Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked held private interviews with four of the five members of the search committee for the next attorney general, but failed to enter them in the protocol or report them to the committee, according to the minister’s diary, which was obtained by Haaretz this week.
These meetings were held over the past few months alongside the official procedure, in which Shaked appeared before the panel and stated her position on appointing the next attorney general.
Before current Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s appointment it was decided to set up an external panel, headed by a retired judge, to recommend one to three candidates for the post, to be presented to the cabinet for a vote.
The committee is headed by former Supreme Court president Asher Grunis; its other members are Knesset member Anat Berko (Likud), former justice minister Moshe Nissim, Israel Bar Association representative attorney Yechiel Katz and Gabriela Shalev, a law professor and former UN ambassador.
All the members, except for Grunis, had tete-a-tetes with Shaked after the committee began its work, but none of them was aware of the others’ meetings with the minister. The meetings’ content remains unknown, but Haaretz has learned that they dealt at least in part with the appointment of the next attorney general.
Nissim, who met Shaked before being appointed to the committee and three times afterward, told Haaretz the meetings were initiated by Shaked, who consults with him due to his experience as justice minister. “I didn’t report it because they dealt with several issues,” he said.
Berko confirmed meeting Shaked twice but refused to say what they discussed and if she reported the meetings to the committee.
One entry in Shaked’s diary states explicitly that her meetings with Katz dealt with the attorney general’s appointment.
“There’s a possible conflict of interests in the minister’s having private talks with some committee members,” a member of the attorney general search committee chaired by Justice (ret.) Theodore Or in 2009 told Haaretz.
A senior official in the legal system said “the minister can choose one of the three names the committee proposes but may not influence the recommendations. He can state his position before the committee but private interviews – that’s definitely strange.”
Dr. Guy Luria of the Israel Democracy Institute said “search committees were decided on to ensure the procedure’s independence. Proper conduct demands an orderly procedure and protocol. Private meetings that are not recorded and that the other committee members aren’t aware of are problematic.”
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