Attorney-general selection to move to cabinet

Attorney-general selecti

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to tell the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that the government ministers will select the next attorney-general in the coming weeks, after the five-man search committee set up for that purpose failed to come to an agreement on nominees. The cabinet will likely pick one of four candidates, each of whom was recommended by three members of the search committee: attorney Yehuda Weinstein, Bar-Ilan University law professor Yedidya Stern, Tel Aviv University law professor Daphna Barak-Erez and attorney Zvi Agmon. Netanyahu is expected to explain on Sunday why another search committee will not be established, the decision-making process behind the move, and when the vote by the cabinet will take place. In the days before the search committee handed in its resignation, much was made of the alleged conflict of interests on the part of committee chairman Theodore Or regarding one of the candidates, Courts Administration head Moshe Gal, because of Gal's connection with Or's wife, Michaela Shidlovsky-Or. In the wake of media reports, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel wrote to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Thursday, asking him to disqualify Or. Mazuz replied that he did not have enough information to determine whether Or should have revealed the information that his wife, a retired Jerusalem District Court judge, was currently employed by Gal, or that the district court had been sued by a lawyer because, while serving on the court, Shidlovsky-Or had taken 10 years to rule on his lawsuit. "At any rate," continued Mazuz, "we do not believe that regarding the information we have, these two incidents are enough to constitute a conflict of interests or to prevent Or from continuing to head the committee." But while much has been made of Or, little attention has been paid to who was responsible for the failure of the committee to come up with three nominees from among the 11 candidates originally proposed. The system established by the government to find a new attorney-general is based on compromise, in much the same way as the system for appointing Supreme Court justices. The Judicial Elections Committee is comprised of nine members. Any three can veto an appointment. When the committee met recently to fill three vacancies on the Supreme Court, the committee appeared to be hopelessly deadlocked. A bloc of at least three right-wing politicians and a member of the Israel Bar Association, all of whom were opposed to judicial activism, were pitted against a bloc of five members far more warmly disposed to the High Court. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman played the role of honest broker. Clearly neither bloc could obtain all their demands, because the other side had the power of veto. The only way three justices could be chosen was if the sides were willing to compromise - and that is what they did. The same concept holds true for the attorney-general search committee, which consists of five members. A bloc of two can prevent a recommendation. Here, too, the committee split into a bloc of three, including Or, attorney Eyal Rozovsky and Prof. Eyal Benvenisti, and a bloc of two, former justice minister Moshe Nissim and Likud MK Yariv Levin. The two blocs came up with separate lists of nominees. Nissim and Levin recommended Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg and private lawyer Yehuda Weinstein. Or, Rozovsky and Benvenisti wanted attorney Zvi Agmon, Prof. Daphna Barak Erez and Prof. Yedidya Stern. In this case, Nissim and Levin refused to play the compromise game. They insisted that their two candidates be included in the list of three to be submitted to the government. Or and his colleagues, on the other hand, agreed in the end to compromise. They submitted a list of four nominees, including Weinstein, and told Nissim and Levin to pick three of them. By doing so, they agreed to Weinstein's nomination even though they suspected that Neeman would choose him over their favorite candidates. But the compromise was not enough for Nissim and Levin. Even though they were the minority in the committee, they insisted that both their candidates be nominated among the three. It was their refusal to budge that doomed the committee to failure.