Nissenkorn: I didn’t surrender to takeover attempts by a bribery defendant

At a ceremony marking the end of his tenure as justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn took parting shots at just about everyone for undermining the role of law, though focusing especially on Netanyahu.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, September 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SAMYA)
Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, September 2020
(photo credit: YONATAN SAMYA)
At a ceremony marking the end of his tenure as justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn took parting shots at just about everyone for undermining the role of law. He especially focused on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“No one wants to live in a state where the justice minister surrenders and wilts in the face of attempts by an indicted defendant accused of bribery, fraud and breach of public trust to take over the rule of law,” Nissenkorn said in an apparent reference to Netanyahu. “Unfortunately, this is not obvious in Israel today.”
Netanyahu has tried to blame Nissenkorn as the reason that Blue and White and Likud could not reach a compromise to avoid the current election season.
In contrast, Nissenkorn, who lost his portfolio when he chose to join Ron Huldai’s new The Israelis Party, and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz have accused Netanyahu of trying to destroy the rule of law and democracy.
In his final speech as justice minister, Nissenkorn also slammed Gantz without mentioning his name, saying he had been ready to fight “even within my own house” to prevent the “Justice Ministry from being emptied of substance.”
Nissenkorn maintains one reason he abandoned Gantz for Huldai was that the Blue and White leader was ready to strike a compromise with Netanyahu that would have allowed the Likud to ensure favorable picks for filling the currently empty state attorney post and other key posts in the future.
In response, Gantz said he would never agree to compromise key issues concerning the rule of law. But he has maintained that Nissenkorn sometimes stood on ceremony over less critical issues since his only interest was his own political prestige.
Nissenkorn also took aim at New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa’ar, saying his supposedly more moderate program for reforming the legal establishment was just as dangerous as Netanyahu’s more overt attacks against it.
On Sunday, Sa’ar rolled out a new plan for making changes to the legal establishment that appears to be middle-of-the-road between more radical changes suggested by the Likud and Yamina versus maintaining the status quo.
It was his job as justice minister to “guard the gatekeepers and block the disgraceful politicization” of the legal establishment, Nissenkorn said, adding that “sanity has come to look radical.”
At the same ceremony, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit gave a full-throated endorsement of Nissenkorn, who was a welcome change for the legal establishment from prior acting justice minister Amir Ohana.
Mandelblit credited Nissenkorn with “guarding Israeli democracy, the rule of law, strengthening the public’s faith in the legal establishment” and with being true to his word “to serve as a defensive wall for the legal establishment” against attacks from the political class.
“We need this as we are under constant attack,” he said. “Defending the independence of the prosecution” and defending “the attorney-general, who must stay professional and apolitical while trying to implement government policy,” is critical.
Mandelblit complimented Nissenkorn for reforms to the Police Investigations Department, for keeping the ministry running during the tense coronavirus period, for trying to advance the legalization of cannabis, LGBT rights issues, the establishment of local courts, the appointment of judges and for addressing issues in the Arab sector.
Both Nissenkorn and Mandelblit noted the Justice Ministry’s final approval of regulations, after eight years of debate, which have radically changed how civil lawsuits will be conducted throughout the country.
The Israel Bar Association tried to oppose the changes at the last minute because those that will shorten legal briefs and legal proceedings for citizens could also reduce legal fees. Nissenkorn pushed through the changes anyway, and the High Court of Justice endorsed his power to do so last week.
Finally, Mandelblit welcomed Gantz as current acting justice minister, though there are rumors that Gantz has offered the portfolio to other members of Blue and White for the next three to five months until a new government is formed.