Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is a member of the political echelon, the cabinet member who has authority over the judicial establishment: the attorney general and the state prosecution. Neeman is not a member of the Knesset and was not elected by the public. He was parachuted into the government as part of a deal between Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. The attorney general is expected to make a final decision on whether to indict Lieberman within a few weeks.

From the moment he joined the government Neeman has endeavored to undermine the standing of the attorney general and the state prosecution. He attempted to use a retroactive amendment to affect the composition of the judicial selection committee so as to benefit a group that supported its positions. He recently put forth regulations that would impinge on the right of the disadvantaged to apply for aid from the courts. Now he has a new plan, a natural continuation of his efforts to curtail the attorney general's authority. Neeman seeks to reduce the role of the legal advisers in their respective ministries in drafting and being involved in cabinet resolutions.

"Resolving proposals," so called because each clause begins with the formula "We resolve that," are supposed to include legal opinions clarifying the legal and economic implications of the proposal: economic, to insure that its provisions are not overly generous with the state budget (itself an inviolable law ); legal, to insure that the executive branch does not end up breaking a law it has sworn to uphold. Neeman seeks to weaken these provisions. He views the law as a nuisance.

This is not Neeman's first time out on the subject. He previously tried to impose term limits on ministry legal advisers. Both cases use a transparent tactic to weaken the gatekeepers whose job it is to remove legal stumbling blocks from the ministers' paths and alert them to the legal implications of their decisions.

It is difficult to comprehend how a person who built his career on giving legal opinions could seek to detract from the quality of cabinet resolutions by preventing the examination of their legal aspects. In Neeman's case, however, there is an obvious explanation: He views his mission as curtailing the rule of law. This mission must be thwarted.