Opp. and coalition MKs may block bill to alter lawyers' gatekeeper roles

'Bill is attack on rule of law.'

The Knesset votes on the nation-state bill, July 19, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Knesset votes on the nation-state bill, July 19, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The fate of the Legal Advisers Bill in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday appeared uncertain as a combination of some coalition MKs and opposition MKs opposed the bill which has been presented as a game-changer for government lawyers' role as gatekeepers.
The question is whether ministerial control over government lawyer appointments will bring legal advice more in line with ministers’ goals or whether it will eliminate legal advisers’ gatekeeper capacity to stop illegal populist actions.
Supporters say that current legal advisers are too detached from the will of the average citizen and representatives in the government.
Opponents say the bill would politicize legal advisers and remove some of the last checks and balances to preserve the rule of law, especially in a parliamentary system that has few such restrictions on the ruling coalition.
Currently, legal advisers are selected by a professional lawyer-dominated committee following the announcement of their position to the general public. The bill would still have a committee recommend candidates, but would leave the final decision to the relevant minister.
Regarding double-sided opposition to the bill on Monday – on one side there was coalition Kulanu MK Roy Folkman and a range of opposition MKs – those who opposed the bill did so saying it politicizes the government’s legal adviser apparatus and weakens the rule of law.
Zionist Union MK Revital Suade said that, “the government has a problem with the rule of law. It wants to knock down fences around the law which block them from going beyond it. [Deputy Attorney-General Dina] Zilber is not even here because she has been silenced...This is an attack on the rule of law.”
Yesh Atid MK Yael German stated that surveys have clearly shown that ministers are happy with their current legal advisers, which makes any bill that encourages changing the way legal advisers are selected unnecessary.
It was unclear whether Folkman was to vote against the bill even if it was slightly watered down, or if he was objecting merely to win some symbolic changes to the bill. However, opposition MKs appeared ready to oppose any version of the bill on principle.
Claiming that the law does not sufficiently roll back the power of legal advisers’, stood Likud MK Amir Ohana.
He said that the current bill requires the attorney-general’s approval to appoint legal adviser after a committee proposes a final candidate.
Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky appeared intent on maintaining the bill as close to the current text as possible.
Shas MK Michael Malchieli said the bill was needed since ministers currently operate in fear of their legal advisers’ power.
Several NGOs slammed the bill as setting a trap for political officials to become more corrupt even if most public officials start off with good intentions.
One NGO who advocated on behalf of the bill, called criticism of the bill “populist,” and said that the courts could serve as the gatekeepers of the rule of law instead of government legal advisers.