The black robe and the red line
If Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein stands behind the official statement issued in his name while believing that the law's wording is 'borderline' and poses a type of red line, then he should not represent the government in the expected legal battle over the law before the High Court.
The version of the Boycott Law that was passed by the Knesset this week is a type of uncrossable red line in terms of the constitutional problems it poses. That's not merely the opinion of its opponents, within the Knesset or without. To some degree Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein shares this view, and he is the state's most authoritative interpreter of law, until the High Court of Justice rules otherwise.
But there's theory and there's practice. Weinstein said on Tuesday that he would defend the law before the High Court, when it hears a petition against it.
Theoretically, that's what we would expect from a civil servant, who is meant to discount his own dissenting opinion and to carry out his duty to implement the decision. It could be compared to a lawyer who, in the event that a client rejects his advice, nevertheless goes on to represent that client as if the strategy imposed upon them was their own.
That approach is fine for petty matters, but not for important ones. In trifling cases one could understand the distress of a government whose attorney general might leave it without representation.
But when it comes to issues that strike at the heart of Israeli democracy and the Basic Laws, the body of constitutional codes whose purpose is to protect it from problematic legislation, the attorney general must place himself on the correct side of the red line, without hesitation or rationalization.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior ministers absented themselves from the vote on the law when it became clear it would pass without them. Each can now tell his voters how he actually supported or opposed the law (circle the appropriate answer ), and how his presence wouldn't have changed anything.
That's how politicians act, but there is a fundamental difference between them and the attorney general. The attorney general's refusal to appear before the High Court would be taking a stand, not merely fleeing from it. Being prepared to defend the indefensible is the classic example of abandoning one's professional and moral responsibility.
If Weinstein stands behind the official statement issued in his name, and indeed believes that the law's wording is "borderline" and poses a type of red line, then he should not represent the government in the expected legal battle over the law before the High Court.