During his first term as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to appoint a new attorney general based on political reasons (and other alien considerations that disappeared into a black hole) was thwarted. Two days later his candidate, Roni Bar-On, who later went on to great success in the Knesset and cabinet, was appointed but resigned/was fired (hitputar, which combines both actions). One byproduct of the affair was the institution of a search committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice and whose members were to include a former justice minister and representatives from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, law schools and the Israel Bar Association.
The committee is supposed to interview the candidates for attorney general, recommend three and submit the names to the cabinet, which is to choose one. The justice minister's recommendation of one of the three has great weight, even if it is not binding. Almost six years ago the, government of Ariel Sharon appointed Menachem Mazuz, one of the three recommended by the search committee, based on then-justice minister Yosef Lapid's recommendation.
At the time, Sharon's connections to developer David Appel, including the Greek island and the Ginaton lands affairs, were under investigation. Mazuz was harshly, and justifiably, criticized for rushing to close the Sharon-Appel case, even if he did so in good faith. Mazuz also closed the case against Reuven Rivlin, a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee, who allegedly was asked by Appel to take action against a judge. When Elyakim Rubinstein was attorney general, this investigation kept Rivlin from being appointed justice minister.
Now, just before the appointment of a successor to Mazuz, Appel's connections have again spread a shadow over the selection process. According to a report by Gidi Weitz in yesterday's Haaretz, a decade ago Appel spoke with Yariv Levin, at the time the deputy chairman of the Israel Bar Association and now an MK and member of the search committee, and discussed Levin's support for Appel's candidates for religious court judges. Even if Levin did not carry out Appel's wishes - as he claimed, just as Rivlin claimed he did not do Appel's bidding when he himself was on the Judicial Apointments Committee - the impression that he would do so is enough to disqualify him from the search committee.
The attorney general must be beyond reproach, and so must those choosing the three final candidates for the post - as well as the ministers who will vote for one of them. It is inconceivable that there is not a single such representative in the entire Knesset who can replace Levin, who clearly must resign.
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