Gafni tones down bill on legal advisers

Israel Bar Association chairman Yori Geiron decries any effort to restrict adviser's independence.

Gafni 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Gafni 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism Party) will change the wording of his bill regulating the term of office of ministerial legal advisers so that ministers will not be able to fire their advisers, he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The bill, in its original form, was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last week, but was brought up for reconsideration in the cabinet on Sunday due to a storm of opposition by other ministers. The cabinet voted to withdraw its support from Gafni's bill and authorized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to persuade him to eliminate the article authorizing ministers to fire their legal advisers. Gafni agreed to make the change. He told the Post he hoped to present the bill in its new form to the Knesset on Wednesday for preliminary reading and believed that he would obtain a majority. One of the most outspoken opponents of Gafni's original draft, not just the part authorizing ministers to fire their legal advisers, was Israel Bar Association chairman Yori Geiron. Geiron said that "all the parts of the bill that harm the independence of the legal adviser are dangerous and open the way to the total dependence of the legal adviser on the elected representatives." Gafni's bill states that every government ministry will have a legal adviser who will be appointed in accordance with the Civil Service Law. The legal adviser will serve a term of six years, which can be extended for another six by the minister. The term of anyone currently serving as a legal advisor will end within a year of the law's publication but the minister may appoint him for a full term of six years at that time. The controversial provision stated that the minister, after consulting with the Civil Service commissioner, and with the government's approval, could dismiss his legal adviser under certain conditions. The first condition was "if there are substantial and prolonged disagreements between the minister and the legal adviser which prevent efficient cooperation between them." Geiron said he was not opposed to limiting the legal adviser's term of office. However, he opposed the provision allowing the minister to extend the legal adviser's term for another six years and the provision allowing him to fire the legal adviser. He said he was also opposed to the provision whereby all legal advisers will lose their jobs within a year of the law's publication. "This is a childish and not serious transitional provision," said Geiron. "It makes no sense that all the ministries will lose their legal advisers in a single day. This could cause unimaginable harm to the state." On the other hand, Geiron said it was understandable that that there was a need to regulate relations between the ministers and their legal advisers and to address the concerns of the ministers that they could be blocked from carrying out their programs.