Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit instructed ministers on Wednesday to allow senior government officials to participate in events held by human rights organizations. Mendelblit had received a number of complaints about cases in which government officials had been prevented from participating in such events for political reasons.
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In a letter sent to all ministers, Mendelblit said he saw “great importance in the activities of these organizations.” Mendelblit wrote he also sees great importance in the existence of a professional and productive dialogue in such a framework between civil society groups and government institutions, including the participation of senior public officials in conferences and other events. “Such joint activities are beneficial and help to promote the public interest,” said Mendelblit.
Dan Yakir, the chief legal counsel of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, complained to Mendelblit about the ban on attending conferences some ministers had imposed on their senior officials for political reasons. Yakir provided Mendelsblit with a number of examples beginning in May 2015, after the present government was sworn in.
In May 2015, then Israel Police legal adviser Brig. Gen. Shaul Gordon and Col. Doron Ben Barak, the legal adviser of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, cancelled their participation in a conference organized by the Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights organization. In December 2016, Gordon was ordered cancel his participation in an event organized by ACRI due to right-wing pressure.
In addition, in July Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office instructed Yaacov Lozowick, the Chief left-wing Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research.
Yakir told Mendelblit the phenomenon is extremely serious, but more important it represents a symptom of a much more widespread phenomenon of delegitimization of civil society organizations.