Attorney General: Israel's Law Enforcement System Is Under Attack

The system’s most fundamental principles, its independence and public faith in it, are under assault, he said

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in Beit Shemesh, February 26, 2018
\ Ilan Assayag

The law enforcement system is under attack, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit warned on Monday.

“Regrettably, there has recently been a movement that seeks to undermine the principle of the system’s independence and the public’s faith in the system,” Mendelblt told an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat. “This attack is meant to undermine [these] two principles that are most fundamental to the proper functioning of the law enforcement system.”

In particular, he criticized a series of private members’ bills in the Knesset aimed at restricting the system. “Undermining the law enforcement system’s discretion and independence isn’t the way to increase the public’s faith in the law enforcement system,” he said. “I oppose all of these proposals, and certainly when they are taken together.”

“Efforts to weaken the Supreme Court and the law enforcement agencies will lead to weakening the rule of law in this country in general, and while doing so, will also weaken Israel’s defenses in the international arena,” he warned. “We must be wary of slogans that initially sound catchy and persuasive but that in practice are meant to destroy the public’s faith in these entities.”

Regarding proposals to limit the Supreme Court’s powers to intervene in events such as the recent clashes along the Gaza border, Mendelblit said: “We are at the height of legal warfare against Israel. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue of the rules of engagement along the border of the Gaza Strip serves as a defensive shield against this legal warfare, due to the understanding that it is an independent, professional court that performs effective, independent oversight. Preserving the Supreme Court’s powers is essential not just on the domestic level, but also on the international level.”

Mendelblit lambasted three pieces of legislation in particular: a bill known as the French Law, which would forbid police investigations of a sitting prime minister; the Recommendations Law, which has already been enacted, and which bars the police from publishing summaries of their findings after finishing an investigation; and a proposal first reported last week that would limit the prosecution’s ability to appeal acquittals.

On the subject of the criminal investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the attorney general said: “We are aware of the need to finish the job as quickly as possible, and we’re doing everything we can to finish the stage in which all of the relevant facts are clarified with all possible speed, moving on to the stage of making decisions. But speed cannot under any circumstances come at the expense of quality and professionalism.”

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who also spoke at the conference, lambasted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for criticizing law enforcement officials in his recently published autobiography. “Just recently, a moment after his release from jail, this criminal, a former prime minister, saw fit to be publicly interviewed and crudely assail the law enforcement system,” Nitzan said. “All of us were accorded degrading, embarrassing nicknames by him. Only one person was completely in the right – he himself. I condemned this that very same day, but the earth didn’t tremble, and there were no protests against his remarks.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the conference she is planning what is being dubbed a “due process reform” that will include passing legislation to expand the rights of criminal suspects. It will also include plans for a committee that would propose ways of reducing wrongful convictions and legislation requiring that all evidence be preserved until a convict is released from of jail.