Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the right decision when he chose not to support Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's plan to split the post of attorney general into two. Netanyahu's position that the next attorney general will have the same authority as the incumbent, Menachem Mazuz, brings an end to Neeman's proposal, which had threatened to undermine the rule of law.
It looks like Netanyahu can wrap up his own in-depth consideration of the plan and have it implemented from 2016 - for the attorney general who follows Mazuz's successor. But there is no way of predicting who the premier and justice minister will be then, or what the constellation of political forces will be. Nor is it clear if the matter will again come up for consideration - so the significance of Netanyahu's postponement is to shelve the matter indefinitely.
Neeman's confrontation with Mazuz, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and like-minded colleagues who opposed splitting the position ended in a major success for those suspicious of what was motivating Neeman, the ideological heir and successor in office to Daniel Friedmann. They were also concerned about the harm to the legal system if the plan went forward.
The Neeman proposal, which was supposed to address the attorney general's heavy workload and split the focus between criminal and civil matters, sought a division of authority between a legal adviser to the government and a prosecutor general; under these posts criminal and civil prosecution would be split. The news this week of arrests in an Internet-gambling case, which were made possible by officials working in intelligence, investigations and enforcement under Mazuz, reflects the damage that the split to the post of attorney general would cause. The fight against various kinds of crime, not least matters involving corruption of public officials, would have suffered if the split had been put into effect.
This, however, is just one battle, as important as it may be, in a campaign over the nature of the legal system. The battle over the next attorney general is still being fought. Neeman, with the prestige and power he has left, will try to win approval for his preferred candidates from the selection committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Theodor Or. He can then focus on one of them when the committee makes its recommendations to the government. The forces that stopped Neeman in the last battle should not be lulled into the illusion that there has been a break in the campaign or that it is over. The campaign will be decided by the battle over the next attorney general.
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