Mandelblit to Ohana: You have 3 weeks to appoint police chief

A-G letter puts teeth into High Court order.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Airport City, September 3, 2020  (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Airport City, September 3, 2020
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit sent a letter on Monday night to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana directing him to appoint a permanent police chief no later than the end of December.
Mandelblit’s letter comes only days after the High Court of Justice ordered the government last Thursday to act promptly to fill the top law enforcement job, but the court had not given any deadline.
Despite Mandelblit’s letter and the High Court ruling, it is unclear whether the order will be carried out, because the country appears to be on its way to a new round of elections, which could render the government merely a transitional caretaker.
Even if Ohana wanted to nominate a candidate, he would need the approval of the Blue and White Party to secure approval.
According to the coalition agreement, both Likud and Blue and White have veto power over senior appointments.
One option is for Ohana to put forward a name that he knows Blue and White will reject and then returns to Mandelblit saying that he did his duty, and the rest is an unresolvable political issue.
Alternatively, it is not clear what powers the High Court or Mandelblit have to enforce the order, other than putting Ohana in contempt.
It is also possible that the minister will finally put forth a name and Blue and White approves.
Mandelblit noted to Ohana that he himself had said that he had already narrowed down the race and interviewed the top candidates.
Accordingly, Mandelblit said Ohana had no real basis to delay the nomination.
The High Court ruling itself came only a week after Mandelblit had advised it to issue such an order to the government, with no legal official resisting on behalf of the government.
The court order came regarding one of a series of petitions trying to get the government to move on stalled appointments stemming from the political deadlock between the Likud and Blue and White.
Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen replaced Roni Alsheich in December 2018, but was never elevated to permanent status.
Moreover, Ohana has made it clear that he would not grant Cohen permanent status and instead wants to replace him.
Originally, Cohen could not be replaced because for the 18 months that the three rounds of elections took to do, there was no permanent government authorized to make permanent appointments.
But since the current government was established in May, the delay has come from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire to influence the appointment of the next state attorney.
Since Blue and White does not want Likud to veto its pick for that post, the Likud has frozen almost all major such appointments, including the police chief post.
Technically, Netanyahu has agreed that he will not personally be involved in the police chief and state attorney appointments.
However, his lieutenants in the Likud can still keep the positions frozen, based on the coalition agreement that requires consensus between Likud and Blue and White.
Mandelblit’s argument, accepted by the High Court, was that the requirement to have a permanent police chief overrides any political deadlock or coalition agreement which happens to be holding it up.
Justices Yitzhak Amit, Anat Baron and Ofer Grosskopf said that the government must quickly establish an advisory committee to vet and select a candidate.
The question is whether, if the country goes to elections, the High Court will still demand that the government act on the basis of the idea that its order came down before elections were called.