Israeli Supreme Court Justice: Justice Minister's Criticism 'Makes It Difficult for System to Function'

Justice Menachem Mazuz also said that having a justice minister who pushes against the system 'is a troubling and disturbing situation' following Amir Ohana's attack on the state prosecution

Justice Minister Amir Ohana at the Supreme Court, November 10, 2019.
Emil Salman

Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz said Thursday that “having an oppositional justice minister is a troubling and disturbing situation.” Speaking at a law conference at the University of Haifa, the former attorney general also said Justice Minister Amir Ohana's criticism of the state prosecution "makes it difficult for the system to function properly."

Mazuz added that the "decision about who the minister will be is not up to the judicial system” when asked to comment on Ohana's remarks. Two weeks ago, Ohana claimed there was a “prosecutor’s office within the State Prosecutor’s Office” that destroys the careers of politicians and other public figures. He quoted President Reuven Rivlin from his period as Knesset speaker, when he wrote: “A chorus of coopted court journalists and commentators always comes to the defense of the State Prosecutor’s Office ... while the public — which is not privy to the facts — is convinced that the stables are being cleaned out.”

Former police commissioner Roni Alsheich also took part in the conference. Regarding criticism of the law enforcement system, he said, “Everything here becomes political. If you’re on the right, you have to be against the law enforcement system, and if you’re on the left you have to be in favor. This is terrible.”

Last week, Ohana defied a gag order while discussing the interrogation methods used with state’s witness Nir Hefetz in the Netanyahu investigations. He told the Knesset: “They brought in a young woman who has nothing to do with the prime minister’s investigations and asked her a series of intrusive and personal questions about the nature of her relationship with the witness.”

Alsheich said that this violation "was not brought to my knowledge. I was not aware of it when it happened, if indeed the details from the Hefetz interrogation are accurate and did in fact occur as described. There is no way an investigation of this intensity would have been conducted without the approval of the accompanying prosecutor.”

Alsheich added, “The test is whether this witness was summoned and asked questions pertaining to the investigation. If she has no substantive connection to the case there is a problem and it should be looked into. In interrogations there are many difficult decisions, and sometimes there are irregularities… If irregularities occur, the police should examine and correct itself, but there is always the state prosecution and the attorney general above it, and ultimately the court too. But we don’t want interrogators who merely follow a set menu. Technocratic investigators will not succeed in fighting crime. Yes, the price of investigators who don’t always go by the book is irregularities, but the price of the opposite, of a technocrat investigator, is worse.”