Labor rebels decry plan to split attorney-general's duties

Labor rebels decry plan

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
October 14, 2009 00:19
2 minute read.

 
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The battle over the proposal to split the powers vested in the attorney-general heated up a few degrees on Tuesday, when both the Movement for Quality Government and the Labor Party's rebel faction came out swinging against the initiative. The four Labor MKs - Yuli Tamir, Ophir Paz-Pines, Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yacimovich - the latter is not considered an official part of the fractious sub-faction - fired off a letter to their nine fellow Labor lawmakers. In the letter they complained that "it seems that the forces pushing for an assault against the status of the attorney-general are no less in the Netanyahu-Lieberman administration than they were during the period of Olmert and [former justice minister] Daniel Friedmann. "There is no doubt that current Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz does his work faithfully. Is the lesson from his tenure that we need a weakened, toothless attorney-general? Should we lower the head of the next attorney-general just because Mazuz succeeded beyond what the government and the politicians wanted?" the rebel MKs asked in the letter. The foursome warned that splitting the position of the attorney-general into a chief prosecutor and a government legal adviser would cause "dangerous politicization" of the role and "critical harm to the rule of law." "This is the watershed moment for the Israeli legal system, and the moment of truth for the rule of law. It is our obligation at such a fateful hour to stand together with the legal system," they wrote. They also reminded Labor chairman Ehud Barak that the party's coalition agreement included a clause in which the parties agreed to "work to fortify the rule of law and strengthen the authority of the court," and to "maintain the status and power of the court system in general and the Supreme Court in particular." Any change to the status of the attorney-general, they argued, would violate the coalition agreement. Shortly after the Labor MKs' letter - which was primarily addressed to Barak - was sent, the Movement for Quality Government released another missive to the Labor chairman emphasizing the same message. In that letter, the movement asserted that Barak and the Labor Party had been well aware of the expected attempts to change the status of the attorney-general, and that was why the clauses cited by the MKs in their letter were included in the coalition agreement. The movement asked Barak to meet with its representatives so that they could explain to him the significance of the proposed split and its impact on the legal system. Furthermore, they - as well as the Labor MKs - called on Barak to oppose the proposed split during cabinet discussions.

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