Israel's Justice Minister Says Attorney General Shouldn't Make Decisions Over Legislative Issues

Responding to Ayelet Shaked's comment, deputy AG says that veto over legislation is an important tool - especially in cases of illegal acts.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that it is not the role of the attorney general to make decisions on legislative issues. She also said that she plans to cancel the search committee tasked with appointing the attorney general, thereby putting the choice of who to appoint in the hands of the political echelon.

“A civil servant, as senior as they may be, has no veto” over legislation, said Shaked, speaking about the role of the attorney general, at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.“The attorney general can advise. In the end, the decision is that of the elected representatives.”

Shaked said decisions on legislative issues should be made by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which she heads. “I see the legal advice as ‘a lawyer-client’ [relationship]. You consult, but in the end the sovereign is the legislature. In administrative decisions, if the attorney general says there is a legal hindrance then we certainly will not approve the decision. In legislation, we can consult but in the end elected representatives are the ones who make the decision,” she added.

Shaked also said she will act to cancel the search committee now required for the appointment of the attorney general.

Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht responded to Shaked, saying the attorney general’s veto over legislation is important. “In the cases in which the act is illegal, or borders on corruption, it is my obligation to prevent it,” he said. “The wisdom is to use this tool in only rare cases. The use of the right of a veto is always done sparingly, even if it is convenient for many people to say that is not true.”

Speaking at the forum, Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon criticized the Knesset, saying that the parliamentary body was losing its nonpartisanship and becoming more political in legislative matters. “Before every event with political importance there are proposals to change the rules of the game, on the eve of the event. Legislation is not meant to be written with Facebook, it is something for the long term that requires judgment and perspective.”

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit had been scheduled to participate in the Kohelet conference too, but because of an official trip he left a recorded message instead: “The rule of law does not mean the rule of the attorney general. The role of attorney general is to aid the political leadership to carry out its policies within the limits of the law. This is a dialogue which sometimes is accomplished by a question and a simple answer, and sometimes it requires a more extensive discussion,” said Mendelblit.

“It is important to emphasize that this process is not one-sided, but two-sided. The political echelon must understand that the attorney general wants to help and sometimes what looks to the political leadership like a long road is in fact the short way, because it avoids legal and other obstacles that could well arise along the way.”

Former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni slammed Shaked’s comments. “This is not a matter of governability, as Shaked likes to present it, but of the crushing of law enforcement bodies and subordinating them to politicians.”