Justice Ministry: Labor Minister, Subject of Criminal Probe, Not Barred From Helping Pick Judges

The ministry’s statement follows Haaretz’s disclosure that Haim Katz has continued to be a member of a panel that selects labor court judges

Labor Minister Haim Katz at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 3, 2018.
Emil salman

The Justice Ministry is taking the position that there is nothing barring Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz from being involved in the selection of labor court judges even though he is a suspect in two pending criminal investigations. The response follows the disclosure by Haaretz of Katz’s continued membership of the committee that selects labor court judges.

In a letter to the anti-corruption Tohar Hamidot non-profit, the Justice Ministry acknowledged a pending criminal investigation against Katz but said that at this stage there is no decision on whether he will be indicted. In light of the all of the circumstances, the Justice Ministry stated: “It is our position that there is nothing legally barring Minister Katz’s continued membership of the committee that appoints judges and public representatives to the labor court.”

Last month the police recommended that Katz be indicted on charges involving fraud, breach of trust and extortion by threat. There is also a pending investigation against him that was conducted by the Israel Securities Authority and that has been transferred to the prosecutor’s office.

Haaretz has learned that Katz did not attend the last judicial selection committee meeting at which a number of labor court judges including the new president of the National Labor Court, Varda Wirth Livne, were chosen. In addition, two weeks ago, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced the selection of a public representatives on the labor court. In a break with past practice, Katz did not sign off on those appointments.

Katz’s office did not provide a response for this article.

Katz’s involvement in the appointment of judges was the result of a cabinet resolution in 2016 that transferred responsibility for employment matters from the Economy Ministry to his Social Services Ministry. The move came two months after Katz’s initial interrogation as a suspect by the securities authority on suspicion that he made use of insider information. The suspicions later expanded to include allegations of fraud and breach of trust. In an unusual development, at the end of its investigation, the securities authority did not release a recommendation as to whether Katz should be charged.

The other investigation involves allegations of corruption at Israel Aerospace Industries in which Katz’s son is also a suspect. Until his appointment as a government minister, Haim Katz was the chairman of the workers’ committee at Israel Aerospace. He is suspected of using that position to extort workers and force them to join the Likud party. Last month the police recommended that he be indicted in connection with that case.