Five former justice ministers from across the political spectrum in Israel criticized current Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's for what they say is overstepping her authority over Israel's judicial system and undermining its independence.
Haaretz reported on Sunday that Shaked had urged State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan not to appeal a parole board’s decision to release former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Olmert after he had served two-thirds of his jail sentence for corruption. Nitzan, who had previously been determined to fight Olmert’s parole, decided against it after receiving the text message from Shaked in June 2017.
Shaked herself largely confirmed the report in an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday, but stressed, “I didn’t tell Nitzan what his position should be, I told him my opinion. I don’t intervene in cases, I state my opinion.”
However, those who held the post in the past took issue. "A justice minister shouldn’t intervene in such processes, and certainly not when it involves a [parole] request by a politician,” retorted Dan Meridor, who served as justice minister for the Likud party. “There are grounds for asking why she intervened in this specific case.”
By doing so, he added, Shaked had undermined the prosecution’s independence.
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Meir Sheetrit, who also served as justice minister for Likud, echoed Meridor’s criticism. “It’s not customary or proper for a justice minister to intervene in the prosecution’s decisions,” Sheetrit said, adding that this was especially true in cases involving public figures. “I also don’t understand why the state prosecutor accepted her view.”
Yossi Beilin, who served as justice minister for the Labor Party, was even more forceful. “The justice minister has no status on parole boards; that’s not his job,” he said. “It’s clear Shaked doesn’t understand the limits of her job, or else she’s ignoring those limits.”
Shaked’s predecessor in the job, Tzipi Livni of the Hatnuah party (which is currently part of the Zionist Union joint ticket), added, “A justice minister who tells the prosecution what to do in someone’s case is crossing a line.”
And former justice minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), though declining to criticize Shaked “without hearing her explanation,” said that while setting general policy guidelines is fine, intervening in specific cases is unacceptable.
But former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, an independent who served as justice minister in Olmert’s government, justified Shaked’s conduct. “There’s nothing wrong with a justice minister giving the state prosecutor her opinion,” he said. In fact, he added, she did the prosecution a favor, because it had come under heavy public criticism for its hard line against Olmert. And faced with such a situation, “why should the minister with parliamentary responsibility for the prosecution shut up and do nothing?”