

Critics of the committee have slammed the appointments as motivated entirely to help Netanyahu get permission to use donations from tycoon allies to pay his legal defense against public corruption charges.

Which story is true?
Maybe both.

As evidenced by the recent wave of Ethiopian protests following an off-duty police officer gunning down an Ethiopian under questionable circumstances, there is still discrimination against Ethiopians in Israel.

Haredim are not thought of as discriminated against in the same way – for one because there are two powerful haredi political parties in the Knesset which fight doggedly for their sectors’ interests – but they do have lesser representation in positions of power beyond those parties.

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked made a big deal about having appointed the first Ethiopian and the first haredi judges during her recent term.

One thing her appointments highlighted, as positive as they were, was how little progress has been made for these two groups in the halls of power.

So praising Englman for increasing the place of diversity in Israeli democracy on that issue would seem to make sense.

But sometimes two opposing trends can be occurring at the same time.

Englman might be advancing the democracy of adversity, while undermining democracy in the area of the rule of law.

There are certainly two sides to the debate about whether Netanyahu should get to accept tycoon donations to finance his legal defense.

But the former committee already ruled against his request multiple times and nothing has really changed in his circumstances since their prior ruling.

If the new committee permits Netanyahu to use these tycoon donations, the only thing that will have changed will have been the committee members.

Regarding the committee members, Channel 12 gave what appeared to be very problematic reveals about the backgrounds of four new committee members.

Each of the four was publicly on record as supporting Netanyahu despite the public corruption charges against him, being considered for high-level Likud positions or having strong financial connections to the Likud.

Add this together with the fact that three resigning/fired members of the committee had strongly opposed Netanyahu using the tycoon donations for his defense, and the moves look highly suspicious.

A source close to the comptroller told The Jerusalem Post that the members were independent and that he had no power to remove them.

But if the new members were carefully selected to only include Likud/Netanyahu supporters, the deck could be stacked without the comptroller’s formal intervention.

Also, these committee members saw that their predecessors’ terms were not extended when they did not please the new comptroller.

None of this dictates how the committee should rule, but the rule of law presumes that a set of rules and precedents will be applied without stacking the deck and in this case, potentially stacking the deck to prop up a prime minister who will likely be indicted by December.

So which story is true?
Maybe both.
But until the new committee is tested with the next Netanyahu request, we will not know for sure.


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