Mendelblit Gets Final Greenlight to Become Israel's Attorney General

High Court of Justice rejects two petitions by good-governance nonprofits; cabinet secretary will segue into new post at start of February

Avichai Mendelblit (right) consults with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting, September 2015.
Ohad Zwigenberg (Pool)

The High Court of Justice rejected two petitions against Avichai Mendelblit’s appointment as attorney general on Monday, with five justices agreeing unanimously that there was no reason to intervene in the nomination.

The petitions were the final obstacle in the path of Cabinet Secretary Mendelblit, who is now clear to replace outgoing Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at the beginning of February.

The justices’ reasons for rejecting the petitions will be given at a later date.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and Ometz – a good-government advocacy group – resubmitted the petitions after Mendelblit’s appointment was approved by the cabinet earlier this month.

The High Court rejected them initially, since the appointment had not been ratified by the cabinet. They were rejected Monday by justices Salim Joubran, Yoram Danziger, Isaac Amit, Zvi Zylbertal and Noam Sohlberg.

Ometz petitioned privately against the appointment, emphasizing the importance of a cooling-off period from the position of cabinet secretary to that of attorney general. It also complained that the search committee that nominated Mendelblit failed to consider his involvement in the Harpaz affair, where the criminal file was closed for lack of evidence.

The Movement for Quality Government asked that the search committee be reconvened, claiming that its activity was lacking when it recommended only Mendelblit to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, rather than recommending three potential candidates as it was supposed to do.

The movement’s representative, attorney Eliad Shraga, claimed that personal meetings between Shaked and committee members while the panel was mulling its choice, without documentation of these meetings, “polluted the election process.”

Responding to the Ometz petition, Mendelblit claimed there was “no restriction in any of the laws of the State of Israel that prevents the appointment to any senior civil service job without a cooling-off period.”

As far as the Harpaz case is concerned, Mendelblit said a document was submitted to the search committee on his behalf, “which explains why there was no ethical deficiency that could affect the appointment, and none of the committee members considered the material an obstacle.”

Mendelblit added that he had “never been a party member or an activist in a political organization,” and was not “personally close to any cabinet members, with the exception of professional ties.”

After the search committee recommended Mendelblit last month, Shaked announced that she intended to restore the process of choosing the attorney general to the way it was done previously – with the appointment by a justice minister without the need for a committee.