Introducing Israel's Real Prime Minister, Yehuda Weinstein

Does the attorney general's appointment of the new police commissioner mean that he's stronger than Netanyahu?

Daniel Bar-On

I don’t understand how they can say about Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that he lets investigations slip away, that he puts off decisions and examines everything to death then doesn’t decide anything. After all, in the blink of an eye, within two hours, how did he decide that Roni Alsheich is suitable as police commissioner and that there’s no problem appointing him? Did you ever see anything more efficient?

This is about no more than the attorney general’s displeasure over the criticism he drew recently over his endless foot-dragging and intentional obfuscation — in the case of Gal Hirsch and in many others, such as those involving Avigdor Lieberman, Boaz Harpaz, Gabi Ashkenazi, Yoav Galant and quite a few other citizens ground down over the years in the prosecution’s mill of injustice. Weinstein seems to have said to himself: I have been handed a golden opportunity to prove that I am a quick, determined decision-maker — and he approved Alsheich in record time. But in his attempt to expiate his previous sins, he went overboard. It’s just not serious, in fact it’s impossible, to vet a man within two hours, unless he’s the angel Gabriel, and I don’t think the Shin Bet hires angels.

Weinstein also exceeded his authority when he expressed his opinion of Alsheich’s appointment. The law gives him no standing in the matter. He can intervene only if there is a suspicion of criminal behavior by the nominee, but the moment there is no such suspicion, Weinstein should remain silent about the appointment.

So why did he talk, and why did everyone listen? Because in our distorted reality, the attorney general is even stronger than the prime minister. Everyone is afraid of him. And so he says anything he feels like and intervenes in every matter, from vetoing a cabinet decision to deciding what will go into the Budget Law and what will come out. Thus he strengthens his position even further and weakens the cabinet. And it’s all done under the cloak of the “rule of law,” although the law actually gives power to the politicians and not to attorneys general. The problem is that the ministers have been so neutered and intimidated over the years that by now they don’t move even a single millimeter without the approval of their ministry’s legal counsel, not to mention their complete self-deprecation before his majesty the attorney general.

The committees in charge of senior appointments are another example of how the legal counsels have taken over. Ostensibly these committees are an excellent idea, intended to assist a minister in choosing the right person. In fact it is a method of neutralizing the minister. If the committees were asked to present four candidates to the cabinet, from whom the cabinet was to choose one, so be it. But most of the committees only present one candidate. Then what is left for the ministers to do? Say “amen” and approve it. The presentation of one candidate is also against the law, which says that the cabinet must use its discretion in choosing the right person. Discretion cannot be used when only one candidate is presented.

When Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman asked Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to instruct the appointment committees to submit more than one candidate, Mazuz refused. When Weinstein wanted Shai Nitzan as state prosecutor, the appointments committee, which Weinstein headed, submitted one name — Shai Nitzan. When then-Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz wanted to appoint a certain person as head of the Tax Authority, the appointments committee presented one candidate, not the one the minster wanted. So who was the real finance minister, the chairman of the appointments committee or Steinitz?

It is high time to deflate the balloons of the attorney general and of ministries’ legal counsels. It is high time to return them to the positions they were intended to fulfill, counselors only — and return control of the government to the government.