In an exceptional move, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit overturned a decision by Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold to forgo appointing former ambassador to Britain Daniel Taub the ministry’s legal adviser, due to instances of problematic conduct during his term in London.
Mendelblit, who has worked closely with Taub on various occasions, said that because of faults in the tender process, the tender should be reopened and Taub allowed to contend for the position again.
Around a month ago, the Civil Service Commission’s appointments committee headed by Gold convened with Deputy Attorney General for International Law Roi Sheindorf in attendance to discuss the appointment of the Foreign Ministry legal adviser. Taub was the leading candidate for the position, but at the end of the meeting the committee decided that none of the candidates proposed, including Taub, was right for the job.
The reason Taub’s candidacy was rejected was a problem that occurred during 2014-2015. According to senior Foreign Ministry officials, there had been several late-night visitors to the ambassador’s home that were not coordinated with the British police as required under the security protocol. The British security forces warned Taub about this but the incidents continued. The British security services then filed a formal complaint with the embassy’s security officer and threatened to absolve themselves of responsibility for protecting the ambassador and his home.
Upon receipt of the complaint, an examination was conducted by the Foreign Ministry’s internal auditor. During the examination Taub claimed that the late-night visits were by a therapist providing “New Age therapy” for several health problems.
The auditor’s report said that Taub had not committed any crimes, but had breached security protocol and a disciplinary reprimand was sufficient. Nevertheless, a few months afterward, when Taub asked to extend his tenure in London for another year, as is customary, his request was refused.
Taub is considered one of the most highly regarded members of Israel’s foreign service. He is an expert on international law and was a member of the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinians. Taub and Mendelblit worked together when the latter was military advocate general and cabinet secretary. The two handled such issues as the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and other challenges Israel has faced in the realm of international law.
Mendelblit’s involvement is exceptional not just because of his decision to overrule Gold, but because he started to deal with the issue on his own initiative on his second day in office. A senior official involved with the matter said Mendelblit had asked for the entire dossier on Taub, including the report by the Foreign Ministry’s internal auditor on his behavior in London.
Mendelblit examined the material and over the last two weeks held several meetings on the issue with people from the Civil Service Commission, after which he called for the appointments committee to reconvene and reconsider Taub’s appointment. A senior Justice Ministry official noted that Mendelblit even wrote a legal opinion stating that during the original tender process there had been several faults, including the presentation of partial information about the incidents in London and that fact that Taub was not given a chance to give his full version of the events to the appointments committee.
According to a senior Justice Ministry official, Mendelblit’s legal opinion focused on the faults that he found in the tender process; it did not take a position on the London incidents themselves or give an indication of how much weight the committee should give to his behavior in its decision whether to appoint Taub or not. “However, from the information the Foreign Ministry gave to Mendelblit it emerges that there is no suspicion of a criminal violation in Taub’s behavior,” the senior Justice Ministry official said.
Mendelblit said the appointments committee should reconvene with new members, given that the previous committee members would not be able to conduct a new procedure in an objective fashion. Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan accepted Mendelblit’s opinion. The commission said that as a result, a new committee would be named, which effectively voids Gold’s decision and removes him from the appointment process.
Mendelblit’s opinion on Taub’s eligibility notwithstanding, Taub’s path to the Foreign Ministry legal adviser’s office is not assured. This is because the Civil Service Commission, which is responsible for dealing with alleged disciplinary infraction by civil servants, was never informed by the Foreign Ministry in real time about Taub’s security violations and learned about them only last month during the appointments committee meeting.
After learning the details of the case, the head of the Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary branch, Assaf Rosenberg, launched a new examination of the case to see if disciplinary proceedings against Taub are warranted.
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