Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem has put himself forward as the Knesset's representative on the five-person committee that will recommend candidates for the office of attorney-general despite his close ties with his party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, he said Monday.
On Sunday, the police recommended indicting Lieberman on suspicion that he accepted bribes, fraudulently received goods, violated his public office, obstructed justice, harassed witnesses and laundered millions of shekels.
The final decision on whether to indict Lieberman rests in the hands of the attorney-general, but the current office-holder, Menahem Mazuz, is scheduled to end his term in February 2010 and may no longer be in office when the final decision is made. Not only will it take the state prosecution time to study the evidence gathered by the police, but even if Mazuz thinks it strong enough to indict Lieberman, he will have to grant him a hearing, which will take several months, before he can make a final decision.
Thus, the identity of Mazuz's successor could be crucial to Lieberman's future.
"I submitted my candidacy before the police announced its recommendation because I believe the appointment must not turn into a matter of coalition and opposition," said Rotem. "I think the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, by virtue of his position, should be a member of the search committee."
Rotem denied his appointment would be perceived by the public as placing him in a conflict of interests because he would allegedly try to ensure the next attorney-general would be lenient with Lieberman.
"The public sent representatives to the Knesset because it believed in them," he said. "To come and say that I am disqualified because I'm in Lieberman's faction is to say, by the same token, that there are one million and one positions that people will be barred from holding because they are linked in one way or another to someone who was under investigation somewhere along the way."
There is nothing in the law preventing Rotem from asking the Knesset Law Committee to vote for him to join the committee. But according to Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Yitzhak Zamir, Rotem's appointment would nevertheless be problematic.
"We can't do anything but rely on the members of the Knesset Law Committee to make a professional and worthy choice," he said. "If not, a question will arise and we will have to deal with it when the time comes."
According to the law, the search committee will include five members: a retired Supreme Court justice chosen by the president of the Supreme Court, a former minister of justice or attorney-general chosen by the government, a representative of the Knesset elected by the Knesset Law Committee, a member of the Bar Association elected by the Bar's National Council and an academic chosen by a forum including the deans of the law faculties at universities and colleges.
The committee is authorized to recommend to the government up to three candidates, but the government is not obliged to choose any of them.
According to sources at the bureau of Justice Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman, the committee has not yet been selected, but is supposed to begin the search process shortly.
Rotem said 10 MKs were vying for the MK's seat on the committee.