A-G rips apart coalition deal on keeping Ohana’s state attorney

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit's statement was in a letter to Daniel Hershkovitz who had asked his legal view about whether Eldad could remain in office for six months.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad must be forced out on May 1 even though this would violate the coalition deal signed between Likud and Blue and White.
In response, Eldad implied that Mandelblit wanted to get rid of him because he was probing the attorney-general. He did not elaborate on the probe other than to say it was based on information from an unnamed journalist.
The bizarre spectacle left the Justice Ministry Spokesman’s Office sending out contradictory statements from the two top officials attacking each other. Spokesman Noam Sharbit said his staff represents the office and not a specific individual and would send out all statements to the media.
Eldad’s temporary appointment was due to expire on May 1. Mandelblit implied he could cover Eldad’s duties until the new government nominated a replacement, even if that took six months.
Mandelblit’s announcement came in a letter to Public Civil Commission representative Daniel Hershkovitz, who had asked his legal view about whether Eldad could remain in office for six months as stipulated by the coalition deal, which freezes all temporary appointments.
Mandelblit accused Eldad of hiding information from him and of failing to gain the respect of the state prosecutors nominally under him.
In response, Eldad said Mandelblit had improperly undermined him from day one.
Mandelblit was not consulted on the coalition deal. It is unclear whether Blue and White gave this specific position any thought or whether it was simply wrapped into the general idea of freezing all nonpolitical top roles for six months due to the coronavirus crisis.
Keeping Eldad on had been unexpected since he fast-tracked a decision to criminally investigate Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s former business partners less than 10 days before the March 2 election, which some say may have shifted some crucial votes to the Likud down the stretch.
The truth is that many of the temporary appointments, including acting Police Insp.-Gen. Moti Cohen, have been serving for close to 18 months and are not viewed as political appointments anymore.
In contrast, Eldad was pushed through by outgoing justice minister Amir Ohana on February 5 after months of fighting with Mandelblit.
Mandelblit referenced the six weeks in which the state prosecution operated directly under him without a state attorney as proof that Eldad was not needed over the next six months.
When Mandelblit formally withdrew his opposition to Eldad, it was not as much because he had come around to accepting Eldad as much as exhaustion from the battle. Around the time Mandelblit gave up his nearly two-month battle with Ohana over who would be acting state attorney – essentially Mandelblit’s No. 2 until a new government was formed – the attorney-general had at least six other public disputes with the ruling coalition.
Around a month before the March 2 election, Mandelblit was under attack for supporting Israeli-Arabs to run despite anti-IDF statements, for delaying annexations in the West Bank, for vetoing Ohana’s new commission probing the police, for indicting ex-coalition chairman David Bitan, for trying (and failing) to indict Likud MK Haim Katz and for filing an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 28 – the same day the premier dropped his immunity bid.
Having blocked a less-qualified candidate whom the whole legal community had opposed, Mandelblit’s firewall was also breaking down regarding Eldad, who had support from former deputy chief justice Elyakim Rubinstein (Eldad had worked for him) and even the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, which usually sides with the attorney-general against the Likud.
Mandelblit did not object to Eldad’s qualifications: He was in the top tier of prosecutors even if he might have not made the top five. It was the idea that Eldad would be beholden to Ohana. But the attorney-general decided he would stop battling in the hope that he would be rid of Eldad by May under a new government.
It was surprising that Eldad was given another six months, since normally he would only have been extended for another three months.
Mandelblit had initially objected to Eldad’s appointment, not only to avoid him being beholden to Ohana and Netanyahu, but also because Ohana was a transitional justice minister, and the attorney-general normally dominates the selection of his No. 2.
Mandelblit opposed Ohana getting more power and pushing him aside because of the technicality that in the absence of a permanent government, there can be no selection committee run by the attorney-general.