Ministers slam Mazuz on Gaza power cuts

Justice minister says attorney-general has become government's commander, instead of its adviser.

friedmann 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
friedmann 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
It's just as well Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz did not attend Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. A number of ministers launched an unprecedented attack on his decision to block stepped-up sanctions by Israel against the Gaza Strip pending a further review of the legal ramifications of such a move. The most bitter barrage came from Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who accused Mazuz of paralyzing the government. Friedmann said the question went deeper than the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. "The job of the attorney-general is to advise whether a particular policy is good or not good," he said. "But he [Mazuz] is acting like a commander." Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who gave the green light for cutting utilities after the security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity," also implied that the traditional governmental checks and balances were in danger. "The government must act as a sovereign body - as the executive branch that orders the defense establishment how to act," he said. "The attorney-general should advise, and if someone wants to petition the High Court [of Justice], then they should go ahead and file a petition." Barak implied that once a "technical solution" was found to the attorney-general's ruling, Israel would find a way to cut the electricity supply to Gaza. Deputy Premier Haim Ramon, said there had been no letup in the Kassam rocket attacks, and all the government wanted was economic sanctions against a terrorist entity. This, he said, was the absolute minimum, not the maximum. Instead, Ramon said, Israel continued to provide electricity, water and fuel to the Gaza Strip "so they can fire at us." National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also expressed frustration over what appeared to be Israeli impotence due to Mazuz's ruling. He said it was "a ridiculous situation, unparalleled anywhere in the world," in which a country supplies electricity to an entity that, in turn, fires rockets back at that country. Ben-Eliezer said the current situation was absurd. When Israel sent workers to repair an electricity cable damaged after a Palestinian attack close to the Gaza border, he said, one of the repair men was shot by gunmen from Gaza, but Israel continued to supply electricity to Gaza. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Mazuz's defense. He told the ministers that last June the attorney-general warned that - from a legal perspective - Israeli measures against Gaza, above and beyond purely military action, would be limited. "It is clear the government acts according to the law," Olmert said, "and we must respect the attorney-general's rulings."