Yaakov Neeman - Olivier Fitoussi - 05012012
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman at a ceremony for lawyers last month. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has lashed out at State Prosecutor Moshe Lador in private conversations, accusing him of "marking targets and filing indictments without sufficient evidence," according to sources present at these discussions.

One of the examples Neeman cited was Lador's decision to indict leading attorney Jacob Weinroth, who was subsequently acquitted in court.

Neeman also accuses Lador of deliberately thwarting his effort to set up an ombudsman for the prosecution, similar to the ombudsman that exists for judges.

Though Neeman doesn't give interviews and claims he doesn't read the papers, his private conversations reveal a very hostile attitude toward the media. For instance, fellow cabinet members report that he called Haaretz "Der Sturmer" - the paper that served as the Nazis' propaganda organ.

This week, Neeman was at the center of a storm over his effort to push through a controversial bill to change the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee. The bill, which would alter the way the Bar Association's two representatives on the nine-member panel are chosen, is opposed by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the Justice Ministry's professional staff; the former even announced this week that if it passed, he wouldn't defend it against the expected challenge in the High Court of Justice. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he was freezing the bill.

The Bar Association representatives hold the balance on the appointments committee between Neeman's four-member faction and the three-member faction led by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch. The bill was submitted after it became clear that the new representatives the Bar Association chose in November would align with Beinisch rather than Neeman, giving her a majority. The proposed law states that instead of the Bar electing whomever it chooses, it must elect one representative from the association's majority faction and one from the minority faction - thereby making it likely that the two representatives would split their votes and thus give Neeman's faction a 5-4 majority.

The bill has been blasted by both cabinet ministers like Dan Meridor and senior jurists. Prof. Yoram Shachar of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, for instance, called it a "huge disgrace," adding that Neeman was the first justice minister he can recall who "operates in the shadows, out of unknown motives."

"Neeman conducts himself as justice minister the way he did as a private lawyer," Shachar said. "But a justice minister can't operate through manipulation and cunning. That's legitimate for an attorney, but not for a minister."

Another IDC law professor, Uriel Procaccia, said he is "sorry we have such a minister, who, by all indications, doesn't stand in the breach" when the rule of law is attacked.

An article to be published in tomorrow's Haaretz Magazine in Hebrew details Neeman's long-standing ties with leading politicians. Neeman's law firm provided legal advice to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whom prosecutors have tentatively decided to indict, pending a hearing.

In 2004, after Lieberman resigned from the cabinet, he and his daughter Michal met with Neeman to get legal advice on his planned return to the business world. Neeman's office helped them set up the company M.L., which is at the center of the draft indictment. The draft indictment claims that while the company was officially run by Michal and a Lieberman advisor, Sharon Shalom, in reality, Lieberman ran it, and continued benefiting from the millions it earned even after he returned to the Knesset and cabinet.

Neeman's spokesman, Amatzia Bar-Moshe, responded: "The justice minister works constantly [to bolster] the independence and strength of the prosecution and has frequently spoken about the prosecution's importance and professionalism. The minister regularly meets with the state prosecutor for routine professional meetings.

"At the same time, the minister has more than once noted the need for an agency to supervise and oversee the prosecution's conduct; such agencies currently exist in a variety of similar fields. All this is done openly, transparently and through dialogue."

Read this article in Hebrew