State: Knesset counsel let friendship color '05 legal opinion
State prosecutors are appealing a 2005 legal opinion by Nurit Elstein, now the Knesset's legal adviser, over questions about Elstein's objectivity due to her friendship with MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima )
State prosecutors are appealing a 2005 legal opinion by Nurit Elstein, now the Knesset's legal adviser, over questions about Elstein's objectivity due to her friendship with MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ). Elstein wrote the opinion when she was the director of the department at the State Prosecutor's Office that deals with labor disputes.
Tirosh, then director general of the Education Ministry, asked Elstein to provide the opinion.
The request followed a rejection two years earlier of Tirosh's request that the Civil Service Commission recognize her service as ministry director general as employment in the civil service. This rejection deprived her of millions of shekels in pension benefits.
Elstein's position paper firmly supported Tirosh's demand, but after years of litigation, the State Prosecutor's Office has filed an appeal with the National Labor Court contending that the two women's close friendship cast doubt on Elstein's objectivity back in 2005.
The prosecutor also contends that the documents give evidence that Elstein asked Tirosh to review a draft and make comments. In the documents, The documents also appear to reflect responses from Tirosh. They allegedly include comments such as "Thanks for everything! Love you, Ronit."
The origins of the matter date back to 1977, when Tirosh started work as an Arabic teacher at a Tel Aviv high school. She became the school's principal in 1990 and later sought unpaid leave from her job. The leave was approved through 1997, but she did not ask that it be extended.
She was subsequently appointed head of the education department at the Tel Aviv municipality, and after an additional time-out that she devoted to academic study, Tirosh was appointed in March 2001 as Education Ministry director general.
"The arguments are pathetic and only show the weakness of the professional arguments of the prosecutor's office," Tirosh told Haaretz yesterday. "I can't understand their obsession, after which they filed the appeal." She added that officials at the prosecution should "get to the point" and admit they were wrong.
Elstein, meanwhile, said she did not issue her opinion in cooperation with Tirosh, but that it's possible she sent Tirosh a draft to verify that facts were correct. She said her ties to Tirosh were not particularly close, and that two got to know each other while Tirosh was director general of the Education Ministry.
In 2005, after Elstein supported Tirosh, the attorney general at the time, Menachem Mazuz, issued a directive that Tirosh was not to be recognized as a member of the civil service in her position at the Education Ministry.
Two years later, in 2007, Tirosh filed a complaint with the Tel Aviv regional labor court seeking such recognition; she based it on Elstein's legal opinion. She also said Mazuz had not given her a hearing before siding with the Civil Service Commission on the matter.
In May this year, a labor court judge ruled that Tirosh had been improperly deprived of a hearing. The court referred the matter to the current attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, and criticized the prosecution for making an issue over the personal relationship between Tirosh and Elstein.
In appealing the decision to the National Labor Court, the prosecutor's office has now again pointed to the relationship, saying the documents show that the documents are relevant to the case.