The committee to select the next attorney general has reached an impasse. The committee, headed by former Supreme Court justice Theodor Or, is supposed to rank the candidates and pick three to recommend to the cabinet. The cabinet will then make the appointment, most likely in keeping with the justice minister's recommendation.
Ostensibly, the justice minister's choice may not receive a majority in the cabinet. However, just as the defense minister's candidate for chief of staff is likely to get the job even if the prime minister and other ministers are not enthusiastic, it is reasonable to assume that if the justice minister's choice is among the three finalists, the appointment is in the bag.
Along with Or, the committee's members include a former justice minister, an MK, a representative of the Israel Bar Association and a law professor. Finalists require at least four votes. Thus, two members can disqualify any candidate. Alternatively, two members can agree to back a candidate in exchange for support for another candidate that three members don't like. Thus a candidate who lacks a majority, but is the justice minister's favorite, can become one of the three finalists, along with another two who have no real chance. Then, not surprisingly, the favorite will be appointed to one of the most important and influential positions in the country.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman clearly wants Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg for the job. Based on his skills, background and rulings, Sohlberg is far from being the most worthy man for this lofty post. The concern is that what Neeman likes about Sohlberg is exactly what must stop him from getting the position.
To appoint Sohlberg, Neeman made two moves. First, he proposed Sohlberg as a candidate for Supreme Court justice, to make him appear suited to be attorney general. Then Neeman obtained a bloc on the Or committee by appointing two members who share his opinion, former justice minister Moshe Nissim and MK Yariv Levin (Likud). If Nissim and Levin insist on including Sohlberg among the three finalists, Neeman and Sohlberg can celebrate even before the cabinet meets to discuss the appointment.
The Or committee is in a strange position. Its members and the candidates (as well as those who considered presenting their candidacy) do not know what the position of attorney general will entail, as Neeman has proposed splitting the current job into two posts. Nevertheless, they are being pushed to appoint Sohlberg, as Neeman wants. Neeman needs two rubber stamps. The Or committee will provide the first, and the cabinet, the second.
Under these shameful circumstances, a committee member did well to warn that the appointment risks being politicized, as reported in Haaretz yesterday. Or and his fellow committee members must prove that they have backbones and are basing their recommendations on professional considerations only.
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