The saga over the appointment of the next attorney general has already been labeled "complex." Complex? What's complex about it? It's clear what the government must do. It simply needs to do what it committed to do in Clause 6-C of the law for the equal rights for women - when filling positions in state bodies, it must favor women in place of men with similar qualifications.
The committee for selecting the attorney general - which itself contained not a single woman, some say in violation of the law - is now considering four candidates: three men and one woman. Each meets the requirements of an attorney general, and each received three votes from the panel. Therefore, according to both the equal-rights law and the Supreme Court, the government must choose a woman. Simple indeed.
The panel was unable to decide between the candidates, so presumably it believes they are all equally fit for the job. This is exactly where the principle of fair representation comes into play. "The burden to prove that under the given circumstances of a given situation it was not possible to appoint a woman falls on the appointing minister. This burden is not light - to carry it, the appointed minister must show that he has examined the possibility of appointing an appropriate candidate, but that given the circumstances it was impossible to do so," said justice Eliahu Mazza.
But it is possible to do so, particularly when the candidate is head and shoulders above her peers. Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez is a jurist respected in the most hallowed courts of law in Israel and the world. Her past is spotless, she has no conflicts or enemies, and she is not connected to wealth or power. And here is a classic gender problem - her very lack of such links leaves her with the smallest chance of getting the job because she has no friends in high places to look out for her.
The headlines predict that attorney Yehuda Weinstein, who has represented several politicians suspected of criminal activity, will be selected instead of Barak-Erez. But an expertise in criminal law is not the only criterion for choosing an attorney general, and the greatest attorney generals - Aharon Barak, Yitzhak Zamir, Elyakim Rubinstein and Menachem Mazuz - did not have such an expertise.
Yedidia Stern also seems to have good odds of being chosen, though he is not an expert on criminal law and doesn't have the experience in public, administrative and constitutional law that Barak-Erez does.
"The active obligation falls first and foremost on the prime minister," Justice Edmond Levy recently wrote at the High Court in annulling the appointment of the head of a corporation based on the violation of the principle of fair representation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who for months has been unwilling to appoint a director of his bureau's office for the advancement of women, could benefit tremendously from appointing a woman attorney general. It would be a clean appointment, with no downside, opponents or intrigues, and the right thing to do from a legal, ethical and societal perspective. It would also mark his first nod to an electorate that hardly comes easily to him (women), one that would suddenly become far more favorably disposed toward him.
"It's a shame that there was a need for a public petition to instruct the government on the application of Clause 6-C of the law for equal rights for women, and for the appointment of ministry director-generals," wrote Justice Dalia Dorner in 2002. It's a shame that a public petition is needed to choose an attorney general in the second Netanyahu administration. The prime minister can now do the simple thing - the right, just and easy thing: Choose Prof. Barak-Erez, the only female candidate for attorney general.
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