Opinion

The War Over Every Government Position

Israel Harel
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Israel's Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Israel Harel

The “state” is stripping Justice Minister Amir Ohana of his authority to appoint the acting state prosecutor. This, under the guise of maintaining “the rule of law,” is a new episode in a fierce, years-long war: an endless struggle between a power-hungry judicial branch and the executive branch, which is elected and whose power derives from the force of law.

An unprecedented smear campaign is being waged against Ohana, the current representative of the latter. Contrary to what his many detractors claim, it was not he who dragged the state into an irrational and disproportionate witch hunt, but rather those, led by the attorney general, who are unwilling to accept the authority of appointment that the law explicitly gives the justice minister.

Ever since ministerial legal advisers arrogated to themselves, with the blessing of the High Court of Justice, the authority to dictate policy to the elected level, here too, as in hundreds of previous instances, the attorney general wants to be the arbiter and not make do with giving advice. Avichai Mendelblit’s decision not to defend in the High Court the minister, who is his superior, when it’s abundantly clear that Ohana acted in accordance with law, proves this unreservedly.

There have been justice ministers, such as Yaakov Neeman, Haim Ramon, Daniel Friedmann and Ayelet Shaked (and to a certain extent, believe it or not, Yossi Beilin), who tried to suppress the jurists’ voracious appetite. The system’s revenge was not long in coming: Two of them, Ne’eman and Ramon, were prosecuted, to serve as a warning to others. Friedmann was the target of a vicious disinformation campaign, and an all-out war was declared on Shaked by the Supreme Court president and her emissaries.

Now comes another justice minister who dares to follow in the path of the justice ministers who sought to restore the rule of “the law” to the framework of the law. That is absolutely unacceptable. The style of the smear campaign against Ohana demonstrated that the entire legal establishment signed up for this war. (It was Menachem Mazuz, naturally, who suspended Orly Ginsberg Ben-Ari’s appointment as acting attorney general.) The Movement for Quality Government — the Neturei Karta of the justice system — explicitly claimed before Mazuz, “We are in the midst of a war.”

One of the leading explanations for Israel’s so-called constitutional revolution, based on several studies – claims it was born in the wake of the election upset of 1977. In order to preserve the values of the left, so the (well-proven) theory goes, the judicial system, primarily the High Court, took up the cause. For good reason, the High Court has earned the “flattering” nickname of “a branch of Meretz.”

If the left had any chance of returning to power in the upcoming election, the intense hostility toward Ohana almost certainly would not have arisen. But when your sense of smell tells you the likelihood is close to nil, the war over every government position, even if short-term, must be waged with a knife in the teeth. Only thus will the dynasty not be interrupted.

Yes, war. All the rest, including the claim that Ben-Ari’s appointment could disrupt Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial, is nonsense. Netanyahu has to stand trial, and he will stand trial. Mendelblit, he and no other, controls the indictments. And of course, the direct prosecutor – Ben-Ari, who is not a big Netanyahu fan.

Ohana, do not be cowed. Perhaps you will be the one, even more than your predecessors, who will succeed in reasserting the balance of power and authority between the executive and judicial branches. This is just what Mazuz, Mendelblit and company fear of. Which, obviously, is the main reason why, in its fight against you, the justice system has crossed every boundary.

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