Second Top Justice Official Slams Netanyahu's Deal on New Public Broadcaster

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber says 'splitting off the news division from the broadcaster will have negative results.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 2, 2017.
Mark Israel Salem

Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber said on Sunday that the compromise agreement on the launching of the new public broadcaster, Kan, will be damaging to the country, echoing the sharp criticism expressed by another deputy attorney general, Avi Licht, as Haaretz reported Sunday.

Zilber made her comments during a lecture in Tel Aviv, when she was asked about proposals to split the role of the attorney general into two positions, chief prosecutor and legal adviser to the government. She expressed opposition to the move, in the course of which she compared the motivations for the proposal to the compromise plan for Kan.

“Splitting off the news division from the broadcaster will have negative results,” she said. “Even in its united format, the corporation’s activities are challenging and not trivial. Splitting and weakening [it] won’t be good, not for the corporation and not for the country.” She added that in both cases, splitting the attorney general’s post and the Kan compromise, the aim is to weaken the agencies in question.

Zilber’s remarks were first reported by the Calcalist newspaper, along with other excerpts from her remarks, in which she was sharply critical of politicians’ attitude toward senior jurists.

“Officials are under attack, and in my eyes the attack is no coincidence,” Zilber said. “One explanation is to weaken the enforcement and oversight systems. Another explanation assumes a deep moral struggle over the state’s image and the basic principles that are meant to shape its management. The way it’s being done is setting targets, giving them a name and firing freely. In English it’s called naming, blaming and shaming.

“Anyone who in the process of making professional decisions ‘interferes,’ gets a vicious and personal response, to deter, to mark, to give the illusion that if only that official or that judge or legal adviser is eliminated, the land will stay quiet for 40 years, and a spirit of governance will hover over the land,” she said.

Zilber was not involved in the Justice Ministry discussions about the Kan compromise, over which Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit presided. The agreement reached last week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will close Kan’s news division, which has hundreds of employees. The Israel Broadcasting Authority’s news department, which is being dismantled, will continue to operate until a new, government-controlled broadcasting company is operational.

On Sunday Haaretz reported that Licht, considered the Justice Ministry’s “point person” on media issues, opposed the agreement.