New deputy attorney-general to increase country’s emphasis on int'l law

Roy Schondorf was appointed Sunday to position of Deputy Attorney-General for International Affairs.

By
October 30, 2013 05:30
4 minute read.
ROY SCHONDORF.

ROY SCHONDORF 370. (photo credit: Tel Aviv University)

 
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Roy Schondorf, who served as director of the Justice Ministry’s department for defending against international litigation since its founding in 2010, was appointed Sunday to the position of Deputy Attorney-General for International Affairs.

In his previous position, Roy Schondorf was in the center of legal battles on major international controversies, such as the Goldstone Report and the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid, as well as “lawfare” against Israeli soldiers and officials in foreign courts.

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Schondorf will still be responsible for overseeing his old department, but as the top international lawyer in the ministry, his portfolio will extend to advising the government on all international law issues, including major domestic controversies such as policy regarding African migrants.

Though he was not involved in Tuesday’s report to the UN Human Rights Council, Schondorf’s new responsibilities will include leading any similar delegations reporting to that body in the future.

Responding to the appointment, Schondorf told the Jerusalem Post, "It's an exciting moment for me. I recognize the weight of responsibility that accompanies this position, and I intend to do my utmost to justify the trust that has been placed in me by Attorney General Weinstein, Justice Minister Livni and the Government of Israel."

He continued, "Israel has always been at the forefront of developments in the field of international law, and I will endeavor to ensure during my tenure that Israel continues to contribute to the rule of law in the international arena and to be a leader in the field."

Lawyers at the Justice Ministry who have worked closely with Schondorf told the Post that he “gets the respect of decision-makers both domestically and internationally.”



They noted that he advances Israel's cause on the international playing field in some unprecedented ways, with invitations to speak at events and engage with leading international law experts, such as an ICRC conference, the American Society of International Law and the Nuremberg Academy in Germany.

Next, they said that in contrast to voices in some sectors in Israel or Jewish groups that the state should "do away with international law or make it change," colleagues noted Schondorf's understanding that "international law has sufficient nuances to handle complex problems" despite some highly abusive attempts to use it to delegitimize Israel.

It was also pointed out that Schondorf insists that Israel has much to contribute to the always evolving body of international law.

At a conference earlier this year at Kiryat Ono College, Schondorf presented portions of the findings of the Turkel Commission Reports on the May 2010 flotilla and on the validity of Israel's self-investigative apparatus regarding allegations of misconduct by its armed forces, to a group of international experts, highlighting the reports as a major new Israeli contribution to international scholarship and to all states in their self-evaluation processes.

While Schondorf himself tries to downplay his influence, preferring to share credit with "the team" of lawyers within the government, many would say that behind the scenes he has helped solidify the state's commitment to engaging the world on international law issues in the face of those who are less pro-engagement, honing its arguments to reach the best possible results within the constraints of the diplomatic game.

On a personal level, the lawyers who worked with Schondorf called him “one of the smartest people ever, with tremendous depth of knowledge, an ability to see 10 steps ahead” and the ability to “defuse battles” both on the international stage and on the run-of-the-mill interpersonal office issues that every office has.

One official said that because of Schondorf’s attention to detail, she was always extra careful with even checking emails before she sent them to him.

Another lawyer talked about how personable he was, and how interested he was in those working for him.

She said that when a family member visited, he would spend a long time listening with “rapt attention” to some of her personal stories. She commented that she was not sure this interaction deserved to take up time in his busy schedule, but that he “has no façade” and told her later that he was genuinely fascinated by the stories.

Another lawyer noted that Schondorf liked to refer to his old department as “the sayeret” (an elite IDF unit) of the Justice Ministry, and that during his tenure it was the second most popular division to apply for, even beating out the highly sought after “bagatzim“ division, which handles Supreme Court arguments.

A former senior US official said of the appointment that “Roy is well-known in the United States and international law circles as an outstanding public international lawyer. He will be able to represent Israel very well in international legal matters.”

Apart from his Justice Ministry position, Schondorf was a major in the IDF international law department, has a doctorate from NYU Law School, worked for top firm Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP and has written articles which are cited by many academics. One article which he wrote came up as a question on an Oxford University law school exam.

Schondorf was selected from a body of sixteen top-notch candidates and could potentially fill the position for around eight years, giving him tremendous influence over the future of the state’s international law policies.

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