There is no way out of the deadlock among the members of the search committee for a new attorney-general to succeed Menahem Mazuz, unless some of them change their mind or they agree to search for new candidates outside the current list, law professor Suzie Navot, from the Academic Studies Division at the College of Law, said on Thursday.
The regulations approved in 2000 by which the cabinet established the search committee stipulated that a minimum of four of the five members must back each nominee. The regulations also determine that the minister of justice may order the panel to recommend three nominees and Yaakov Neeman has, indeed, done so.
According to reports, two of the search committee members, former Justice Minister Moshe Nissim and current Likud MK Yariv Levin, are insisting that two of the nominees be Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg and private attorney Yehuda Weinstein.
Sohlberg is thought to be a favorite of Neeman's. He was nominated by three right-wing members of the Judicial Selection Committee as a candidate for the Supreme Court. He is also national religious and lives in the settlement of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion.
Weinstein is a private lawyer who has represented many of the leading public officials accused of corruption in recent years, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, president Ezer Weizman, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former interior minister Aryeh Deri.
The other three members of the search committee, Chairman Theodore Orr, Prof. Eyal Benvenisti and attorney Eyal Rozovsky, oppose both candidates.
The dispute appears to be unbridgeable because the bloc of three that opposes Sohlberg and Weinstein cannot compromise with Nissim and Levin in this case.
The reason is that even if Nissim and Levin agree to accept two nominees of the bloc of three and only one of their own, it is almost certain that Justice Minister Neeman, who effectively has the final say, will pick their candidate.
Nissim was a long-time Likud MK and minister and Levin is a Likud MK.
They agree with Neeman that the position of the attorney-general should be weakened. On the other hand, unless and until the cabinet decides otherwise, the attorney-general will continue to serve as chief prosecutor and therefore must be independent of the government.
So it looks like no compromise is possible under the current circumstances. But according to Navot, there is also no way that the majority of the committee members can change the condition that nominees must be supported by at least four committee members, since the provision is included in the text of the cabinet decision that created the panel.
Navot said one option is for the search committee to look for candidates who have not been considered so far. The question is whether at least four of the five committee members can reach agreement on any candidate, not only on those currently under consideration.
Meanwhile, time is running out. According to the cabinet decision, the committee is supposed to publish its list of nominees three weeks before presenting it to the cabinet so that the public may submit complaints or opinions about them. It is also supposed to submit its official list to the cabinet two months before the end of Mazuz's term, which expires on January 31.
According to these guidelines, it should have reached agreement on the three nominees and published their names by November 9. But it is nowhere near that stage and may, in the end, have to return its mandate to the government, which will then have to appoint a new committee.
What will happen in the meantime? According to the cabinet decision, if the government fails to choose a new attorney-general by the January 31 deadline, it can extend the tenure of the outgoing attorney-general by six months. But Mazuz has made it clear he will not stay one extra day in the post. If he sticks to his position, the government may appoint an acting attorney-general, but it can only do so for a maximum of three months.