Livni tries to solve coalition's attorney-general muddle

Livni tries to solve coa

November 1, 2009 22:56
2 minute read.

With the coalition split on determining the role of the next attorney-general, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) announced Sunday that she would present a compromise plan to change the powerful office. Livni formulated a bill - which would be her first major bill since becoming opposition leader - that would partially divide the authority vested in the attorney-general's office. Instead of one position being responsible both for legally advising the government as well as for opening cases against government officials, the new position would re-assign the authority to prosecute government officials to a special prosecutor. Other than that one change, under Livni's plan, the attorney-general would maintain all of its other authorities and responsibilities. The special prosecutor - who would have investigative and prosecuting powers - would be tasked with probing allegations of corruption and abuse of power by elected officials. Many of the coalition parties - as well as Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who is not party-affiliated - have expressed concern at the current situation, in which the same person is tasked with providing legal advice to the government and with prosecuting members who violate the law. This paradox, they argue, makes it difficult for government officials to seek legal counsel. According to Livni's bill, the general prosecutor - who would hold most of the authority currently held by the attorney-general - would be selected by a public committee, a system that she hopes will allow for less political intervention than the current selection process. Sources close to the opposition leader said that she is likely to meet with Neeman in coming days to discuss her proposal. Any such bill, however, would need the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation before it has a chance of gaining coalition support, and that is exactly where it could stumble. Although Israel Beiteinu and a number of Likud ministers have advocated the split in the attorney-general's authority, Labor ministers have dug in their heels in recent weeks as the coalition has begun to discuss appointing a successor to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. Labor's coalition agreement with Likud contains clauses that can be interpreted as maintaining the status quo regarding the powerful position, but fellow coalition partner Israel Beiteinu is equally adamant about splitting it. Labor Chairman Ehud Barak has yet to take a strong stand on the issue, but Kadima's proposal would provide an outlet that could allow a partial reform to clear the Knesset floor, even if Labor opposed it. Even if Labor voted as a bloc against a proposal, the amount of votes gained by Kadima's support would far outweigh those lost by Labor's opposition.

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