THE KNESSET building..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
It is not every day that two Knesset committee chairman go to war.
But that is what happened on Wednesday as Knesset State Control Committee chairman Karin Elharar and Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Nissan Slomiansky fought over who would have forensic expert Dr. Maya Forman-Resnick speak to their committee.
Elharar (Yesh Atid) was holding a hearing over how to resolve the long and ongoing dispute between the union of state prosecutors and the Justice Ministry’s oversight “czar” about the scope of oversight she can perform over them.
Oversight czar Hila Gristol wanted to offer Forman-Resnick as a witness to discuss problems with the prosecution’s conduct of the Roman Zadorov case, the cause célèbre case over who murdered Katzrin eighth-grader Tair Rada in 2006.
While Zadorov was eventually convicted and his conviction upheld by the Supreme Court in December, a dispute between government experts about forensic evidence spilled out into the open in an unusually public way, with allegations surfacing that head of the state prosecution, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, blocked Forman-Resnick, a government expert opposing the state’s forensic conclusions, from promotion to a higher government job.
That dispute led to a lawsuit by Forman-Resnick against the state prosecution. Gristol criticized Nitzan’s role in the case as well as the conduct of the state prosecutors, who she said cherry- picked portions of the government experts’ reports that helped their case, while trying to suppress other parts.
Nitzan has denied any improper conduct and has slammed Gristol for going beyond her mandate, just as the union of state prosecutors has demanded that her office be dismantled until it is reconfigured by new Knesset legislation.
But none of that came to light at Wednesday’s hearing.
Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) demanded that Forman-Resnick not speak publicly to the State Control Committee, claiming she was scheduled to speak in far more detail on her specific case to his Law Committee and threatening to walk out.
Ultimately, Forman-Resnick refrained from speaking, though there is no formal Knesset rule that could have prevented her from speaking to both committees.
Elharar blasted Slomiansky stating, “I was embarrassed by the harsh behavior of MK Slomiansky that led to the silencing of Dr. Maya Forman-Resnick, when he threatened to leave if she spoke. This is not the proper behavior when we are debating oversight, transparency and justice. I expect future hearings will have much less ego and much more content.”
Slomiansky hit back hard within minutes saying that he had scheduled a hearing with Forman-Resnick for Wednesday two months earlier, was shocked that Elharar later scheduled her hearing on the Justice Ministry oversight issues that overlap with Forman-Resnick’s issues on the same day, and that he and Elharar eventually agreed to a joint session that would not include Forman-Resnick.
He accused Elharar of “trying to hijack” the Forman-Resnick issues without treating them substantively and “without coordinating with me,” in order to “score headlines on the issue.”
Elharar struck back, denying that there had been any such agreement to leave Forman-Resnick off the agenda and accusing Slomiansky of “completely ignoring” that she had summoned her to talk to the committee until the last second.
The hearing was supposed to be to discuss different views about implementing the recommendations submitted by former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg in early October for resolving the prosecution oversight dispute.
The state prosecutors’ union has said it will continue to boycott all of Gristol’s reports until the Knesset passes a law to anchor and define her powers and until there is a separation of powers of oversight of the prosecution as an institution, and criticism over individual prosecutors’ conduct.
Gristol on Wednesday accused the prosecutors of rejecting any compromise or oversight, arguing that originally they opposed her office being created by a Knesset law, but now that her office was created by order of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein without a formal law, they switched around their objection.
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) supported much of Gristol’s critique and even said that Goldberg’s recommendations should not be viewed as sacred if the prosecutors tried to use them to delay effective oversight.
Head of the state prosecutors union Limor Peled warned that Gristol was “causing a chilling effect with a threat to prosecutors causing hesitation with legal decisions that could lead to releasing criminals to the streets.”