Avihai Mendelblit - Moti Kimche - 07112011
Avihai Mendelblit speaking last May. Photo by Moti Kimche
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There was widespread criticism from the right yesterday of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his appointment of Avihai Mendelblit, the former military advocate general, as the senior attorney on the committee that will examine the feasibility of authorizing illegal settler outposts on the West Bank.

Mendelblit will head the committee along with former Prime Minister's Office director general Eyal Gabay.

A number of MKs came out against Mendelblit's appointment, citing controversial decisions he made during his tenure as the chief army prosecutor. Among them were the backing he gave to human rights groups in a 2009 Haaretz interview, the authorization he gave to IDF activities during the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and the support he gave for using soldiers to enforce the law against civilians, which is ostensibly the job of the police.

"By the same token, one could name a representative of Adalah [the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights] to the committee, and appoint Judge [Richard] Goldstone to head it," said MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ), referring to the author of the UN-commissioned report on Operation Cast Lead that was critical of Israel.

"We are looking at a committee with a decidedly left-wing agenda," Eldad said, saying the military prosecution had turned into "a branch of B'Tselem," which documents human rights violations in the territories.

'Hire outside lawyers'

At the same time, a senior minister in a private conversation yesterday opined that the government should hire outside lawyers to represent the state in court cases that determine the future of Jewish homes built on disputed land, because "the prosecution doesn't defend the settlers' positions."

According to the minister, it's no surprise that the prime minister's advisory committee on authorizing construction in disputed areas doesn't include any lawyers in government service.

"The prosecution doesn't represent the settlers' positions faithfully and doesn't make the effort to challenge Palestinians who claim that certain land belongs to them," the minister said. "It's inconceivable that based on dubious claims, a court will demand that the state expel families and demolish homes that were built legally.

"If the state can't provide adequate legal representation in these cases, let it hire outside lawyers to do the work."